Why India’s electric fans, frozen peas and women hold key to green economy

The CEM took place amidst the Georgian splendour of Lancaster House - dripping with gold leaf and chandeliers

Leading energy ministers believe a social and economic revolution will be required to ensure goals to reduce poverty and carbon emissions are met in the coming decades.

The UN estimate that nearly one in five people around the world lack access to modern energy services – while more than three billion rely on wood, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating.

Yesterday minsters at the annual 23-government Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy For All initiative (SE4All) gave their support to a series of measures to promote energy efficiency and empower women.

These included programmes targeting super-efficient fans in India, energy efficiency standards for TVs and fridges, and a US-led project to empower women in the clean energy sector.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu hailed the agreement at the CEM of 60 appliance efficiency standards – which he said could save 600TWh of electricity, or mean 200 new mid-size power stations would not have to be built.

One standard covers smart refrigerators – which can ensure freezers rest during peak hours and turn on at night: ‘your frozen peas won’t mind’ Chu said.

Another initiative focuses on electric fans in India – numbering in their millions and ubiquitous in shops, houses and public buildings across the country.

Efficient fans use “half the amount of electricity for the same amount of air” according to Chu – who said developments in this sector could have a major impact across the planet.

“We have to seize on a lot of the opportunities that are before us – these changes are real, they are happening today and we are pushing forward on these changes.”

Role for women

The US is also leading an initiative to empower women involved in clean energy development – which includes offering mentors and creating opportunities for women to take leading roles in clean energy and development.

In the US alone less than 30% of jobs in this sector are held by women, and this figure drops rapidly when you take into account global statistics.

Speaking at the CEM, Kandeh Yumkella, Chair of UN-Energy said this was holding clean development back, and contributing to millions of deaths every year – often as a result of cookstove emissions.

Sitting on an all-male panel – Yumkella stressed the need both for women to become involved in the policy making and decision process – and also for developing countries to gain more access to cheap renewable technology.

“Energy poverty is a social problem. This initiative, Sustainable Energy For All looks at economic development, poverty reduction but also climate change, in one holistic manner,” he said.

“In seven months since this was set up we have defined three clear targets, which we believe are achievable. Universal access to energy by 2030, improving energy efficiency and doubling renewable energy – that is a message for developing countries as well as OECD countries.

“Developing countries need energy to reach the Millennium Development Goals and to create jobs for their people – the dream of every developing country is to be modernised and have decent jobs for their people.”

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