Damilola Ogunbiyi is the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy
Mrs. Ogunbiyi has extensive experience in the energy space. Before joining SEforAll she was Managing Director of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency, the first woman to be appointed to the post. Before that she was Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Power and a senior official in the Lagos State Government. Mrs. Ogunbiyi worked for the British Government as a Consultant in the Department for International Development and at the HM Treasury.
Mrs. Ogunbiyi maintains a keen interest in mentoring and empowering young people through skills acquisitions. She created the Lagos State Energy Academy to build the capacity of young people in renewable energy technology, and the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) which launched a Female STEM Student Internship Programme to provide hands-on practical experience in designing and constructing power systems for 700 female undergraduates.
Mrs. Ogunbiyi is one of the Commissioners for the Global Commission to end energy poverty which is an initiative driven by MIT and The Rockefeller Foundation. She is the Co-Chair of the COP26 Energy Transition Council. She is also a member of the Development Advisory Council of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), member of the clean cooking alliance advisory board and a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Oxford – Future of Cooling Programme
Mrs. Ogunbiyi holds a bachelor’s degree in Project Management with Construction and a master’s degree in Construction Management with Public Private Partnership from University of Brighton.
UN’s Ogunbiyi on Sustainability Goals, COP26 (July 2021)
Damilola Ogunbiyi on how to bridge the energy gap in Africa (July 2020)
OECD Climate Finance Provided and Mobilised by Developed Countries: Aggregate Trends Updated with 2019 Data
Click here for Edited Highlights
Michael Liebreich: Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to cleaning up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich, and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Damilola Ogunbiyi. She's the CEO and also the UN Secretary General’s, Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All. And she's also co-chair of UN Energy. Let's bring Damilola Ogunbiyi into the conversation. Damilola, welcome to Cleaning Up. Thank you for joining me.
Damilola Ogunbiyi: Thank you so much for having me.
ML: You know, I can almost not believe that you and I have not met given that you run SE4 All and it was such a big part of my life, I'm guessing about a decade.
DO: I think it's because of the Zoom platform, right? Because you're kind of like this rock star and everything, of SDGs and energy related and really championing the whole climate movement as well. So I'm just glad we can do this now. And we can follow on and build on this.
ML: Absolutely. And we're going to hopefully meet in person during the COP meetings in Glasgow, I think both of us are going to be for at least some of the time overlapping. But I, I'm still, I'm just amazed, because obviously, you know, you were very actively involved in this, you know, energy and finance agenda. In the time when we must have been at some conferences and things together, I can't believe we've not been in the same room together at some point along the way.
DO: Yeah, I can't imagine, especially when it comes to developing countries. I mean, and that's why I'm so excited about, you know, this, this new SE4All for now, like the SE4All 3.0, we've got such great work from Kandeh and Rachel Kyte. And I just want to take it to the next level and make sure everyone realises just how important Sustainable Development Goal Seven is, as an agenda. But more importantly, if that isn't achieved, it's going to be tough to achieve all the other SDGs and even tougher to achieve our climate goals.
ML: Absolutely. And that was always the core thesis that I think when I first got involved, it wasn't even called SE4All, it was called something like the UN Energy Coordinating Initiative. But it was always about the Millennium Development Goals did not have energy explicitly noted. And therefore, it was just mystifying how you were going to achieve whatever it was whether it was the poverty agenda, or the you know, getting jobs for women included in the workforce, or the health agenda, how would you do that without energy? So that was absolutely at the heart of things.
DO: I mean, I completely agree. I mean, I am shocked that that time didn't, you know, you know, didn't have anything to do with energy initially, really happy, obviously, it came into the SDGs. But what you're talking about now is what we're still going through, you know, a lot of people don't realise just how central energy is, I mean, we say it's the golden thread. But it truly is, I mean, look at what we're going through now, with the pandemic, we already know that we're not getting enough vaccines to the people that need it the last mile, but we're not talking about the fact that we can’t even get it there. Because of the lack of coal chains. And roughly only 25% of healthcare facilities in my continent, Africa actually have constant electricity, the amount of wastage that's been caused. So a lot of people know these issues. But connecting the dots is what we're trying to say that, you know, energy is at the heart of them. If you give locality or a person or especially a woman adequate energy, it will resolve a lot of the issues that we're having right now.
ML: Our audience is very diverse. What you'll find is there are some people who are, you know, incredible technocrats. They know this stuff, you know better than I do. But also some people who you know, dip in and they're educated, they're all very interested and very committed to the net zero transition to the climate agenda, and also to the inclusion and equity agendas, but they may not know all about Sustainable Energy For All. So why don't we start? Perhaps you could just say, what is this thing because you're also the Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All but you're the CEO, you know, it's all kind of like, okay, it's all good. But what is it?
