Looking forward to 2012 – focus on sustainable energy


Jonathan Spencer
Jones, Editor, Metering
By Jonathan Spencer Jones, Editor, Smart Energy International

With various lists of challenges and “what do you thinks” and “what would you like to sees” for 2012 doing the rounds, I would like add Smart Energy International’s to these, but without being repetitive by highlighting one specific initiative.

At first sight it is not immediately connected with our field of smart metering and smart grid, but delve a little deeper and the connections are apparent. I refer to the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, which 2012 has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly.

The initiative is aimed to highlight the importance of energy access for sustainable economic development and to support achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It will also launch one of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “priorities” for his second term – sustainable energy for all, and specifically the securing of commitments to meet three objectives by 2030:

  • Ensuring universal access to modern energy services
  • Doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Many of the activities for the Year will be “local,” organized by national coordinating committees for the citizens of the respective countries. But there is also a more professional aspect, with an Energy Access Practitioner Network that has been launched by the United Nations Foundation. This network brings together practitioners from the private sector and civil society working on the delivery of energy services and solutions in seven selected areas – microgrids, energy and agriculture, energy and health, finance and investment, mapping, supply chains, and standards. Each of these groups are developing recommendations, which are expected to be made available in a final report shortly (for more, see Smart Energy International Issue 4 2011 p 18 for the contribution by Terry Mohn, who co-chairs the microgrids group).

The Year offers a golden opportunity to utilities to “piggy back” on. As an example, much of the focus will obviously be on developing countries where access to energy services is often limited. One organization that does much good work with little publicity is the NRECA through its International Foundation and one initiative – currently suspended – involved the donation by members of retired meters to countries including Guatemala. In the latest project, again involving Guatemala, a group of Indiana cooperatives is to send linemen there later this year to help expand electricity access.

Then there is smart meters and the smart grid. Often deployments are associated to the environmental benefits and deployment figures are accompanied by the associated (estimated) carbon reductions. But I would argue that “sustainability” is more persuasive as a concept than “climate change”. While there is much debate around the latter, surely few would argue against the sustainable use of the resources with which we have been endowed?