Tackling energy poverty can accelerate MDGs

Aug 16, 2010

Tackling energy poverty can accelerate MDGs Tackling energy poverty can accelerate MDGs Large-scale, upfront investment in capacity development crucial

Kathmandu, 16 August' The Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) and UNDP jointly launched the report, 'Capacity development for scaling up decentralized energy access programmes: Lessons from Nepal on its role, costs and financing' today.

Launching the report, Chief Guest, Hon'ble Minister for Environment, Mr. Thakur Prasad Sharma said, 'The Government of Nepal wishes to thank its donors for their technical and financial support to the new technologies, especially in the energy sector, which can change the lives of the rural communities. We are fully committed to continue working in partnership with the donors in the micro-hydro sector, which is very important for Nepal.'

The report draws lessons from two decentralized energy projects over a span of 14 years in Nepal that brought modern and clean energy services and opened new horizons for income generation to almost a million people in remote rural communities-250,000 reached by micro-hydro power supplying electricity for lighting and mechanical power for agro-processing and other productive activities; 580,000 people with access to improved cooking stoves.

The report was globally launched in New York earlier in June, as world leaders prepare to meet at the United Nations in September to find ways to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The report sheds light on the MDG-boosting potential of the energy sector.

The report points out that the key to the success of the two projects was upfront public investment in capacity development-well over 50 percent of total project costs' which helped overcome substantial gaps in local and national capacities required to deliver, manage, operate and maintain the solutions to providing energy access in rural areas. Such investments, the report argues, created the conditions required to attract substantial financing from communities and private sources at later stages, making country-wide scaling up an achievable target in Nepal.

UNDP Country Director Ms. Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau stated, 'We have seen radical improvement in the lives of the people who were able to access energy through the Rural Energy Development Programme (REDP). Access to electricity has allowed children to study at night and the most significant changes were seen in the reduction of the burden on rural women who spend an average of 3-4 hours per day in fuel collection, often bearing immense health costs such as respiratory and eye diseases from indoor wood smoke pollution, and have high risks of prolapsed uterus from carrying heavy loads. We see a very positive response for this shift towards more sustainable and cleaner forms of energy, such as hydro electricity and bio-gas. The challenge now is to meet the increasing demand and reach out to the most remote areas of Nepal.'

Some of the important development impacts of UNDP Nepal's energy programme includes, improved lighting in homes, schools and hospitals, reduced health risks from indoor air pollution, reduced drudgery among women and girls, diversified livelihoods and increased incomes among the poorest segments of Nepalese society. 'All of these development dividends translate into accelerating achievement of MDGs,' says the National Programme Manager, Mr. Kiran Man Singh.
Currently, less than 30 percent of rural households and only 2,100 of Nepal's 3,915 VDCs are connected to the national electricity grid. About 92% of people living in rural areas still use solid fuel for cooking. The continued reliance on fuel wood, agricultural residues and cattle dung for cooking fuel depletes the forests of trees and farmers' fields of natural fertilisers.

Since 1996 the REDP has successfully demonstrated and advocated for a community 'managed model to expand access to renewable sources of clean energy in rural areas. It has been supporting both the installation of new energy sources and building the supporting policies, institutions and capabilities at the national, district and community levels to sustain progress into the future. REDP works in close partnership with the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, the District and Village Development Committees and the local communities. The project has attracted parallel funding of $3.8 million from the World Bank in 2007 for hardware and subsidies. This funding has increased to $12.2 million for the period of 2010-2012. UNDP's direct support is of 3.3 million for the period of 2007-2010. The programme is going for further expansion to bring energy to tens of millions of people in Nepal. Kenya and other countries are interested in applying the same strategy.

The report 'Capacity development for scaling up decentralized energy access programmes: Lessons from Nepal on its role, costs and financing' was produced in partnership by UNDP and the Government of Nepal. The report is available at http://www.undp.org/energy

Contact information

For more information, pls. contact sangita.khadka@undp.org , Development Communications Officer, UNDP Nepal, Tel : 5523200 ext. 1077

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