DO: Okay, so first Sustainable Energy fall is an international organisation that was born out of the UN initiative that you helped put together at your in your time. It has its main focus, it's only focus is to achieve SDG7, which is really in a nutshell, affordable, sustainable, modern energy for all, by 2030. It's broken into three different sections. And the first section is actually two, first is universal access to electricity for all, for which we still have about 759 million people not having enough, no electricity at all, to be honest. So they can't do these nice things like Zoom calls that we can do. And we have 2.6 billion people who have no access to clean cooking, which is incredibly worrying as an African woman as well, knowing that about 4 million people die from using really harmful fuels every single year. For me, it's a pandemic on its own. And it's probably one of the the largest causes of deforestation at least on the continent. And then we have another target, which is to increase the share of renewables. That's, that's been going steadily up, it's not as bad as electrification or clean cooking access. And I think we probably will achieve that goal by 2030. And then the final part is on energy efficiency, where we're trying to get to this magic 3% every year. Every year, we're not on track to achieve that at all. And so what we are, our main goal of SE4All, is that we need the policy, the financing, and the just transition to be in place and people to understand just how critical this is, for people and for the planet. And to also understand that if we don't achieve this goal of universal access by 2030, we cannot achieve net zero by 2050. So that's what we stand for. That's what I'm doing, my entire team. And that's also what the UN stands for, and the Secretary General, this year, we have the first high level dialogue on energy in 40 years. And that's a lot in most of our lifetimes the first time, which again, is a bit shocking. We have so many climate conferences, but it was the first time we had an energy real deep energy conversation in 40 years. So for me personally, as well, and the organisation that is the direct link between energy and climate, and understanding, you cannot leave almost a billion people in energy poverty, you have to carry them on this journey. It's critical. And that's what we're doing.
ML: Thank you very much. And you know, the good news is for those who want more details on where those three goals came from: energy access, renewables and energy efficiency. We had Kandeh Yumkella. I'm going to say it was something like episode 15. It's probably not 15. But it's somewhere around then anybody who goes to the website and scrolls through will be able to see Kandeh Yumkella. And then of course, your predecessor. The second, which you talked about this is now SD4 3.0, the reign of Ogunbiyi, but you have had 1.0, which was Kandeh Yumkella and then 2.0 under our I believe it was actually episode two, Rachel Kyte.
DO: That's really interesting. And I'm just really blessed to have such amazing people kind of come before me and work in different areas. I mean, Kandeh worked on establishing and people understanding really importance that energy plays and it needs still very committed to that Rachel kind of took it to the next level in terms of international organisation globally, also recognising the advocacy piece as well, we started having things like our forums, and all these other agendas, and now I think it's all about the decade of action. You know, we can't say we've achieved anything unless we can show it on the ground. So there's just 3.0 and just about the reign of Ogunbiyi , more in terms of what the actions we can do on ground, and how we can really, really not just talk about not leaving people behind, absolutely focused on policies or data driven decision making, on helping people and current governments on ground achieve these actions.
ML: That's right. And so many of the audience listening or watching will say, well, you know, this is actually all part of the SDG7 and they didn't really know how hard it was and how hard we worked, and how hard Kandeh worked. And then Rachel worked to make it SDG7, it was not obvious, it could have been folded into a different SDG. But you know, we worked hard to make sure that energy had its own sustainable development goal, because we were so convinced that it was absolutely integral to the achievement of pretty much everything else and therefore it really needed that focus.
DO: And I'm glad you really had that foresight, because a lot of people don't realise again, coming from a developing country that energy is our climate action. Do you see what I mean? Like being able to have sustainable energy rates be clean. That is really our you know, energy transition? If you think about the difference between Sub Saharan Africa, if you take away South Africa, there's only about 81 gigawatts of energy installed, you know that means that that region is already energy poor. And we're not having conversations on this needs to be 10x to get people out of poverty and make sure it's clean. Everyone's having conversations, how you reduce energy. And that's the beauty about SDG7: it makes us highlight that the key issues. Yeah, why should we focus on energy transition, and moving away from very harmful fuels into clean fuels, we can't forget that in some regions in the world, especially Asia and Africa, more energy is going to be needed and populations are growing. And we have to make sure that we have the tools but more importantly, the financing, to make sure that energy that's needed is done in a clean, sustainable way. Instead of reverting back to, to what we do as business as usual, and then in 20 years time coming back to transition then and I think that's what's just so exciting for me being able to create a platform where, you know, you're starting at such a low base, and being able to really, really influence decisions that affects us all, you know, over the next few decades.
ML: Absolutely. Let's come back in a minute to this particular moment in time, we are recording this a couple of weeks before COP26 in Glasgow, Glasgow, ought to move this agenda forwards. In fact, what you may not know is that the last episode that, in fact, has just come out this week of Cleaning Up was with Alain Ebobissé, who's the CEO of Africa 50, the infrastructure fund. And I have the same conversation with him about how, in a sense, everybody, we're sitting here in the developed world talking about wouldn't it be nice to have, you know, clean energy and net zero and 2050, and so on. But actually, in much of Africa, the question is, how do you actually get on that ladder in the first place and get energy? Can we just look at how we're doing because you talked about how you gave the statistics you said 759 million people without electricity. And for context, when I started to work on the UN Energy Initiative, or coordinating initiative as it was then the number was 1.4 billion. So you know, I don't want to. I'm not going to take the win because it's not a win. But we're definitely on that one. It feels like particularly with all these rooftop systems and micro grids, plus building out the grid, that that's been quite good progress. But the scary one, the one that you mentioned, is 2.6 billion people still cooking, or their family is still cooking, using wood, charcoal, animal dung and suffering terrible health consequences. If you touch on those two, you know, how do we get the rest of people to get electricity? And then what do we do? What are the actual technical solutions for the cooking challenge?
