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Monica_55905 Jun 22

Interview with Damilola Ogunbiyi, Official aef2020 Chairwoman

Interview with Damilola Ogunbiyi, Official aef2020 Chairwoman image
EnergyNet: Can you please explain how the opportunity– becoming the new CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and co-chair of UN-Energy –came about, and why you felt this role was important for you personally?

Energy access can give children the chance for a better education, power healthcare to protect the most vulnerable and allow everyone to build prosperous, fulfilling lives. Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed the transformative effect that bringing energy to people can have. From leading Lagos State Electricity Board projects that produced over 55 megawatts of power for Lagos hospitals, schools and streetlights – helping to reduce crime and increase safety – to developing the Energizing Education Programme - that provided uninterrupted electricity to federal universities and teaching hospitals through the largest off-grid captive power plants in Africa – at the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA) during my time as the first female Managing Director, I understand the challenges and opportunities government, businesses and communities face in energy access. With less than a decade to meet Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), the challenge ahead of us is significant, but also one full of opportunity that could transform millions of lives. That is why I felt compelled to take on the unique role of SEforALL CEO and UN Special Representative that has the opportunity to accelerate change at a global level. From bringing together different leaders, forging new ideas and increasing solutions at the speed and scale we need, we have a critical few years ahead of us to ensure we leave no one behind in a sustainable energy transition for all.

EnergyNet: As CEO, can you share with us your primary goals and what you aim to achieve both in the context of Africa and the rest of the world?

Since its inception in 2011, a lot has changed at SEforALL. Now, nearly a decade later in 2020, we’re moving away from a focus on awareness raising to more of an engagement model that prioritizes data-driven decision-making, engagement with high-impact countries and implementation on the ground. Meeting SDG7 targets on time will require new commitments, resources, and activities focused on broad partnerships and scalable programs. Globally, we are not on track, with 840 million people unconnected to electricity and 2.9 billion with no access to clean cooking. Nor are we succeeding in keeping a global temperature rise to less than 1.5° Celsius. While efforts are being made to provide energy access and mitigate climate impacts, these efforts have proven to be insufficient, fragmented and lack accountability thus far.

Africa is a region full of promise and a growing hub of innovation. Yet this progress is stifled without access to sufficient, reliable and affordable energy. Many make the mistake to think that energy access is about simply being able to turn a light on. However, energy access must allow people to be economically productive and fulfil their potential. That is why I want to bring communities and countries most impacted by a lack of energy access to the table as partners in developing solutions that meet their needs and deliver affordable, productive energy access. This forms the basis of our new approach at SEforALL - close collaboration with governments and in-country partners to devise and execute strategies that close electrification and clean cooking gaps with clean and efficient solutions.

EnergyNet: You are passionate about ‘data-based decisions’; what do you mean by this and why do you feel this can be a game changer for energy development globally?

Data is at the heart of everything we do. I’m particularly passionate about data as I’ve seen how it can motivate and persuade leaders to act – and to act fast. However, decision makers face major challenges in being able to access the data they need or even being aware of what solutions would work best to connect communities to energy. While many governments have embracedmultiple technologies to electrify their citizens, centralized grid, mini-grid and off-grid solutions are often deployed independently of one another rather than designed as complementary solutions that form part of a cohesive vision for delivering universal access. A lack of clear electrification and clean cooking plans from governments has resulted in fragmented solutions and in many cases stagnated progress towards SDG7. A lack of coordination among decision-makers is also contributing to a waste of scarce resources and funding, making large-scale resourcemobilization more difficult. That is why SEforALL is developing a new initiative on universal integrated energy planning that will support highimpact countries to develop geospatial-based universal plans that identify the optimal mix of technologies and associated costs for achieving universal electricity access and clean cooking at a community level. This will include multiple data sources are layered to show clearly the leastcost mix for energy access at the settlement level and is a good example where data can drive progress and create more connections.

EnergyNet: Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) promotes “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Where do you see the biggest opportunities for the private sector and what challenges/stigmas must the sector overcome in order to capitalise from these?

One of our big focuses is how we can support the growth of decentralized renewable energy solutions and increase reliable and uninterrupted energy production to reach the most vulnerable. Decentralized solutions offer significant business opportunities yet is still a vastly untapped market despite having a potential customer base of hundreds of millions across the world. For those innovative, forward thinking businesses that want to invest into renewable energy, decentralized solutions are a great opportunity to invest into the future and be part of the solution. However, we know it can be challenging for developers and entrepreneurs to find this investment, and investors to connect with these businesses. That’s why events like the SEforALL Forum and Africa Energy Forum are so important as they act like a marketplace  where new partnerships can be developed, and new investment secured.

EnergyNet: We’re delighted to have you as the first Chairwoman of the Africa Energy Forum. Why did you accept this role and what should attendees expect from SEforALL at the Forum this year?

I accepted this role before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now, being the first Chairwoman of the African Energy Forum feels even more timely and important than before. COVID-19 has shown that no country can respond to a pandemic without power and that energy access, quite literally, saves lives. A lack of energy access has the potential to magnify the human catastrophe from COVID-19 and significantly slow a social and economic recovery from the virus. During this unprecedented time, we must coordinate efforts, work with decision-makers within at-risk countries and find rapid solutions to ensure access to sustainable energy for all during this pandemic and beyond. Gatherings like the Africa Energy Forum will play an important role in this progress, and SEforALL will use it to engage, share our data and continue working with companies and international institutions to understand, quantify and respond to the impacts of COVID-19 that doesn’t risk a clean, sustainable future energy transition for all.

EnergyNet: The next SEforALL Forum is being hosted in Rwanda and EnergyNet is delighted to also support this important event. Why is it important that the forum is hosted in Rwanda this year?

The 2021 Sustainable Energy for All Forum will focus on the need to act with urgency and ambition in order to achieve sustainable energy for all. Energy access is the golden thread of sustainable development to support jobs, health, food security, gender equality, and an end to poverty – all of which will be critical to support the world recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. We’re incredibly proud to partner with the Government of Rwanda and host the Forum in Kigali. This will be the first time an SEforALL Forum is hosted in Africa. I’m excited to bring different leaders from across the world to the continent to see first-hand the innovative solutions, passion and commitment that I see across Africa. People will be able to meet local entrepreneurs, go into the field to see projects in action and meet a variety of regional leaders from across government, business and finance to create new connections that can lead to action.

When these global leaders gather in Kigali next year, our hope is that together we will inspire and focus energy stakeholders on country-level implementation, highlight the role of energy as central to the development agenda, as well as provide participants with the knowledge and resources they need to accelerate and scale action.

EnergyNet: To surmise, how would you analyse the overall sustainability picture on the continent at presentand what is your ‘call to action’ for the industry moving forward?

We need to focus on three key areas. First, embrace new business models. Second, support and engage the off-grid sector to increase access for the most vulnerable. Third, prioritize and invest in sustainable infrastructure that will help achieve faster progress on SDG7 in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Post pandemic, we have the opportunity to accelerate a more resilient, equitable, clean energy transition that allows us to recover better, increase GDP and create millions of sustainable energy jobs implementing decentralized renewable energy solutions for energy access and energy efficiency measures.

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