Mobilizing Information and Communications Technology in Rio to Deliver Sustainable Energy for All

One of the centerpieces of this month’s Rio+20 summit is an important initiative called Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All). C2ES is pleased to be contributing to this initiative as a founding member of a new global partnership aimed at improving energy efficiency and curbing greenhouse gas emissions through the use of information and communication technologies.

Led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, SE4All recognizes the dual energy challenges facing the global community. We need to rapidly expand access to affordable energy for the 1.3 billion people who now lack even basic services, but do so in an environmentally sustainable manner that doesn’t put their health at risk or threaten the climate stability of our planet.

SE4All sets out three goals for the next two decades:

  • universal access to modern energy services
  • doubling the rate of improvements in energy efficiency, and
  • doubling the share of renewables in the energy mix.

As a first step, the initiative’s co-chairs—Charles Holliday, chairman of the Bank of America, and Kandeh Yumkella, director general of UNIDO—have been lining up commitments for concrete actions by governments, industry and civil society.

One of these commitments, announced over the weekend, is the launch of the ICTs for Sustainable Energy Partnership (ISEP). Joined by the Digital Energy and Sustainability Solutions Campaign, the UN Foundation, and The Climate Group, C2ES is pleased to be one of the founding partners of this initiative.

Improvements in energy efficiency represent a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to move toward a more sustainable energy future. The use of smarter systems represent an area where advances in technology can deliver products and services that offer real value to consumers, but also substantial reductions in energy consumption. In the recent past, we have seen mobile phone technology leapfrog existing technology, providing service to more people sooner, while avoiding the costs and energy consumption involved in deploying extensive networks for landlines.

Looking toward the future, increased use of teleconferencing and teleworking, expanded use of real-time sensors to control lighting and heating/cooling, and telematics systems used to minimize travel time are examples of new technologies that could deliver substantial energy savings. A recent report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy suggests that “intelligent efficiency” technologies could improve energy efficiency in the United States by as much as 22 percent. Smart 2020, an analysis by The Climate Group, estimated that globally the expanded use of “smart” technologies could achieve energy savings on the order of 15 percent by 2020.

C2ES has a project underway developing case studies of innovative ways federal agencies are “leading by example” in using ICT to reduce costs, save energy, and cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The lessons learned from this study should be an important contribution to future efforts working with other countries under ISEP.

ISEP will be developing a plan of action over the coming months aimed at identifying and addressing barriers to the achievement of these energy savings. We will be reaching out to regions and countries interested in cooperating on activities aimed at concrete actions toward the critical SE4All objective of advancing energy efficiency across the globe.