Solar panels. Photo by: windsordi / CC BY-NC

It’s easy to feel, at times, far removed from what some may consider the international development buzz du jour.

It’s the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, for instance — but are donors really focusing more on power grids and renewables? Behind the scenes, diplomats are feverishly negotiating a new global framework to be ratified at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio this June — but how will the experience and perspective you and your colleagues in the field bring to the table factor into these high-level decisions?

Now is the time to advance sustainable energy solutions. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing this week as part of a partnership with the United Nations Foundation that we call Rio+Solutions.

The goal of our campaign is to facilitate the discourse between the grass roots and headquarters, between decision-makers and implementers. Each week leading up to the Rio+20 gathering, we’ll highlight solutions from some of the leading thinkers and doers in a variety of areas, from global health to food and water. Each week, we’ll compile comments from readers like you, to be shared with the aid executives who will eventually sign off on a poverty reduction plan to succeed the Millennium Declaration come 2015.

This week, we kicked off our energy coverage with a spirited guest opinion by Kandeh Yumkella, director-general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization and co-chair of the U.N. High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All.

“Energy is essential for development, and sustainable energy is essential for sustainable development,” Yumkella writes in his piece.

To deliver sustainable energy for all, he continues, government action is necessary but not sufficient. Essential are partnerships — another buzzword, there! — between the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Governments may encourage innovation and enterprise, companies may switch to renewable energy and improve supply chains, and civil society may monitor, advocate and help to deliver solutions on the ground.

Today, we’re publishing a field perspective on energy solutions, by an award-winning social entrepreneur on a mission to eradicate poverty by promoting sustainable technologies in rural India.

“Providing basic services like lighting and clean cooking have their challenges and cannot be solved by centralized options like coal, oil or nuclear,” writes Harish Hande, co-founder of Selco India and a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, sometimes referred to as Asia’s Nobel Prize.

Check out who Hande suggests should shoulder the “cost of developing the ecosystem” for sustainable energy access, and why decentralized solutions are so important. Don’t forget to submit your comments right below Hande’s op-ed, and share his piece with your friends and colleagues via social media so they can join the debate.

Later this week, we’ll publish another expert opinion, written by Carl Pope, former chief of the Sierra Club. Pope has been devoting much of his energy lately to sustainable energy solutions, and his conclusion is as simple as it is illuminating: The world’s poorest people can best afford the world’s most sophisticated lighting — solar power.

Watch out for his passionate commentary, exclusively on the Devex website, Friday.

Bottom line: Don’t let distance fool you. A debate is raging right now about the future of international development, and about sustainable energy in particular. Energy solutions will be front and center at Rio+20. By sharing your expertise now, you can help shape the debate and prevent this high-level gathering from turning into the proverbial paper tiger — all bark, little bite … and so far removed from your work on the ground.

Read last week’s Development Buzz.

About the author

  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.