DO: So first, yes, electrification might look like it's getting better. But most of those wins have really been in a couple of countries, you know, and that's all in South Asia. South Asia has done amazing, India, amazing in terms of what it's managed to achieve. But it's not, it's not like there's an even split. And what we're finding now, because we don't have the stats since COVID, everything we're working on is still 2019 figures with 150 million people going back to extreme poverty, you can imagine most of them are also going to go back into electricity poverty. And in terms of clean cooking, it's just more bleak. You know, it's a key cause of not only women having to spend five hours a day, just on this task of cooking. But it's also a very large cause of gender based violence. So it's really disturbing, when you look at it that way. In terms of the solutions. I am a very big data geek. Everything I've done all my career from Nigeria till now has been based on data driven decision making. And I feel we first have to give the tools to countries to understand what their energy mix is. And who has electricity? Who doesn't, who has clean cooking who doesn't. They might sound very basic to us sitting in the developed world. But it's critical, right? Because it's a whole of government change we're asking for, we're asking for countries to electrify the entire economy, something that hasn't been done anywhere else, but we're asking people with the least amount of money to do that. Okay, this is so so how exactly does that fit into the larger energy transition plan? So I'm very, very keen on let's move pledges to actions. So if I pledge net zero by 2050, what does that mean for my economy? And a study that's happened in my country with thanks to the UK COP unit energy transition council, which I co-chair is that the Nigerian Energy Transition Plan, obviously being complex, because it's such a large oil and gas nation is that, you know, Nigeria itself needs something on the regions of 410 billion above business as usual spending just to get anywhere near net zero. So I just want to give you an idea of the scale of what we're asking these countries to do. But, you know, if we are really serious about it, the financing has to come in place. So I spoke about bringing the data, and the platforms mean, the financing, and then obviously, the policy and the regulation. Most countries around the world policy actually is driven by projects, you don't have to wait till the perfect policy to drive things in place. So those are kind of the three key things that I feel that for clean cooking and electrification, that, that we should make sure we push forward, but also understanding, I guess, two or three key, but I guess, the final and most important thing, global political will to solve this issue, to treat what is happening to millions of people from how billions of people as an injustice, it's not equality, and to treat it as a pandemic on its own, and come together and say, look, we want to solve this issue. Because if we solve this issue, there'll be more economic growth, there'll be healthier people, there's such a range of things that can happen by resolving this. And that's what we're trying to kind of push at COP, right? While we recognise the big emitters and everything that's going on, don't forget that these countries can become big emitters, if you don't consider them now, if they're not part of your plans moving forward. And that's obviously very important to us as an organisation and the United Nations itself. But it should be important to everybody, people shouldn't be okay with, you know, the people not having clean energy, life and death for a lot of people. And you know, there are a few hundred million people that can't stay at home when there's a key pandemic, unless they die of hunger. So everything ties together, and I feel like we're at a tipping point where we like key decisions that we need to make globally and really take it seriously. And again, I cannot stress the finance enough, we're still struggling with the 100 billion. And this is something that's been committed how many years ago, we really need to put, we need to make actions known we used to put our money behind things that offer the global good.
ML: Absolutely agree that's a very eloquent listing of the in a sense of the policy, the political, geopolitical, and also the moral case and the moral kind of checklist of things that just have to happen. I was after, as well, before then, what do the solutions look like? And maybe if we could just take electrification, you know, their vision, but what does it… What does it actually look like? There's a question. Is this all is electrification all about it has to be the grid? Or can it be rooftop? Can it be microgrids? Is that going to meet the needs? Or are we just because I tell you what, the last thing that I want to do is impose some solution, you know, I'm a, I'm a middle aged, middle class white guy, I'm not going to be able to tell anybody that they should just be happy with the solar roof. But if they tell me that, that'd be fine, because then the kids can study. And that's good for the rural area, as long as the clinic gets some, you know, what, what does success on electrification look like? And then I want to get on to cooking.
DO: Okay, so I mean, if we're getting down to the technologies, again, this is where the data comes in. It's important to have integrated energy planning. And what that does is allows you to plan the least cost way of providing adequate and sustainable electrification for your population. So in a standard integrated energy plan, what I would want to see is how many people should be connected to the grid? How many people should be connected to decentralised energy, either through mini grids, or solar standalone systems, and how many people should just be simply off grid with the mixture of conventional energy and renewable systems in a kind of like a CNI type of approach? I am of the opinion, I'm not against many solar solutions, like solar lanterns. I just don't think that's electrification. I think it does play a role in terms of providing light for some critical things like education, for herdsmen, that all the things you can talk about, but I think the fundamental where people tend to get it wrong is not understanding one what people need to thrive and be and have some type of economic growth in this scenario, two where you should be providing power. And I'll give you an example of this, in my previous role I was providing power to communities and markets and hospitals. So I know this quite well. And I remember going to some communities and they would say, Can you provide us power where we work instead of where we live?, and I was a bit baffled, and they were like, That's where we're productive. That's where we are for 16 to 18 hours a day, if I can have some additional income from there, I will sort out my house, like don't worry about it. So it's very, very important to understand that when we talk about energy, it's not the minimum tier zero, tier one is energy for development, energy for economic growth, like there's a budding tech industry now with young entrepreneurs in Africa. Are we going to power our whole server room? You know what I mean, with, you know, solar lanten, you know, we're not, you know, but can it be a hybrid system, of course, it can be, you know, this is where a lot of battery storage is going to come in. Now, I do not believe that we should be doing any solar hybrid systems without adequate battery storage. That's another thing that I've always been championing because it can't be solar for solar hours. It needs to be if you're talking about solar hybrid technology that needs to be for the full time. So I think that kind of the electrification part, for the clean cooking part, is a little bit more difficult, right? Because the fuel source is free. People are not used to paying for what they use. So I think we are going to go to different energy transitions, right? What suits a person could be electrification. I doubt it, if you have no, no clean cooking initially, but if you could tie it into some type of solar solution for your house, that might be able to work. And there's lots of lots of studies, there's a really, really great thing with mex going on right now on how to bring those costs down, and the equipment costs down. There's also, you know, what people think is controversial, which is the use of LPG in terms of LPG cylinders, in terms of moving forward. Again, if I had to have a choice between a woman not having any energy at all, or using an LPG, I would obviously choose LPG. What we have to realise is that what I'm talking about is the policy, you can't really take the technology away from the policies, how do you transition out of that? You see, everything that we're doing has to be transitionary. What a lot of African leaders are upset about is they feel that they're not allowed to actually undertake a just transition. They feel that even though everywhere around the world are using transitory fuels to net zero, they are told to stop now. And it's just very, very difficult. And because we don't have that template, right, of people in the developed world, that have that much money trying to do this transition, and countries with all the money, not even getting it right, it gives it a lot of tension. So my whole thing is that we have to make allowance for transitory fuels, as long as it's part of a plan to net zero. So I never hooked up on fossil/no fossil, I know seem very controversial. I'm more in terms of whatever you're going to put in place. How does it allow you to still get to net zero, I believe that is that world where we can come up with energy for people and for the planet. We don't have to choose one or the other. Because again, being from Sub Saharan Africa, if you look at global emissions, again, if you take away South Africa, you're talking about 0.55% of global emissions currently going on it's I mean, what is there to decarbonize right now, you know, that's that, that is my sense of it. But we have to make sure that the Low Carbon trajectory is maintained. But it's not. It's not done in a way that stops development.
