“We are here to encourage and inspire each other to go faster and further”: Seven for 7 event celebrates SDG7 leadership

By Peyton Fleming, Lead Writer Sustainable Energy for All

Patience. Flexibility. Collaboration. Resolve.

Those are just a few of the lessons offered by seven sustainable energy leaders who were honored at a Seven for 7 celebration last month in New York City, hosted by Sustainable Energy for All and Ashden.

The event, held at Bloomberg LP, was timed to coincide with the UN High-Level Political Forum, which, for the first time, included a formal review on progress towards SDG7 goals by 2030. While recent data has shown that progress in closing energy and clean cooking access gaps is not on track to meet targets, Seven for 7 was a moment to highlight examples of success that can be replicated at the speed and scale needed to help us deliver SDG7 goals on time.

“We are here to encourage and inspire each other to go faster and further,” said Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, during her keynote speech. "The solutions for Sustainable Development Goal 7 are so close, yet so far. We don't have time to waste and this is another opportunity to make that clarion call to start the movement at scale."

The honorees – from India, Tajikistan, Mexico, Saint Lucia, Europe and the United States – included leaders in finance, government, business and entrepreneurship, all of whom are critical to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goal 7. “They can inspire us, they can teach us what is possible, how to achieve it and how to scale it,” Sarah Butler-Sloss, Founder-Director of Ashden, told guests.

So, what does it take to be a Seven for 7 honoree?

“We have learned an important lesson over the years – be patient and be flexible,” said Anneke Sipkens, CEO of the DOEN Foundation, an early pioneer and innovator in providing financing to SDG7 enterprises operating in the poorest parts of the world.

The owner of Pamir Energy, which is providing clean, reliable energy to households in East Tajikistan and Afghanistan, talked about collaboration. “The moral is public/private partnerships,” said Pamir Energy owner Daler Jumaev.

Felice Zaccheo, Unit Head of Sustainable Energy and Climate Change at DG International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, echoed the point. “One of the keys to achieve Agenda 2030 is to all work together, within all sectors.”

And, of course, all of the Seven for 7 honorees have deep, unshakable resolve.

“This is the 21st century, no one should have to light a match to see at night,” said Leslie Marincola, CEO of Angaza, a technology company that has provided off-grid renewable products to three million users in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Simply put, the honorees personify the SDG7 movement. “We want to celebrate people – some who you know, some who you don’t know – who day-in and day-out are deciding to lead,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.

Here’s a quick snapshot of each honoree:

  • Odón de Buen, Director-General, National Commission for the Efficient Use of Energy, Mexico, has played a pivatol role in the country’s successful efforts on energy efficiency, a key energy pillar of SDG7. De Buen has helped establish a broad ecosystem of energy efficiency standards across the economy, which have generated more than $30 billion of energy savings in the residential and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. “It’s all about moving government agencies in the same direction,” he told the crowd.
  • Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, Saint Lucia, a key leader in the government’s efforts to generate 35 percent of the island’s electricity from renewable energy by 2020. “Hurricanes are our new normal. Not doing anything, not acting fast enough, could be deadly,” she said, citing damaging climate impacts on small island states.
  • RE100, led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, is a campaign working with influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity has transformed corporate renewable energy purchasing across the world. As renewable energy costs have fallen, the number of companies committed to using 100 percent renewable power has proliferated – from three founding members four years ago, to more than 135 companies today. “They are showing the way for other companies to do this,” said Lance Pierce, President of CDP North America.
  • The DOEN Foundation is a pioneer and innovator in providing financing to social entrepreneurs bringing affordable solar energy to East Africa and Southeast Asia DOEN-funded enterprises have reached tens of millions of people. Speaking via video address, they stressed the need for funders to be patient and collaborative with partners to allow them the time needed to develop successful businesses.
  • Angaza, a 2018 Ashden Award winner, is a technology company that integrates Pay-As-You-Go mobile phone technology into off-grid renewable energy products that are being sold in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is operating in 30 countries and has three million end users.
  • Ecozen Solutions, another 2018 Ashden Award winner, has developed solar-powered cold rooms that are helping farmers in India to refrigerate flowers and produce, thus maximizing product shelf-life, quality and market prices. The units are designed to work even in low sunlight and with thermal energy storage back-up at night. “We think there’s a huge potential for ‘first-mile’ storage at farms and also at the marketplace,” said Vivek Pandey, co-founder and CTO of Ecozen Solutions as he accepted the recognition at the event.
  • Pamir Energy, a 2017 Ashden Award winner, has restored 11 small hydro power plants, upgraded 4,300 kilometers of old transmission and distribution facilities in East Tajikistan, and expanded hydroelectric capacity in bordering Afghanistan. As a result, 96 percent of households there now have reliable clean electricity, compared to just 13 percent 15 years ago.

Catch up on all the pictures and tweets from the event by following #Sevenfor7 on Twitter.