How can green and just energy transitions best catalyse development opportunities? This was the guiding question at a WISIONS-organised Lab Debate at the European Development Days (EDD) in Brussels. WISIONS is an initiative created and run by the Wuppertal Institute, and supported by the Swiss-based foundation ProEvolution. The goal, since its foundation in 2004, is to empower people and communities in the global south to be the drivers of just energy transitions to enable sustainable development.
The three speakers on the panel, Bärbel Höhn, Special Representative for Energy in Africa, Silvia Sartori, Senior Project Manager at ENERGIA, and Dr. Willington Ortiz, Researcher in the International Energy Transitions Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute, all agreed that energy is inextricably linked to other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and can be a successful enabler of development, if certain prerequisites are considered. However, achieving real and long-lasting results implies a big crucial challenge.
Furthermore, the session covered which context-specific development challenges should be addressed in order to be successful, while also recognising the opportunities and motivations of individuals and their communities. Willington Ortiz pointed out that holistic approaches are crucial for designing energy development projects: "We need individual and people-centered perspectives to successfully provide energy access". For him, it is important to root any intervention in the field of energy for development by putting forward the question 'What is development about?'. "We have to build the answers to this question in dialogue with the people we expect to support," the researcher continues.
The panelists concluded that energy can facilitate development by giving people access to key services like water pumps and chilled food storage. However, access to energy is especially limited in rural areas, and girls and women are the most affected by energy poverty since basic tasks like gathering firewood often fall to them. But when gender is considered and entrepreneurship and political will are present, energy can be an efficient booster for development.
A recording of the full session is available under the link below.