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Equality as Accelerator of Universal Access to Energy
31 of March 2020
Equality as Accelerator of Universal Access to Energy
Taciana Peão Lopes

We all live challenging times at all levels.

How many of us have access to energy in our daily lives?

  • On a reliable and secure manner, without interruptions or oscillations?
  • At affordable prices?
  • Using sustainable forms of energy?

 

It may not seem like it, but these are rather difficult questions to answer. Especially if they were asked, for example, in a remote rural area of our country, or even on the fringes of the neighbourhoods surrounding our city.

And this is the reason why is urgent to inspire ALL, men and women, to actively contribute so that all Mozambican citizens, men, women and children, can in a few years (say in about 10 years) answer all these questions with a YES.

In fact, we are not making much progress in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 - Universal Access to Energy, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDS) - ODS 7, adopted under Agenda 2030 by 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly, because it is considered to be a key instrument for achieving it:

  • eradicate poverty in any of its forms;
  • protect the planet;
  • and ensure prosperity for all by 2030


According to the projections of a 2018 study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa (Policy Brief 18 Achieving SDG In Africa), on the basis of existing policies it will be extremely difficult for African countries to meet the goals underlying Sustainable Development Goal 7 - Universal Access.

And the fact that we cannot achieve this ODS 7 - UAE for all has catastrophic consequences for us Mozambicans, Africans, and for the whole planet.

And why is that?

Energy is an essential component of life, it is necessary in all our activities and it is at the heart of sustainable development (it meets the needs of current generations in a way that does not compromise the ability to meet the needs of future generations and it consciously manages resources in a way that prevents them from being depleted), since it affects significantly:

  • health
  • the environment
  • land use
  • other sectors (industry and services), and
  • also the inequalities between men and women.

In fact, if everyone, men and women, has access to quality, affordable energy, using modern and sustainable forms of energy, there will be:

  • sustainable transformational socio-economic development
  • with the consequent reduction in poverty levels.

The links between the challenges of access to energy, sustainable development, with an emphasis on poverty eradication, climate change and gender equality have been the subject of much debate on the international stage.

The perfect model for the management and governance of energy systems at global level is based on a balance between three dimensions, commonly referred to as the "energy trilemma"[1]:

  • universal access (at low cost);
  • environmental sustainability; and
  • security of supply.

Reality shows that the management and governance of energy systems have different conceptions and characteristics, depending on whether we are in the context of central countries or peripheral countries.

For example, on the side of countries such as the USA or EU countries, the level of electrification and energy supply is around 100%.

The management of energy resources, being more linked to security of supply and climate change, tends to promote the transition to more sustainable systems. The question is whether all citizens will be able to afford sustainable energy services.

On the other side of our world, peripheral countries have to deal with other challenges. We still live in darkness:

  • 62% of the population has no access to electricity;
  • In the Sub-Saharan African region, 80% depend significantly on traditional biomass in the form of firewood, charcoal, animal manure and agricultural waste;
  • In rural areas of peripheral countries, the lack of access to electricity amounts to 89.3%, and in the countries of the African group, the figure is 94.9%;
  • In urban areas of peripheral countries, access to modern energy services and electricity supply is unpredictable;
  • At the same time, their populations are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change
  • This energy poverty is particularly heavy for women and girls, who are responsible for most of the tasks related to cooking, cleaning, washing and collecting water and biomass, and are unlikely to go to school.

 

Mozambique is no exception to this reality.

With an extraordinarily low electrification ratio of around 30%, it has, on the other hand, vast resources and an enormous potential in terms of renewable energy that should be used to increase access to energy for the population on an equal and non-discriminatory basis.

However, in the energy management performance index it occupies one of the last 6 places.

The effective operation of the UAE in Mozambique depends on different aspects ranging from:

  • geopolitics;
  • the economic position in relation to the management of its natural and energy resources;
  • the greater or lesser (in)dependence on them;
  • the philosophical and cultural concept of justice;
  • gender relations.

