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Op_Ed: UNOC CEO, Proscovia Nabbanja on Advancing Equitable Clean Energy in Developing Nations

By Proscovia Nabbanja

The global energy transition presents unique challenges for developing nations that have not benefited from significant industrial and economic growth but are now expected to reduce emissions at the expense of their own development. Moreover, these countries are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change due to their reliance on natural resources and limited capacity to cope with extreme climate events. To ensure an equitable global energy transition, it is crucial to support developing nations in their efforts to adopt clean energy sources through various technologies, policies, and business strategies that promote lower-carbon development and inclusive growth.

In recognition of the importance of addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), supporting an equitable energy transition through clean energy in the developing world has gained significant attention in recent years. Several key considerations and initiatives are essential in this area.
Ensuring energy access for all is a critical goal. Universal energy access is outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), which aims to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030. This involves extending electricity grids, developing off-grid solutions, and promoting decentralised renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and small-scale hydro. For instance, the Lighting Africa programme, a partnership between the World Bank and the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association, has provided affordable and clean lighting to off-grid communities in Africa, improving the quality of life for millions, particularly women and children. In addition, The Energy for Rural Transformation (ERT) project funded by the World Bank in Uganda offers on-grid and off-grid access to electricity in rural areas in Uganda, including the installation of solar PV systems for public institutions in rural areas, business development support, provision of credit facilities to enhance electricity access and quality standards enforcement support.

Mobilising financial resources is crucial for deploying clean energy in developing countries. The international community is committed to supporting renewable energy projects through various financing mechanisms. Initiatives like the International Solar Alliance and the Green Climate Fund provide financial support and technical assistance to developing countries. For example, the Grameen Shakti programme in Bangladesh provides microcredit to help people install solar home systems, empowering over 2 million people and creating jobs while advancing clean energy access.

Facilitating technology transfer is another important aspect. Collaboration between governments, research institutions, and private sector entities is essential for transferring knowledge and expertise in clean energy technologies. Capacity-building programmes play a vital role in enhancing local capabilities in project development, implementation, operation, and maintenance. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) programme in India provides solar-powered lighting to rural communities, improving their quality of life and reducing reliance on environmentally harmful firewood.

Establishing conducive policy and regulatory frameworks is also essential for attracting investment and promoting clean energy deployment. Governments in developing countries should prioritise renewable energy in their energy mix, set targets for clean energy generation, provide incentives and subsidies, and streamline administrative procedures. Clear and transparent regulations create an enabling environment for private sector participation. Kenya, Morocco, and Bangladesh have made significant progress in deploying renewable energy through supportive policies, incentives, feed-in tariffs, and streamlined regulations, attracting private sector investments.

Engaging local communities is also crucial for an equitable energy transition. Involving people on the ground who are dealing first-hand with the challenges of energy security, especially those in marginalised areas, in the planning and decision-making processes ensures that their needs and concerns are addressed. Community-led renewable energy projects and initiatives empower local populations, create jobs, and foster social and economic development.

Promoting global collaboration and knowledge sharing is vital for accelerating the energy transition in the developing world. International organisations like the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) facilitate information exchange, best practices, and policy dialogues among countries while platforms like the Clean Energy Ministerial promote cross-border co-operation and joint initiatives. On the industry side, initiatives like the ADIPEC Awards, for which I am a juror, serve to celebrate organisations that are paving the way for clean energy innovation. This year it introduced the Developing Economies Energy Company of the Year, to spotlight companies that are proactively implementing the technologies, policies, and/or strategies that support lower-carbon development and growth in developing economies. By celebrating the companies that are advancing clean energy development and innovation in developing countries, the Awards’ organiser ADIPEC is seeking to show the way forward toward an equitable clean energy transition.

Supporting an equitable energy transition through clean energy in the developing world is crucial for combating climate change and achieving sustainable development. These efforts contribute to poverty reduction, improved health, and inclusive growth. By investing in clean energy, developing countries can enhance energy security, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, create jobs, and foster economic growth. The international community, private sector, and governments must all play a role to support the energy transition in the developing world. By focusing on energy access, finance, technology transfer, policies, community engagement, collaboration, and overcoming barriers, we can ensure a just and sustainable future for all. Continued investment in these initiatives is imperative for equitable clean energy development in the developing world.

While the energy transition in the developing world is undeniably complex, it also presents an opportunity for positive change. Together, we can achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy while safeguarding the environment and promoting inclusive development.

Proscovia Nabbanja is the Chief Executive officer of the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC)

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