10/10/2011 10:49 EDT | Updated 12/10/2011 05:12 EST

UN chief calls for universal access to electricity by 2030, clean energy revolution

OSLO - The U.N. secretary-general called Monday for universal access to electricity by 2030, saying a lack of energy in parts of the world threatens economic growth and job creation.

Ban Ki-moon also urged governments and the private sector to pursue "a clean energy revolution," so that the use of renewable energy sources could be doubled in 20 years.

"Such actions could help to revitalize the global economy (and) combat climate change," he said at an energy conference in Oslo, hosted by the Norwegian government and the International Energy Agency, IEA.

In a report released Monday, the Paris-based energy watchdog said 20 per cent of the world's population has no access to electricity — 95 per cent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa or poorer parts of Asia.

Also, some 2.7 billion people are without clean cooking facilities, causing 1.5 million deaths annually from respiratory diseases, the report says.

Korean-born Ban told the conference participants that he knows what it is like to live without electricity. He grew up without it during the Korean War in the early 1950s, so refrigerators and fans were unknown.

"I was a boy of war. I studied by candlelight," he said.

The IEA report said investments to expand energy access had to be increased fivefold to $48 billion annually for electricity to be available for all by the target year.

The agency's chief economist, Fatih Birol, said providing electricity to everybody would have a minor impact on climate change because carbon dioxide emissions would increase by only 0.7 per cent.

Ban called for practical and large-scale action whereby governments would provide incentives that encourage more private investments in energy.

"The private sector must and can drive the energy revolution by investing in clean energy," he said.

The two-day meeting that opened in Oslo on Monday is aimed at improving the availability of energy and financing power and light in the Third World. Around 360 delegates from 70 countries are in attendance.