UN Energy Initiative May Reach 300 Million People by 2015

A United Nations initiative to provide sustainable energy for the 1.6 billion people without power may reach as many as 300 million in three years, said Kandeh Yumkella, who is leading the effort.

“There are some areas, such as Ghana and Kenya, that are primed for action and the money should start to flow,” Yumkella said in an interview at UN headquarters in New York. “Commitments from Bank of America and the African Development Bank could begin to flow in the next six to 12 months.”

Yumkella, who was named chief executive officer of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative today, said his initial goals are focused on distributing solar-powered lanterns and mobile-phone charging stations to areas without power grids.

“You need to link energy use to productive activity and that helps empower locals to join the effort,” Yumkella said. “That way they can pay for the energy they consume and it’s cheaper and cleaner than kerosene and diesel.”

Chad Holliday, chairman of Bank of America Corp., was named chairman of the group’s newly formed executive committee, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim will serve alongside UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as co-chairmen of its advisory board. Yumkella was previously director of the UN Industrial Development Organization.

Sustainable Energy for All received more than $50 billion in pledges from investors and lenders in the past year to develop renewable energy projects in 61 countries, Yumkella said.

The group is organizing government and corporate partnerships worldwide to provide universal energy access, double the rate of energy efficiency improvement and double the use of renewable energy use by 2030.

“Sustainable energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity and a climate and environment that enables the world to thrive,” Ban said today in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Martin in New York at cmartin11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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