The seventh UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, is a global economic and social priority, as reflected by one of the three subthemes of Expo 2017 Astana: “Energy for All”.
In his opening message to Expo 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated the fact that “Energy is vital to our lives [...] Access to energy helps children to study at night, farmers to grow more crops and hospitals to provide better care.”
Therefore, the challenge of the Expo’s “Future Energy” theme is not only transitioning towards cleaner, sustainable forms of energy but also simultaneously improving access to energy, in a world where around one billion people have little or no access to electricity and three million rely on wood, animal dung and crop waste for cooking and heating.
Solutions aimed at improving access to energy are presented throughout the site of Expo 2017 and are part of the discussions held within the Future Energy Forum (FEF).
A dedicated conference will also be held on 8-9 August on the theme of “Energy for All: Challenges of the New Time”. The conference will cover international cooperation, micro-financing models, training initiatives and technology transfer; essential to improve access to clean and reliable energy in developing countries. The conclusions will be incorporated in the Manifest of Values and Principles, a document that will codify the Expo’s intellectual legacy and serve as a policy document for the international community.
Recognising the challenge of energy access, many pavilions address the issue with dedicated sections, showcasing what is being done to reach this goal as well as immediate solutions to overcome day-to-day energy poverty issues. Angola’s pavilion, entitled “Energy for All”, highlights the large-scale opportunities for the development of renewable forms of energy, notably hydropower and solar energy. Algeria’s pavilion, themed “Land of Light, Energy for All”, informs visitors about the rapid development of solar energy production in the country in recent years, while Thailand draws attention to “Bioenergy for All”, reflecting its strategic choice to source energy from its large agricultural capacity in order to reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports.
Several UN agencies are also hosting events, and showcasing different ways to mobilise investments to achieve breakthroughs on universal access to energy, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, as well as sharing global best practices in the reduction of carbon emissions, greening the economy, and the adaptation of innovative technologies.
Thematic Pavilion #2 showcases also some innovative tools that allow those with limited access to energy to reap the benefits of clean energy. These include a washing machine that is powered by a bicycle, a solar kettle, food storage pots and water-bleach lamps that improve indoor lighting. While these simple creations are not long-term solutions to the problem of energy access, they can help improve standard of living in rural areas with no electricity, where the burning of hard fuel has drastic consequences on health and where the simple act of obtaining energy has social and human costs.
Presenting selected energy projects from across the world, several means to address immediate energy poverty needs are also exhibited within the Energy Best Practices Area (EBPA). These include “Solar Oxygen”, an off-grid method of supplying oxygen using solar power to treat pneumonia, developed at the University of Alberta, or Solarkiosk, which presents a similar off-grid medical solution, providing an autonomous connected solar clinic to allow medical staff to provide a superior level of treatment in areas without electricity.
By ensuring access to reliable and sustainable energy, countries can build greener economies and reduce poverty, notably in rural areas. The role of energy is paramount to development, reducing inequalities and promoting long-term global economic growth.