Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll)
Johannes Urpelainen, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment and Founding Director, Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP)

October 16, 2017

Professor Johannes Urpelainen launched the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) as a research platform focused on sustainable energy access. The initiative helps reconcile the information gap that often lies between academics and policymakers. With its interdisciplinary approach, ISEP is currently partnering with the Rockefeller Foundation in India to study barriers to sustainable growth, studying energy, environment, and water in South Asia and is collecting worldwide data on coal-fired power plants to have a thorough understanding of their impacts.

For the initiative’s official launch, Rachel Kyte of the UN's SEforAll program offered remarks on current trends and challenges in the energy sector. Kyte discussed the key factors inhibiting sustainable energy initiatives throughout the world, elaborating on the lack of access to electricity in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where 3 billion people have little to no electricity. She focused on financial barriers undermining market incentives for sustainable energy projects and how, in an era of low interest rates, policymakers have largely missed the opportunity for substantial infrastructure projects at low borrowing costs. Additionally, Kyte explained the complexity of promoting energy efficiency at the utility and consumer level, lowering costs of carbon capture and storage and developing carbon capture and utilization. As a way to maintain the spirit of the Paris climate accord, she promoted a universal and inclusive approach to sustainable energy and economic development in emerging markets.

As Founding Director of ISEP, Urpelainen thanked the researchers, partners, and fellows working to advance the exciting projects the initiative has planned. He moderated audience questions and responded along with Kyte, addressing topics such as helping sustainable energy sources overcome the built-in infrastructure and market advantages of carbon fuels, and the role of decentralized electrical generation in the transition to sustainable energy.

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