Leaving No One Behind in the energy transition: wrap-up on the SEforALL Forum

More than 1,000 participants gathered to kick off the Sustainable for All Forum in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 2. Decision makers, energy actors, entrepreneurs, leaders from government, business, civil society and international organizations from around the world came together to address challenges and progress towards sustainable energy for all by 2030. This year’s theme, “Leaving No One Behind,” set the stage for important discussions to tackle energy gaps—especially in last mile populations—take stock of progress made and discuss next steps for accelerating energy access in the light of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 and the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Together we can go further and together we can go faster”, said Rachel Kyte Special Representative of UN Secretary General and CEO Sustainable Energy for All during the Wakeup Call session. “We have to keep raising ambition and we have a lot of work to do to achieve energy for all. We can do something transformative in the next years”.

While it is true that meaningful improvements and progresses have been made over the last years, we have to move faster and in a collaborative way to meet the target, particularly in preparation for the first SDG7 review at the High-Level Political Forum that will take place in July 2018 in New York. As a matter of fact, the world is not on track to achieving energy-related Sustainable Development Goals, as stated in the new Energy Progress Report released during the SEforALL Forum by five international agencies, including the World Bank, IEA and IRENA. The report estimates that if current trends continue, an estimated 674 million people will still live without electricity and 2.3 billion people will continue to use traditional cooking methods in 2030. However, there are bright spots that suggest how countries can make the difference if a continuing space to share and integrate new approaches and strategies is created. In fact, ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all requires higher collaboration and strong partnerships between private and public sector, allies and networks to amplify voice of men and women all over the world. “Leaving no one behind” resumes our vision to assure social, economic and human development.

This year’s SEforALL Forum sessions were organised around four main themes: Energy efficiency, as an essential step to achieve a sustainable and inclusive energy future; Energy access, by supporting countries moving forward; Clean cooking fuels and technologies, drawing attention to bridge the gap of more than 2.7 billion people who are still cooking without clean fuels and more efficient technologies; and Renewable energy, calling for action to increase the share of clean resources in the global energy consumption.

SEforALL Forum was even better than last year. It provided a platform for stakeholder engagement in the energy development agenda in preparations for the High Level Political Forum. The gender balance at the Forum was impressive. Women were not only present in the gender sessions but also led and provide substantive inputs in the technical panels.

Sheila Oparaocha, ENERGIA International Coordinator and Programme Manager


In order to further the progress and provide policy makers with tools to accelerate the transition towards achieving sustainable energy for all, ENERGIA took part to the Forum shedding light on the role of women in the energy sector, gender equality in energy access, extreme poverty and adverse climate change impacts.

A new report “Levers of Change: How Global Trends Impact Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Access to Sustainable Energy”, from SEforALL and ENERGIA was launched in this regard. It is a project of our five-year DFID funded Gender and Energy Research Programme, and SEforALL’s People-Centered Accelerator to Advance Gender Equality, Social Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment in the Sustainable Energy Sector. The report aims to support the implementation of policies related to women’s economic empowerment in last mile communities while identifying opportunities and challenges for the future. In line with ENERGIA’s Research Programme’s aim to advance knowledge and awareness regarding the impact of energy access on women and girls and contribute to create the evidence base to influence policy, the report indicates barriers that prevent women from fully benefiting from energy sector interventions and progresses.

This gender-differentiated approaches will be impacted, driven, or hampered by several upward trends, some of which have been scanned in the report: decentralization and affordability of energy services, mobile payments, women’s entrepreneurship, urbanization, and humanitarian settings. The scoping report encompasses ENERGIA Women’s Economic Empowerment project, ENERGIA International advocacy for the integration of gender options in the energy sector and ENERGIA Gender and Energy Research Programme.

Alongside the “Levers of Change” report, SEforALL and ENERGIA launched the new “Faces of Energy” website, also within the realm of the People-Centered Accelerator. Faces of Energy, provides an overview of which entities and organisations are working in the field of gender equality, social inclusion and women’s empowerment at the nexus of sustainable energy and climate change. As such it is a unique tool for governments, businesses, nonprofit organisations, investors, donors and other players in the field.

Applying a gendered lens to energy programmes could transform global energy economy and translate energy goals into reality, so that no one is left behind in the sustainable energy transition. ENERGIA co-hosted the “Empowering Women: Pathways for Up-Scaling Women-Centric Approaches to Energy Access” working session to emphasize the most significant experiences, data and new resources around working with women in energy access initiatives. Co-organisers were Value for Women, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) and Solar Sister.

“There are great development gains in working with women in terms of education of children, health and development” said Soma Dutta, Senior Technical Advisor at ENERGIA, while opening the session. “Leadership training is essential. Study after study shows that engaging women leads to better business performance” she continued. “Women entrepreneurs are more effective when they receive the appropriate training. Experience shows that women sell 2.5 times more than men” agreed Rachel Mahmud Program Manager for Gender at Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Katherine Lucey, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at Solar Sister, noted that “women invest most of their income back into their families and communities. Energy goes beyond that light bulb. It creates opportunities for businesses, it stimulates markets”.

Chebet Lesan, Woman Entrepreneur of the Year
Photo: Solar Sister | www.solarsister.org

The session ended with women entrepreneurs describing their experiences growing businesses in last mile communities. Chebet Lesan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at BrightGreen and awarded with Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, had a loud and clear call for programme and policy developers: “when you are developing your programme, are women at the center of it? What are you doing for women like me to succeed?”. Chebet founded BrightGreen in 2015 to create cost-cutting, eco-friendly cooking fuel from agro and organic waste for low-income families in Kenya.

Now it’s time for urgent action among political leadership to support faster SDG 7 progress for providing sustainable energy for all. Let’s get to work!