A new EU energy initiative which aims to provide access to sustainable energy for an additional 500 million people in developing countries by 2030 was today announced by the European Commission.

The proposals outlined include a new EU Technical Assistance Facility worth €50 million over the next two years, which will support those developing partners that “opt in” to the initiative by providing EU expertise in the field and promote sustainable development with inclusive growth.

President José Manuel Barroso was keen to stress that the run-up to the UN conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June, provided the perfect platform to mobilise support of up to several hundred million for developing countries – working with banks and the private sector to create a leverage effect to multiply this amount many times over. The EU is the largest provider of development assistance in the world, and therefore plays a crucial role in efforts to end energy poverty around the globe.

Announcing the measures, Barroso said: “The link between energy and development is fundamental. We are committed to the aim of providing universal access to sustainable energy for all by 2030. By bringing together our partners, the private sector and civil society, we will work shoulder to shoulder to make this aim a reality. With today's strong pledge that we will assist developing countries in providing energy access for 500 million people by 2030, we are demonstrating our own commitment and hope that others will join us in making sure that by 2030, energy access is no longer a privilege but the right of all.”

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon added: “I welcome the commitment by the European Commission in support of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Its strong leadership in making energy central to its development policies, and for advancing the issue of energy access, helps place energy at the forefront of the global development agenda.”

Currently, one in five people lives without access to electricity and up to two million people a year die of respiratory diseases due to indoor air pollution caused by cooking with unclean fuels.

The European Commission alone has spent around €1 billion over the last five years on improving the state of the energy sector in developing countries, including efforts to increase access to modern energy services. It has focused on all elements of energy policies, from electricity to governance and regulation, from improved technology to clean cooking and energy efficiency.

The EU is already committed to providing sustainable energy services for 100 million more people in Africa by 2020 through the existing Africa-EU Energy Partnership. But now, the EU has widened its ambitions by actively supporting the goal of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative – to provide sustainable energy for all by 2030.

However, in order to reach this target, the EU has expressed the need for a large increase in financing and the development of innovative financing mechanisms to attract public and private sector investments on a larger scale.