ML: Right. And these are such important messages. Because, you know, I have my, you know, the media activities, and I'm on Twitter a lot and LinkedIn. And then I could do my speaking and, you know, you get so many people who say things like, well, obviously nuclear is the answer. And it's like, Have you thought about Niger, or Ethiopia or Gabon and really suggesting that other people say, Oh, well, they should just go to electric cooking. Is that what ceramic hobs? Do you know how much one of those costs? And where's the electricity you're not going to do a ceramic hob with you know, power from the roof. And it's not going to be that person's top priority. And then you have other people saying, Oh, well you must never leave your gas in the ground. And this is something that you know, I talked to Alain Ebobissé about that we're using gas we're keeping the lights on now in Europe because we've got gas but then you have people who are saying oh no Africa mustn't develop its gas that would be very bad because the climate and I think it is this, it is so important. to move fast, but ultimately, it will also be so important to have a pathway to net zero, whether it's 2050, frankly, or 2060, or 2070, in my mind, and I know there'll be there'll be people, you know, emailing and going crazy on social media, because I say this, but in my mind, you know, Sub Saharan Africa can be, you know, wealthy, developed, and then rich enough to afford to afford all those ceramic hobs for every single, you know, woman and man cooking by 2070. I'll take that as a win. To be quite honest, I don't know how whether you would agree,
DO: People will be going mad on Twitter, I am of opinion, especially since I've been on ground. And I see the suffering that even the COVID has caused in my country. And, you know, people that had electrification, some people, some developers have just shut down, things have just happened that I'm just a little bit, I'm just a lot more practical, right. And again, I've seen how, you know, one of my first projects was providing power to healthcare facilities. And I was very ignorant. I just came straight from London thinking, oh, let me get my KPI sheet down. And, you know, people were telling me that you save babies' lives, right? I just don't think we can be so purist about it, when people's lives are at stake. And I would always share this sentiment, and I feel that this is where there needs to be a closer alignment between the climate world and the energy world. And people just need to be truthful about the evidence, right? And it's not okay, it's not okay, because Africa is low emitting to leave Africa as it is. Right. It's, that's, that's a cop out, it's really, really not okay. And again, it's not okay to say Africa doesn't have the right to have a just and equitable transition as well. But we do have to watch it, we do have to make sure that it is part of a bigger plan. And the focus needs to be net zero. But we have a really good time. This is the first time, at least in my life, that, you know, leaders are coming to me and saying, I want to, I want to be cleaner and greener. How do I do it? What I think the problem is, is we don't have the response.
ML: Now, let's come on to finance in a second. But I want to ask because you mentioned health care a couple of times and I did a project in Sierra Leone in Bo there was a neonatal unit where was set up by this brilliant Irish doctor Dr. Niall Conroy working with the hospital in Bo, which is I think you probably knows the second city or the second or third city in Sierra Leone. And it was just a complete coincidence. I saw a tweet by Dr. Conroy saying that they had another power cut that night. And I think two or three babies passed away should not happen in the current world. And I was actually on my way to, you know, yet another Climate and Energy posh dinner. And I was like, right, it should not happen. And so we did this project. And we worked with Dr. Conroy, worked with the local stakeholders, and we got this project, but it has been really complicated, complicated by, you know, all of the things that you would expect. You know, bureaucracy, uncertainty over import duties, lack of technical skills. You know, UNICEF just suddenly gave the hospital more equipment which they plugged in and everything went bang, you know that everything that could have gone wrong, in a way has gone wrong. In fact, right now, we are waiting until, you know, we can because of COVID we actually have to replace the batteries. So it's been really complex, lots of fabulous amounts of learning. And we have along the way saved a lot of lives, but not enough. But what are you doing now in things like health care? Have you got a sort of specific work stream on health care and education? And I don't know, SMEs and food processing? Have you gotten down because it feels to me like one of the trends in this space is moving away from just I think you said, you know, having a KPI and a metric saying how many kilowatt hours and we deliver but actually moving towards solutions have we have we packaged energy in such a way that we've solved problem X maybe one of the other SDGs?