 

So how to ensure that all MOZAMBICANS have universal and sustainable access to energy in 2030?

Is this an impossible mission?

I believe Mozambique can have a bright future!

And this is the reason a group of Mozambican women working in the energy sector have joined the will to change the Narrative of Mozambique, energizing equality. This is how MWE - Mozambican Women of Energy came about.

 

It is a reality that gender equality and equity and the EU are strongly interlinked. 

 

In MWE views reaching gender equality/equity in the energy sector is the achievement:

  • of a fundamental human right to sustainable social and economic development
  • of an ideal of justice

 

Which of us does not dream of living in a just, supportive, inclusive society where there is no place for poverty and where we are all equal?

So, how is it possible to achieve the UAE with equality/equity, leaving out half the population: women?

 

The truth is that access by women to energy and the energy sector has a transformative effect:

  • women have more free time to devote themselves to other activities such as education
  • improves access to public places and opens up opportunities for paid activities and work
  • more inclusive and diverse policies and regulatory regimes and working environments are more profitable, prosperous and environmentally conscious
  • offers great opportunities to promote energy sector activities in the value chain, such as the operation, management and maintenance of off-grid energy systems. In fact, the kind of skills needed to implement these distributed energy projects can be developed locally and by women, especially given their role as primary energy users and using their social networks.
  • As women become involved in the provision of energy solutions, they take a more active role in their community, facilitating a gradual change in social structure and cultural norms towards more sustainable energy uses

It turns out that there are a number of barriers in the energy sector:

  • As to access

It has been proven that women spend an average of 100 hours a year collecting firewood or charcoal in order to cook

  • In the all-male dominated labour market

Studies show that only an average of 30% of women work in the sector

  • In decision-making or leadership positions

According to a study conducted by E&Y in 2016, only 16% of women hold management/leadership positions in the largest companies in the sector.

  • In education

Simply because they don't have the light to study at night after household chores or because they don't feel encouraged to study more technical subjects related to energy

How to overcome these barriers?

MWE proposes 4 pillars of action to energise equality to accelerate the UAE: THINK, BUILD, CONNECT and LEAD.

 

THINK

  • Research and development of information disaggregated by gender to provide real data on the real participation of women in the sector
  • Creating mechanisms/instruments that energize equality and influence decision making and society as a whole, namely through policies and implementation of more inclusive legal-regulatory regimes 

 

BUILD

  • Dissemination and technical training
  • Support for entrepreneurship and business creation, taking advantage of the context of implementation of local and national content plans and social and corporate responsibility actions for women in the sector


CONNECT

  • Illuminate the work of Mozambican women who every day give their energy in their homes, in their work, whether in the public, private or informal sector
  • Creation of a platform for the exchange of ideas and support for women in the energy sector
  • Motivates girls to choose STEM education to pursue their careers in the energy sector and the establishment of a support community for women in the energy sector


LEAD

  • Design and implementation of mentoring and leadership programs specifically designed for women and girls in the sector - Impact Accelerators
  • Partnerships with other institutions to draw on the experience of leading Mozambican women in the sector to mentor and motivate girls to choose a more technical education in energy-related matters

 

We don’t have time to waste!

As I often tell our children, we have superpowers. We will use them to make urgent changes in our societies. But let's do it All Together, functioning as an ecosystem, and seek in our diversity the strength to fight these disparities.


Achieving access to energy and energising equality is a matter of justice, it is the light to come out of the tunnel of poverty, to dream and fly higher and to be free...

In the words of President Mandela “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity is the protection of a fundamental human right … the right to dignity and decent life.  While poverty persists there is no true freedom” Mandela


1.”Energy Trilemma", commonly defined as the challenge of balancing energy security, energy affordability and environmental sustainability.

Taciana Peão Lopes

Business Partner at TPLA e Co-Founder at MWE