Following our second international workshop in Kuching, four members of the Smart Villages Initiative – Bernie Jones, John Holmes, Kristin Shine, and Terry van Gevelt – attended the 15th annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS). Hosted by our partner organization, The Energy and Resources institute (TERI), the DSDS brought together key players from academia, the private sector, multilateral organisations, and government under the theme of the sustainable development goals and dealing with climate change.
The curtain raiser event, a high level corporate dialogue on the role of business in achieving a sustainable future, had a strong off-grid energy focus to it. On the back of keynote addresses from Henrik Madsen of DNV-GL and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Smart Village Initiative members Bernie Jones and Terry van Gevelt took part in expert discussion groups focused on ensuring and expanding access to energy and financing the energy transition and sustainable development, respectively.
The financing the energy transition discussion group highlighted a pressing issue that the Smart Villages Initiative is currently examining in great detail: how to finance off-grid mini-grids. Ideas floated included the possibility of government de-risking of the initial capital investment required to finance mini-grids, the use of priority sector lending targets to advance mini-grid financing, and the consolidation of mini-grid projects into a portfolio of scale sufficient to attract private financing.
The second day of the DSDS saw former heads of state, including Australia’s Kevin Rudd, the Netherlands’ Ruud Lubbers, Ireland’s Mary Robinson, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Global Green Growth Institute’s Director-General Yvo de Boer stress the importance for stakeholders to work together to achieve a sustainable future and the need for technological and financial support for developing countries. The centrality of energy was recognized by all speakers, and the needs of the energy poor voiced.
“The poorest communities need to be given priority in getting green energy due to their vulnerability.” – Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland
The summit concluded with a number of thematic tracks ranging from ‘technologies for communities’ to the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) vision of Asia’s Smart Future Cities. These thematic tracks showcased the important role that Smart Villages will need to play in ensuring a sustainable future. For example, the technologies for community session focused on how scientific solutions, when aligned with community involvement and sound governance, has the potential to transform community livelihoods and resource use. A further example of the necessity of Smart Villages was stressed by the ADB in the need for linkages to be formed – both physically and virtually – between Asia’s future Smart Cities and rural areas, if sustainable development in the region is to be realized.
For the Smart Villages Initiative, the summit was a huge encouragement that not only saw stakeholders from all walks of life commit to working together to ensure a sustainable future, but both directly and indirectly stressed the necessity of the Smart Villages concept. In the words of keynote speaker Arnold Schwarzenegger, let us continue our “…crusade for a global sustainable energy future!”