DO: I mean, we have a big programme on powering healthcare right now. With Power Africa actually, it all spun off. I mean, we wanted to do something about healthcare but with the pandemic, it just made it a little bit more possible. But we're not only looking at just keeping just connecting sustainable energy to healthcare facilities. We're looking at what should be the model in terms of keeping the lights on right so when And when you get to tier four if you're using lead acid batteries, when you get to tier ten when you're using lithium batteries, who replaces them, right? We know the panels will last for 25 years. What is the maintenance strategy? Who pays for it? How do you get local stakeholders? How do you get governments? And if you tie it into a bigger mini grid for that community, would make it easier, and then you take a subset of that to the health centre and don't even have to pay at all. So there's so much modelling, I'm really excited about this piece of work. We started off a couple of months ago. And the thing is just to create a model, which will change. I mean, it even changes in my country if you're going from northern Nigeria to southern Nigeria. And I'm glad you've been through it to understand the complexity, because what we have to do is demystify those complexities. But to also make sure that when people say they're going to do something, they actually do it. In my experience, unfortunately, even with the technical advisory support, and you know, I was running the largest energy access programme in Africa at half a billion dollars. You know, sometimes it doesn't, it doesn't come about for two years. You know what I mean? It doesn't, it doesn't materialise. They do mission after mission, all these other things. So I do think our role is also holding people responsible for what they say they're going to do. I mean, if we can't do that at the United Nations, I don't know who else can do that. And that's why we're getting companies and organisations and countries and the private sector to sign up to energy compacts and say, what actions, not pledges, are you going to do between now and 2030 to make sure we achieve these goals, but for health centres? I mean, again, I mean, I've probably done <inaudible> centres I can think of, in West Africa. And you know, because we use really, really great equipment, they were very low maintenance, but that's not going to always happen. And it's, for me, primary health care is just key, because it affects babies. I don't think there could be any job I could have in the world, better than saving a baby's life. And I truly, truly believe in that. And just again, but that takes a lot of empathy, and people just caring, you know, and people just seeing because it's not a lot of money. It's not a lot of money. But if you again, it depends, you know, like I said, Nigeria needs 400 billion over 400 billion for the energy transition plan. So slight difference, if someone goes, this is how you're going to get to 100 billion, or someone goes or has $250,000 for technical assistance. It's a different level of who you talk to in government and different levels of implementation. So those are the types of things we need to understand, we need to have the projects you're doing to scale times 100 in the same region, or in the same country. And Sierra Leone is quite interesting, because we work a lot there instead of just these little little pockets of stuff and aid and development, that doesn't really, really push the needle, unfortunately.
ML: No, you're right. I mean, it is humbling, I raised, we raised about 100,000 pounds. And you know, you're talking about potentially saving dozens of lives per year, for what a such modest amount as you know, in the grand scheme of things. But then, you know, it is now a question of continuing to invest. And, by the way, one of the things that we learned on that one suppressed demand matters. As soon as we upgraded the energy service, the outcomes for the babies were better then they started to get more demand.
DO:59% More inpatients with electricity. And that's where the data comes in.
ML: We started with no data we didn't know, how often there were power cuts in that hospital. So we had, you know, it was just ferociously complex, I will say.
DO: But you actually were dedicated to doing something.
ML: We’re not done yet. Because we still need to replace those batteries.
DO: For you, you focused and we're talking about equipment and implementation. We're not talking about a piece of paper. And that's where we need you and you're relatively small compared to sovereigns. And that's where we need to get everybody else.
ML: Kind I challenge lso, one thing when you said you need people to move beyond the pledges. And what I want to ask also is, is that not also true for the local players? I mean, if I look at the complexities of the little project that I did, then I would say, you know, yes, there were challenges that were coming from, you know, the finding, finding the right installers. And so, you know, raising the money, making sure that there was continuity of funds for maintenance, those sorts of things. But a lot of the complexities actually came from institutional structures. I don't want to call them weaknesses. They just are what they are. But, you know, changes in health ministry, nobody being able to pledge to be committed to not charging import duty on batteries, which is a local, you know, local matter the you know, some of the rivalries or complexities around, you know, where does the hospital stop and the health minister is also up to the local players to say, we will fix what we can fix. And then you have to provide what you morally, financially are obligated to provide.
DO: I completely agree. Absolutely. But then so absolutely, completely agree. And this is a challenge locally as well. And this is not just a developing country challenge. This would also be a challenge if I want to do something in London. So I just wanted to first point out, like, Who do you go to talk to? I think the problem with Africa is everybody wants to go to the ministry, or the agencies because there's no roadmap on who to go to first. And this is where we're talking about policy here. Because the institutional capability, like before I go to the area, there wasn't one in Nigeria, rural electrification agency, so I'm not trying to use acronyms all the time, there wasn't one institution that you would go to for this, people need to realise that these these, these countries are in their nascent form of just renewable energy. And it will take time, and it wouldn't be lessons learned from your type of your type of programme, you know, moving moving forward, but are you going to get import duties thrown away? For one health centre? If I'm going to be perfectly honest? Oh, no, you know what I mean, but if you show that you're going to do power for 100 centres, that may be you'd have a more policy wide discussion, we go through this all the time, with VAT for panels, you know, even fuel subsidies to make sure renewables and that's going to be a continuous issue. But again, if you have that knowledge before, say, you know, for a site, like, Okay, I'm gonna just price this in already, because this is going to be an issue. I think that's what we're trying to do. Like, you know, all the issues beforehand, try and we're going to, obviously, we work with the countries to try and solve that. But if it's not solvable, does it totally stop your project? Or do you have to move on, I think that's also very important. And again, it goes both ways. The locals definitely, trust me, I was a local, so I understand that. But also, when you're dealing with big institutions, I know we said we're going to find out if I know we don't have that much time left, like the DFIs. Like the MDBs, there's not a checklist they provide you before, you know, there's not a you have to do this, it just changes at different stages. So I think both ways, we need to get our things, we need to get all things sorted out. And again, again, another plea from the African side, that the reason why a lot of programmes have worked in developed countries is because they have clear institutions, that usually the politics cannot, you know, interfere with the, with the the institutional framework for permanent secretaries, all these types of things. A lot of these institutions in Africa are barely 30-40 years old, right? So it's a continuous evolution, and I'm not, I'm not gonna lie to you, you're gonna get it right by this date, right. But there needs to be a continuous evolution, continuous training, continuous learning, and just not having this assumption, which a lot of people like they don't know what they're doing. Right? It's just that one, they're not as resourceful, everybody else into it's kind of like a turf war as well, because the politics involved is also very, very real, these are four year terms, and they want to see something happening now. So that is my plea for anybody wanting to do projects in Africa, especially healthcare. If you have any main issues, please let me know. So I can, I can try and resolve them.
