Monday, March 12, 2012

Jiwan Acharya – a Nepalese childhood creates a life long commitment to energy for the poor

Jiwan Acharya is a Senior Climate Change Specialist with ADB's Sustainable Infrastructure Division. He is responsible for overseeing the Energy for All Initiative which works to increase ADB's investments in projects that bring modern energy to the poor.

I was born and raised in Nepal, and until I was nine years old, I had never seen an electric light. When I first saw one being switched on, I was amazed. Even at that age, I could tell that this light was better and brighter than any candle or kerosene lamp being used by my family.

When I was ten, another new thing was introduced to our household – biogas for cooking. This change was especially beneficial for my mother. The gas burner was better, cleaner and much more convenient for her, compared to using firewood.

I know that I am not alone in this direct experience - to the life changing effects of modern energy.

Over the past few decades, millions of families gained access to electricity and fuels throughout developing Asia. These people now have bright lights in the evening, and the energy to mill grain, or pump water, or cook their food without worrying about smoke from an open fire damaging their lungs. Modern energy allowed new schools to open, giving many more people a chance at an education - myself among them.

My path eventually led me to the Asian Development Bank and working with Energy for All, which is helping to expand the number of people who benefit from modern energy.

Even with all the progress that has been made, there are still too many people with no access to modern energy. In my home country, at least 16 million people, or more than 40% of the population, do not have access to electricity.

Asia and the Pacific region is home to most of the world’s energy poor – 700 million without access to electricity and 1.9 billion people without access to modern fuels. The rural poor are those most in need of modern energy, but the hardest to reach with traditional infrastructure.

ADB is working on solutions to this, such as piloting the concept of a renewable energy village whose mix of renewable energy technologies can be replicated almost anywhere else in developing Asia.

There are many ways to make energy more accessible for the poor. Working for Energy for All, I have seen that there is no lack of innovative approaches, but a common problem is a lack of scale. Solutions that bring access to hundreds have to be scaled up with financing and policy support to reach thousands and hundreds of thousands.

We have to think big to take on energy poverty at the regional level, and that is the great feature of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All – it is a global scale effort to improve energy access for everyone, nine years old or otherwise. Speaking on behalf of Energy for All, we hope to see some excellent videos out of the My View contest that we can highlight during this very important year.

Speaking on behalf of Energy for All, we hope to see some excellent videos out of the My View contest that we can highlight during this very important year.

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