Boosting Energy Access through Parliamentary Action

21 March 2018| Articles


Photo: ©IPU/Russian Parliament

Belgian Parliamentarian, Andries Gryffroy, shares his views on enabling energy access through pro-renewables policy making

Parliamentarians from around the world will gather next week in Geneva, Switzerland, for the 138th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organisation of 178 Member Parliaments. While the institution has been around since the 19th century, this year’s meeting will – for the first time – discuss a resolution focused on deploying clean, affordable and sustainable forms of energy, which is recognised as a key pillar of the global sustainable development agenda.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), one of the global custodians of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 indicators, off-grid renewable energy may serve around six million households worldwide – helping change the lives of approximately 30 million people. A further 120 million people currently without grid access, use solar lights.

Andries Gryffroy, Member of the Flemish Parliament, speaks at the 2018 IRENA Legislators Forum

To address this issue, a new resolution called ‘Engaging the private sector in implementing the SDGs, especially on renewable energy’ has been proposed by Mr. Andries Gryffroy, Member of the Flemish Parliament, IPU focal point and spokesperson on energy for his party, N-VA , together with his co-rapporteur, Mr. Duong Quoc Anh, member of parliament from Vietnam, in consultation with IRENA.

Though non-binding, IPU resolutions are drafted and adopted by parliaments around the world, distributed at the United Nations, and have the potential to influence national legislation. This new and yet-to-be-adopted renewable energy-focused resolution identifies what parliaments can do to maximize engagement around SDG 7 — ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Andries Gryffroy, outlined the magnitude of the energy access challenge, ahead of the meeting. “Today, about 1.1 billion people lack access to energy powered by the grid. Unhealthy wood stoves, hazardous kerosene lanterns, loud and environmentally unfriendly gas and diesel generators are being used instead. These forms of energy are costly and labour intensive, yet, in remote areas, it is not financially viable to develop high voltage distribution networks. Installing small windmills, or solar systems in villages or homes, represents a sound alternative to more conventional sources of energy.”

Drawing attention to the potential of off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy projects (including small-scale electricity generators converting power from renewable energy sources) for contributing to the implementation of SDG 7 in developing countries, the resolution encourages parliaments to facilitate, and account for, the risk management needs of small local project developers. It advocates for the establishment of enabling legal frameworks, and for incentivising public-private partnerships to speed up the transition towards a more sustainable system of energy production and consumption.

“Access to finance remains the issue even though such projects represent a relatively small investment,” Gryffroy points out. “Investors are less attracted by those projects because they have limited visibility on the financial risks. The cost of assessing an off-grid project’s viability is also higher than for larger projects. Therefore, one needs reassurances, such as a clear and long term agreement on price of electricity. Projects can also be facilitated when investors have obtained the expressed support both from the government and the local population.” He adds that, “establishing an enabling environment to accelerate the deployment of sustainable off-grid energy solutions, will require a collective effort. Being a member of the Flemish Parliament and of the Senate, I am regularly in contact with various stakeholders, which is of crucial importance to undertake any legislative work.”

The draft resolution, which will be debated throughout next week’s IPU meetings, and submitted for adoption to the IPU Assembly, represents a unique opportunity for parliamentarians to act decisively. “Ultimately,” says Andries Gryffroy, “legislators must seize the opportunity to act now.”

More information on IRENA’s work with legislators and parliamentarians can be found on IRENA's website, or by signing up to IRENA’s Review for Parliamentarians brief.