ML: Well, that's kind of, you know, this is sort of thing that, you know, hopefully does happen during, you know, COP 26, or 27, or 28. And that's why all these meetings are so vital, because it does feel like, you know, there are opportunities to kind of, you know, debug some of these processes, not case by case where you go from one hospital to the health minister, who then talks to the finance minister who talks to the to the customs, says, Yes, you know, it possible to operate. And I hear you, I don't think as soon as you say, oh, that's happening, because they don't know what they're doing you haven't understood the local conditions. But still, maybe we can help with some of that. I want to just flip to one other thing. And again, it came up in the conversation last week with Alain of Africa 50. Do you have a view on we talked about natural gas and on how this transition that that you know, some people would say Africa shouldn't be doing natural gas or Southeast Asia or whatever. What do you say to all of these, this sort of frantic activity around sustainable finance and Net Zero finance, and people are now being all holier than thou, we don't finance all of that we don't do that. What do you say? Do you say, well hold your horses? Actually, you should be ring fencing out certain types of projects or certain countries? Or do you say, well, you know, that's the way the world is, and we move on. And we're just going to have to do this without natural gas. What do you do?
DO: I think it's fundamentally incorrect for one country to tell the other country how to develop their energy transition. So that's, firstly, I think it's also unfair that the victims of climate change, which is normally Africa, and Asia, are being dictated on when the people causing climate change are still using those fuels. So those first one of my fundamental points, I think it's fine to have sustainable financing mechanisms, as long as you recognise that you also need to finance developmental agendas, and some of them might be using some form of gas. Like I said, in terms of clean cooking. I, I questioned the holier than thou anyway, as in, are you what are you going to finance? You know, I do feel like I want to work in climate friendly things. But yeah, if you're stopping kerosene or stopping deforestation, because you're using LPG, I will argue that it's climate friendly. I just feel like people, again, it goes back to data, people are not spending the time, or maybe they don't want to spend the time understanding the data. And showing the data is showing that you can still achieve a lot of these targets is the same thing with baseload. Right, until we get these great hydrogen solutions, which hopefully we will get and, and battery storage, you know, coming down to levels where we can have it backing up, you know, major grids in a cost effective way, you know, the data shows that we don't even have enough natural gas to be able to integrate the renewables as needed. In Africa, full stop.
ML: But I'm going to push you know, what do you say, then to act as if you can have a bank that says, right, we're going to do natural gas, because it will enable a very substantial amount of wind and solar to be done. There's fabulous wind and solar resources across Africa. But to keep the lights on, we're also going to find out natural gas that is used when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine. And the bank doing that could quite easily find its windows smashed. And it's and people glued to its doors, activists, what do you say to those activists? They're doing it out of the best motives? But are they actually helping or not helping?
DO: I try to educate them on just how bad things are on the ground. I find a lot of activists that are thinking we could all of us, not just Africa switch off today, maybe don't understand the circumstances. And that's the best I can do is continuously educate. Or what I'm not going to do is say, because I do believe in net zero that, yes, it's a pathway that you can definitely take, you can just stop using all gas anywhere and achieve your targets because I fundamentally don't believe it, I think you can use the natural resources, the continent actually has to enable this net zero pathway that we need to go get to and you know, the science needs to prove it. But I am not, I am not going to say it's okay for people to live in poverty a day more than they ever have to. Because you know, you don't, you don't have the views on the fuel sources, I honestly really, truly believe that there is a pathway for the planet and people to get us there. And I think there's been so much focus on the planet, especially in developing countries, and not enough focus on the people. And this has always happened. This is not a new thing for the African and Asian continent. We just need to make sure that this time we're not left behind.
ML: Right. And I'm not going to you know, the other one is, of course, coal, where I could do the same, you had the same question because I think you know, but that one just feels like it's answered itself in the last decade, because actually, the costs don't make sense. And you see things like Medupe, okay, we don't need to go there. We don't need to. We don't need to demand the right to do coal because we don't do coal anyway, but gas seems really real. And I wonder if the solution is for those countries that want gas to work with, you know, all stakeholders also in the developed world to create that sort of pathway that says look, we are committed to net zero 2060, 2070, choose a year and therefore, if we do get finance to do some gas, it does not mean we're ignoring our own common but differentiated responsibilities, it just means we're on a pathway that's going to do this. But at least it's clear what the end goal is, is that a realistic sort of communications and analytical and communications exercise? Or are we just destined to have culture wars around gas in the developing world.
