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26 Nov 2018 | News

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capability for the Hindu Kush Himalaya (REEECH) Initiative launched to address energy poverty in the region

A regional centre of excellence on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) was launched at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on 13 November 2018 to improve access to sustainable energy services in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region. As an integral part of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capability for the Hindu Kush Himalaya (REEECH) initiative, the centre aims to deliver innovative and sustainable energy solutions in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation to meet the social and economic development needs of mountain populations of the HKH.

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Fifteen-man Bja (yak hair tent) with a solar panel, Bhutan. Photo: Nakul Chettri/ICIMOD

The HKH region is energy poor in spite of its vast potential for hydropower and other sources of energy such as biogas, wind, and solar. About 1.8 billion people living in the eight HKH countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – depend on biomass (mostly firewood) for cooking and heating, while nearly 370 million people were without electricity, as of 2014 (Table 1).

Table 1: Energy access in HKH countries, 2000–2014

Country Access to electricity (% of population) Access to clean cooking fuel(% of population) Population without electricity (million) Population without clean fuel (million)
  2000 2010 2014 2000 2010 2014 2014
Afghanistan 38 43 90 23 19 17 3.3
Bangladesh 32 55 62 11 10 10 60.6
Bhutan 69 82 100 38 60 68 0.0
China 98 100 100 46 54 57 0.0
India 60 76 79 24 32 34 271.7
Myanmar 47 49 52 4 8 9 24.9
Nepal 27 67 85 7 21 26 4.2
Pakistan 75 91 98 24 39 45 3.7
All HKH countries 368.4 1781.7

Source: International Energy Agency and World Bank 2017

To address energy poverty in the region and contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7, which is to ‘ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’ by 2030, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) has been supporting ICIMOD establish the regional centre of excellence on Sustainable Energy for All with the technical assistance of the the United Nations’ Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The REEECH initiative will function as a regional thematic hub under the umbrella of the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centres (GN-SEC), which is coordinated by UNIDO.

In his keynote address, Martin Ledolter, Managing Director ADA, emphasized the central role energy plays in advancing sustainable mountain development. He reminded everyone present that “the role of REEECH is crucial as it initiates opportunities for coordinated and concerted action, and, ultimately, helps all renewable energy and energy efficiency stakeholders, including the private sector move forward the sustainable energy agenda.”

ICIMOD’s Director General David Molden highlighted the significance of the REEECH initiative for the region.

“As a global community, we have the knowledge to address energy poverty. We know that solar, wind, biogas, micro-hydro, and micro-grid renewable energy technologies can be effective,” Molden said in his keynote address. “What we lack is a clear focus on the mountains and a mandate to reach the last mile of connectivity. With REEECH, we will do that.”

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