UN Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters on his Information Integrity on Digital Platforms policy brief. Photo: UN Photo / Mark Garten

The Transformative Power of Clean Energy and the Role of UNCDF in Accelerating the Energy Transition

As António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, asserts, “Renewables are the only way to ensure our future, bridge the energy access gap, stabilise prices, and guarantee energy security.” The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Energy Initiative recognizes this and has dedicated itself to advancing access to affordable and clean energy for vulnerable communities, especially in the most vulnerable countries.

Central to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the fundamental element of energy. In 2023, UNCDF reaffirmed its commitment to providing clean energy solutions through digital innovations and innovative financing mechanisms. Since 2014, UNCDF has supported 82 private sector firms across 13 countries, distributed over two million clean energy products and services, and benefited over 10.5 million individuals from clean energy solutions. In doing so, they simultaneously advance SDG7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG5 (gender equality), SDG13 (climate action), SDG15 (life on land), and SDG17 (partnerships for the goals).

In 2023 alone, UNCDF has showcased impactful strategies and innovative approaches, such as mobilizing private capital for renewable energy businesses in Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia. They have also expanded their reach through Bright Life, a social enterprise providing clean energy to off-grid areas in Uganda. Notably, UNCDF has prioritized empowering women in Burkina Faso via clean energy and established the Renewable Energy Fund for Resilience in Burkina Faso (FERR-BF) as a way to facilitate a more inclusive clean energy sector.

Digital innovations have been a core aspect of UNCDF’s work in the clean cooking sector. In 2023, UNCDF, in collaboration with the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA), launched the Digital Innovation Challenge to boost financing and foster innovations in the clean cooking industry. This initiative has led to groundbreaking solutions that aim to revolutionize the sector and contribute to achieving universal access to clean cooking.

Additionally, in 2023, UNCDF expanded its partnerships and collaborations, which included working with the Clean Cooking Alliance and the African Guarantee Fund to mobilize US $100 million for clean cooking by 2026. Participation in conferences and events that highlighted the significance of climate investing and sustainable, inclusive finance has also been crucial in forging these essential partnerships.

Looking ahead to 2024, UNCDF is poised to further its impact by supporting an additional one million people in accessing clean energy solutions. Collaborations with governments and the private sector will be crucial in increasing financial flows to innovative clean energy and cooking solutions, attracting local financing, and de-risking initial investments.

Clean energy is essential to socio-economic development, environmental sustainability, and addressing issues faced by vulnerable communities worldwide. Transitioning to renewable energy sources remains integral to the fight against climate change and is pivotal in reducing emissions and benefiting communities lacking access to reliable power sources. To ensure a sustainable future, the world must urgently invest in clean, accessible, affordable, and reliable renewable energy sources to mitigate the risks of climate change and ensure that no one is left behind.

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