DO:I think it's something that developing countries have always done. I think people just are not listening. And that's one of the reasons why I wanted to even come from a developed country into this platform that just needs to be there just needs to stop this sense of arrogance that I'm in the developed world and I know best. And this is including myself, we really, really need to understand what people in developing countries and still have increasing populations at an alarming rate are truly going through. And I feel like if people want to understand that message, this conversation we're having is much easier, but instead, a lot of people not from the developing countries, just make and say, okay, we have to stop this now. And I would like to be okay with that if the developed world also did that, but they don't. And we've seen in the last two or three weeks how people have reverted back on their fossil policies, which would have been, you know, there'll be sanctions if the developing countries do that. So how do we make this equitable? How do we make sure it is actually just, you know, everybody's transition plan is going to be different country to country, but we don't seem to be focusing on the overall goal, and then working backwards on how we achieve it. We're just working and saying, if we stop now, and we keep people in poverty, it's okay. And I honestly feel that there's a way to do both, and that's what we're championing.
ML: Let's turn to finance, I threatened that we would do that. And let's sort of talk about finance, because I was back in the days before SDG7 was SDG7, Kandeh Yumkella talks about it in his episode of Cleaning Up, I was kind of the finance guy who bothered, because not everybody, not no, not not only not everybody do it, but almost nobody else did it to actually, you know, come along on the journey and try and share some knowledge and then bring in others and then there were others that did come. So there was Chuck Holliday from Bank of America, at the time Chair of Bank of America. That was also a huge help along the way. But that finance, you talked about the 100 billion. And that came out of the so-called Copenhagen commitment to get to 100 billion per year of funding from the developed world to the global south to the developing world. And by 2019, it reached something around 80 billion. And I guess I worry about COP 26, that there'll be this huge focus on was it 80? Or was it 90, and now there has been another re-pledge to get it to 100. And you're talking about what is fundamentally now, I hate to say small numbers, because the developing world really needs half a trillion a year or a trillion a year or so really to catch up. The number needs to be just vastly bigger. And I need to turn that into a question. I mean, I suppose the question would be, I mean, I guess, do you agree with that analysis that we should not move on? And just accept that the 100 billion didn't happen, but that fundamentally, we need to be focusing on what happens next? And to get that 100 billion vastly bigger? And if you agree with that, how do you do that? Is it an investment? Is it aid? Is it private? Is it the government? How do you see that resolving at the scale that is needed?
DO: Well, obviously it has to, it has to get up. But I think I would even take the 100 billion at this point. But a full breakdown at the 100 billion exactly where it's going to obviously that's not all going to energy. But so countries can actually see when we even have 80 billion, how did that implement? And what are the projects that it actually went to? I do think that there's some catalytic projects that bring more investment as you keep going. But you know, it depends on how you fund it in terms of the larger amounts that are needed for energy and just climate in general. It's going to be blended, isn't it? It's going to be grants, it's going to be concessionary financing. It's going to be in the private sector. But the private sector, at least in the African context, is not prime to Africa, right? So all the sustainable financing packages, right? We're talking about people in emerging economies, right or established economies. So what do we do in between then, those questions I asked myself, right? Like, you know, how do you make sure 750 million people have access to electricity, that's really a 40 billion a year problem. If that was your only focus, right? In some strategic areas, I'm creating a lane for, for the private sector to really come in and operate and maintain a lot of the systems you put in place, the entrepreneur and this will catalyse, God knows how much money and how much economic growth into those countries, especially if we think about productive use, and some of the things is how to utilise every bit of money you have is where I will, I will take it, I will take anything at this point, in terms of and I would be able to showcase if you if you focus on these three economies, how you break it down, what you put it into, I think what is what is a bit vague, especially in the energy world is when people make targets that even even private sector, we want to support 100 million connections, how? What are you going to do? What do you need to get there? When you go to the next conference, and people are saying the same thing? And that's where we were really wanting to step in? And how do we make sure all your commitments are actually to emerging economies and developed countries that would have reached those renewable targets anyway, right? Do you actually have a specific focus? And for that there's a lot more government spending, a lot more concessionary finance, a lot more grant financing. We don't have the scalability in a lot of countries right now. That is not the doesn't need some level of subsidy to really, really support large scale renewables. I hope that changes the next 5-10 years, but it is where we are right now. But there are some interesting model. I mean, I'm working with the Rockefeller and IKEA team on the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, you know, it does change the just change the landscape, if you have $2 billion of catalytic, grant funding, you know, that can be aligned with the energy access and energy transition story. I don't, I have never recalled that kind of amount going into the sector before. So how do you utilise that to get a lot more money in? I mean, that will literally be my key focus for the next year, after COP, and pinpointing countries because it's also leading by example, right? So if you do something in Senegal it is most likely all the other Francophone countries and want to do something similar. It helps. It helps, you know, with the messaging, and it helps move forward but really needs large sums of money. Just to get the government excited, just to go do stuff, you're doing ease of doing business, easier policy decisions, getting the right people in place, I'm always sharing the story. But it's really important. When we took up this challenge in Nigeria, I employed 20 to 25 of the cleverest Nigerian people, and I forced them all to move to Nigeria with me to solve this problem over a 5 to 10 year period. That's what it took us. Right? And, but does it have to take every single country that <inaudible> really lucky? We went to the best universities and we all came back. But how many countries have that? You know? And have you know, and should they have that before they do an energy access programme? So we really need to be fundamental in thinking , like, what we even asked for in some of these countries, is it necessary if your focus is on helping, you know, in the first place, there's a lot to go into. And again, I don't like generalising, I don't like saying Africa and all these things, the specific countries that will make the overall impact, maybe like five or six of them, that will also have half of these problems that we're talking about. We should focus on them and getting them right, funding policy and data in those countries.
