Evolution of the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centers (GN-SEC)
By looking at the moderate growth rates of Sustainable Energy and Climate Technology (SECT) markets in many developing countries, it becomes obvious that SDG-7, SDG-9 and SDG-13 cannot be attained by 2030 in business-as-usual scenarios. There is need for economies of scale and speed. In this context, formal, informal, centralised and decentralized multi-stakeholder partnerships - leveraging flexible networks and resources between a broad range of like-minded partners in developing and developed countries – can become important accelerators.
Therefore, UNIDO in partnership with sub-regional economic communities/organisations (RECs) and their Members States (MS), is establishing the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centers (GN-SEC), an innovative south-south and triangular multi-stakeholder partnership to accelerate the energy and climate transformation in developing countries. Since 2010, UNIDO assists RECs in the establishment and operation of sub-regional sustainable energy promotion centres.
The gradually expanding partnership comprises a sub-network of centers for the African and the Arab region (in cooperation with the EAC, SADC, ECOWAS and the Arab League), the Central American and Caribbean region (CARICOM, SICA), the Asia and Pacific region (e.g. SPC, ICIMOD). The network covers most of the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS). and a sub-network for Small Island Developing States. Currently, the network is expanding to Central Africa (ECCAS) and Central Asia (ECO). The network has approval by more than 108 Ministers of Energy and/or Heads of State.
Centres in the preparatory phase:
The GN-SEC platform:
The GN-SEC is currently becoming a formalized global platform to advocate for SDG-7, SDG-9 and SDG-13 and joint interests in international policy processes. The platform is hosted by UNIDO in Vienna, Austria. It provides also a "virtual" maker-space for south-south cooperation activities and joint project proposals. For example, SIDS share similar challenges and opportunities when it comes to electric mobility and storage solutions. LDCs in Sub Sahara Africa share a common interest in renewable energy (hybrid) mini-grid development for rural electrification and productive uses. The platform provides also an interesting forum to exchange experiences and lessons learned on methodologies related to sub-regional cooperation and institution building.
Transitioning towards a new global business model
In line with the SDGs, the GN-SEC works towards a new global business model that allows to produce more of the goods and services required by a growing world population, while using fewer resources and producing less waste and pollution. There is a trend towards circular economy policy concepts against the background of the increasing scarcity and price volatility of raw materials, including fossil fuels, as well as the need to internalize the costs of environmental externalities, such as air, soil and water pollution and climate change caused by global greenhouse gas emissions.
The deployment of sustainable energy and climate technologies (SECTs) is considered as an effective tool to tackle economic/industrial productivity and competitiveness, energy security, energy access/affordability and negative externalities of conventional energy systems (e.g. GHG emissions, local pollution) simultaneously and in an integrated way. In this context, also developing countries have introduced far-reaching targets for scaling-up SECT markets (e.g. NDCs) throughout the next decades. Most of these efforts are closely aligned with economic, industrial and environmental policies targeting increased competitiveness, productivity, inclusiveness, sustainability and resilience to climate change impacts.
Despite growing investments over the past decade, SECTs markets have not reached economies of scale particularly in low-income developing countries. In the energy sector, the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions remains hindered by a broad range of barriers and shortcomings related to policy and regulation, fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, technical limitations, economics, finance, capacity, quality infrastructure, R&D and innovation frameworks, knowledge and awareness.
Moreover, in a number of developing countries the inability of the domestic private sector to supply sustainable energy quality products and services under competitive prices has become a bottleneck for the uptake of SECT markets. The domestic manufacturing and servicing sector remains weakly developed and the growing demand remains underserved by international suppliers and supply chains due to high market entry costs and risks. Moreover, policies and technology transfer programs tend to focus on creating demand for SECT products and services and tend to ignore supplier-oriented actions focused on strengthening domestic innovation systems, productive industrial capacities and entrepreneurship.
Such trends raise concerns regarding the inclusiveness of technology transfer processes. This offers opportunities, but also bears the risk that the local value and job creation effects of such investments remain low and are not sustained in the long-run. Particularly in least developed countries (LDCs) even basic equipment and services (e.g. consulting, energy auditing, installation, maintenance) continue to be imported. The lack of domestic suppliers and service providers questions the long-term sustainability of already undertaken renewable energy investments in various developing countries. The lack of domestic R&D and entrepreneurship hinders the commercialisation of SECT solutions adapted to the realities of LDCs and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).