Power 4 People Call for Action

Peter Bosshard
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After several hundred billion dollars have been spent on development aid for the energy sector, an estimated 1.3 billion people remain without access to electricity. These people live in a state of permanent power outage that affects their health, education opportunities and livelihoods.

The energy projects of multilateral development banks (MDBs) have over the past 60 years focused on large, centralized fossil fuel and hydropower plants. Such projects have displaced and impoverished millions of people, destroyed rivers and other ecosystems, fueled climate change and weakened the climate resilience of the poor. The electricity generated by these projects has favored large corporations over residential consumers, and the well off over the poor. In all of Sub-Saharan Africa, high-voltage consumers such as mining companies and aluminum smelters used more power in 2008 than all residential consumers combined. Many energy projects transfer resources from the poorest members of society to the rich.

Multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have committed to limiting support for new greenfield coal projects, and plan to scale up funding for large hydropower and gas projects instead. They are currently considering support for mega-dams in Africa and the Himalayas that would generate electricity for mining companies and export markets, but would again bypass local populations. They may also support new coal-fired power projects through loopholes of their new commitments. The World Bank and the EIB have announced that they will expand support for renewable energy technologies, but their commitments remain as vague as they have been for the past two decades.

Energy conservation, energy efficiency and decentralized renewable energy are the best options to reduce energy poverty in a socially and environmentally sustainable and climate resilient way. Renewable energy technologies have seen their breakthrough in recent years. In 2007-12, global capacity additions for wind and solar power were 60 percent higher than those for large hydropower. MDBs have missed this trend and remained behind the curve on renewable energy. During the 2007-12 period, the World Bank spent $7 billion on coal projects, $5.4 billion on hydropower, and only $2 billion on wind and solar. The Bank and other MDBs have consistently neglected support for energy conservation, energy efficiency, and rural electrification.

The Sustainable Energy for All initiative has called for ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling energy efficiency improvements and the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. The International Energy Agency has estimated that $20 billion of the $32 billion per year required for achieving this goal need to be invested in mini- and off-grid solutions.

We call for a fundamental shift in global energy lending to ensure universal access to modern energy for all people in a sustainable and climate-resilient way by 2030:

  1. We call on governments, international financial institutions, and private investors and financiers to shift support and investments from destructive forms of energy (coal, oil and gas, destructive dams, nuclear power, unsustainable biofuels) to energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
  2. We call on multilateral development banks to stop funding destructive forms of energy and shift support in the form of lending, guarantees, training and technology transfer to energy conservation, energy efficiency and decentralized renewable energy solutions. MDBs need to create dedicated financing mechanisms, indicators and timetables to make such a transformation happen. 
  3. All energy sector projects need to be developed in transparent and participatory ways, based on a balanced and inclusive assessment of all needs and options, and meet strict social and environmental standards. The performance of existing infrastructure should be optimized before new projects are developed.
  4. As long as multilateral development banks continue to fund destructive forms of energy, governments should shift their funding to institutions and mechanisms that are more effective at ensuring universal access to modern energy services. This will include new and existing multilateral, bilateral and non-governmental institutions and mechanisms.

This call to action has so far been endorsed by the following 62 civil society organizations from 32 countries:

EcoLur, Armenia; Market Forces, Australia; Riverwatch, Austria; Solidarity Workshop, Bangladesh; 11.11.11 - Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement, Belgium; Public Interest Law Center (PILC), Chad; Ecosistemas, Chile; Green Watershed, China; CENADEP - National Support Center for Development and Popular Participation, DRC; CORAP, DRC; RESEAU PRODDES (Réseau de Promotion de la Démocratie et des Droits Economiques et Sociaux), DRC; Friends of the Earth - EWNI, England, Wales and Northern Ireland; CounterCurrent, Germany; Urgewald, Germany; Volta Basin Development Foundation, Ghana; Centre for Organisation Research & Education, India; Climate & Energy Group, Beyond Copenhagen Collective (BCPH), India; Delhi Forum, India; Gujarat Forum On CDM, India; Odisha Agriculture & Environment Protection Council, India; Paryavaran Mitra, India; People's Science Institute, India; River Basin Friends, India; South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, India; Mountain Watch Group of Iran, Iran; Friends of Lake Turkana, Kenya; Atgaja, Lithuania; Third World Network, Malaysia; AIDA - Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense, Mexico; Justiça Ambiental, Mozambique; Jal Sarokar Kendra, Nepal; Rural Reconstruction Nepal, Nepal; BankTrack, Netherlands; Both ENDS, Netherlands; Oil and Gas Landlord Association Egiland, Nigeria; FIVAS - Association for International Water Studies, Norway; Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Philippines; Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt & Development (JSAPMDD), Philippines; Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa; Coalition for Environmental Justice, South Africa; Greenpeace Africa, South Africa; Gold and Uranium Belt Impact Censoring Organization, South Africa; Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka; Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Thailand; Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEE Net), Thailand; Jenues Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE) International, Togo; Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, Turkey; National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Uganda; Water Governance Institute, Uganda; Bretton Woods Project, United Kingdom; National Ecological Centre of Ukraine, Ukraine; 350.org, United States; Amazon Watch, United States; Bank Information Center, United States; DC Metro Science for the People, United States; Food and Water Watch, United States; Foundation Earth, United States; Friends of the Earth, United States; International Accountability Project, United States; International Rivers, United States; Sierra Club, United States; Waterkeeper Alliance, United States

Civil society organizations that still wish to endorse the Power 4 People call for action should write to susanne@internationalrivers.org.

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