ML: I love that anecdote about how you got started in Nigeria, because I will say, from my knowledge of London and other great cities, there is not an African country that doesn't have an incredibly brilliant diaspora that somehow maybe could be persuaded to go back and work on these issues. By the way, just about the 80 billion figure, just a note on that it's OECD numbers, what we'll do is we'll put a link to that sort of thing in the show notes so that the audience can follow that up and see where the numbers are and which projects have been because that that figure of 80 billion, you're right. It's not just energy, it's right across climate solutions, and it's public and private and the OECD updates it from time to time and, you know, hopefully, perhaps not by 2020, but hopefully by 2021 or 2022. The figures will be the promised 100 billion, I guess I do worry that we'll be honest. You know, you talked about electricity access. He's I think you said it $40 billion a year that needs to be invested through until 2030, presumably was that is that correct?
DO: Yeah. Well, 45 Billions are including...
ML: 45 billion. And I do worry, though, about a model that says this is investment by the developed world in developing world countries, because investment has a very specific meaning that you have to pay it back, you have to pay some kind of a yield, and you have to pay the money back. And 45 billion, 10 years of that, so that's half a trillion dollars. And then how do those countries and those people pay but even if half of it is concessionary, half of aids and grants and whatever, even half of that paying it back at 3,4,5 percent, I mean, you're talking about how you're not going to create tens of billions of dollars a year of liabilities that have to be met somehow, from the, you know, by you'll bring people into productive, you know, life and productive work. And hopefully, there'll be some tax base at the end of that, so that the country can try to reimburse, but those are some very big numbers, you know, half a trillion dollars, let's say there's a 200 billion of that being commercial investment at I don't know 5%. That still, I think that comes to 10 billion a year those have to pay back.
DO: First, it depends on which country. So let me dimension it. But I think there's also people who don't really understand just how much people are paying for not having adequate energy right now. You know, like, if I go to Nigeria, people are probably paying three to four times what I'm paying in New York on my electricity bill, for unreliable, depending on which part of the country so some people are already paying, right? There's some there's some models now that we see with CNI solar, and some parts in the mini grid sector that don't even need subsidies. And I'm talking about the SMEs, everyone seems to have a little diesel or petrol generating, so they change it every two years, they move out. And if you calculate a lot, the capex, so that's when I talk about investments, investments go into certain sectors, you know, that, you know, that can pay for it, but I don't, I can't dimension on a regional basis, how that would work. But what I know we need to do is a dimensional country to country local basis, the same solutions for a monster like Nigeria will not be the same in Sierra Leone. Right, right. But once we get that local difference, we can then add it all up right now if we have amazing regional plans, even my figures 45 billion may include parts of Latin America in there. But what I'm trying to say is, can we get a bit more granular, you know, to the actual detail, to the economic makeup of these people, not just willingness to pay, but affordability to pay, which requires AI stuff that can come out right now? What are the financial inclusion models? How do we tie this into other things, that's where we have to get to, and that's when we will truly know the figure and truly know how to split that financing.
ML: That's just so fascinating, because in 2013, I think it was, I was challenged to write an alternative energy plan for Rwanda, because I saw the official Energy Plan, which was essentially for natural gas, a bit of geothermal and peat. And I thought You cannot be serious about digging up peat. And it was based on a solar price of something like 35 US cents per kilowatt hour, which was just wrong. So I wrote an alternative plan pro bono. And the challenge was, in fact, it could have gone. Rwanda has gone very, very fast in electrification, which is what we said it could do. What was fascinating was it required something like $5 or $7 billion, and it's a small country compared to Nigeria, or some of the more populous countries, it required five or seven billion up front. And the only way to fund it was to hope that it would become more productive and then be able to pay that money back in 10,15, 20 years. And that's really the you know, you have to have an act of faith that this will work, by bringing these energy services, people will become more productive, whichever whether it's Sierra Leone or Rwanda, Nigeria.
DO: I think that's a difference, right? Like the data is actually showing it finally, and we're seeing results that we would never have hoped for. Like I didn't think about it, but you know, I used to focus on the energy bit but I realised a lot of the developers coming out of Nigeria that support the SME market, they're actually tech guys. They actually just see energy as a service. They're selling so many other things to these consumers. And that's the beauty about energy really pushing the boundaries of innovation. They're selling micro pension, micro insurance. Since they just want that kind of catchment area, you know, we're seeing just how effective gender is now in renewable jobs, and yeah, I just think it's a fantastic time and in 10 years time, we'll be having a completely different conversation, because we wouldn't even have seen with the other innovations that will be coming out from access to people.
ML: That's fantastic because, you know, we've gone full circle, because what you've just said is, you know, in some way, energy is the red thread that draws together all of the other sustainable development goals and all of the goals of human progress in these regions, which absolutely, fully deserve to catch up with their peers in the developed world. I mean, you've just taken us straight back to the origins of SE4All, and it's been an absolutely extraordinary and great conversation.
DO: Thank you so much for having me. I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks or a few days now. And just great work trying to get a lot of this messaging out. We really need people like you who not only understand what's happening in these countries, but can also communicate it to audiences that we might not be able to reach.
ML: Well, thank you very much. And indeed, I do look forward to seeing you in COP. I'm hoping that I can get you involved in some of the things I'm doing. I also look forward to being invited to whether it's at COP or subsequently continue to help with Sustainable Energy for All and with SDG7. Thank you so much for joining me here today on Cleaning Up.
DO: Thank you very much. Michael, take care, bye bye.
ML: Bye bye. So that was Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and also UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All.