Energy access and affordability remain core development challenges in large parts of the world. At the same time, the diversification of the energy matrix and its shift from fossil fuel-based energy to renewables is imperative for climate mitigation, given energy accounts for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse emissions. Access to electricity in developing countries has increased, even during the current crises, but the pace needs to accelerate, along with reliability and affordability to ensure universal access.
At the same time, commitments and actions for clean cooking require significant political support to unlock alternative low-carbon options. Using solar and wind power to replace coal resources could save US$23 billion a year while the energy transition is projected to create 25 million new jobs.
The Secretary-General’s Acceleration Agenda – a key element of his overarching climate action strategy – identifies immediate actions to advance the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy (hydro, solar, wind, green hydrogen, among others), which the system-wide collaborative partnership of UN-Energy could help facilitate through updated Energy Compacts and other emission-reduction partnerships.
The Joint SDG Fund aims to promote integrated policy and financing solutions for just and green energy transitions, focusing on renewable energy production, transmission and access, especially for people who have been left behind. By facilitating the scale-up of inclusive, just, and green energy initiatives, including at the municipal levels, the Fund aims to reduce barriers to investment in renewable energy and energy-efficient technology by catalysing investments from both international and domestic investors, the public and private sector.
In Zimbabwe, 2020 data estimates less than 45% of the population had access to electricity. Lack of electrification, especially in rural areas, impacts production across key economic sectors, including agriculture and tourism. While renewable energy has the potential to improve Zimbabwe’s low electrification rates, inflation and currency risk have deterred the long-term, low-interest financing that renewable energy businesses need to grow.
The UN Joint SDG Fund, through Zimbabwe’s Renewable Energy Fund (REF), combines technical assistance with financing to leverage US$30 million towards renewable energy businesses like solar plants and mini-grids. In partnership with Old Mutual, an African financial services group active across 14 countries, and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, the REF invests debt and equity in public or private commercial renewable energy enterprises in rural or peri-urban areas focusing on women and youth. The REF fosters engagement between renewable energy project financiers and developers while contributing to the attainment of a number of key national priorities. By 2025, the REF will create 750 jobs in the renewable energy sector, and generate 180 GWhr renewable energy capacity for Zimbabwe.
In North Macedonia, more than 60% of electricity is generated by coal, with very limited use of renewable energy. A new Green Financing Facility, launched by the UN and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is partnering with seven local banks to provide financing to households and small businesses transitioning to renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies.
The catalytic funding provided by the Joint SDG Fund is unlocking over US$30 million in co-financing to local banks from EBRD, which will be used for on-lending to small businesses. Loans to 105 businesses and 650 households are expected, ultimately leading to 80,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions avoided, 86,000 MWh of energy saved and an increase of renewable energy generation by 10.7 MW that can light up approximately 11,000 homes over four years.
Learn more about other examples of what the UN is doing to support this transition:
The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.