From exclusive interview with U.N. official on energy access
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

View in browser


Good morning, did you miss us?

Hope our readers in California are staying cool and safe amid potential blackouts and this historic heat wave likely made worse by climate change.

Anca has a must-watch interview with a top U.N. official on energy access paired with a cruelly ironic Data Dive on air conditioning.

Listen up! I’m joining The Energy Gang this Friday. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here.

Send your energy photos, story tips and more to or reach us directly at and


No energy access leaves millions scrambling for survival, says U.N. special rep. 


The world needs to drastically step up funding to end energy poverty or risk leaving millions of people in poor countries fighting for their lives. 

This is the blunt message from Damilola Ogunbiyi, the United Nations’ special representative for sustainable energy, who warned that the developed world does not grasp the urgency of the problem. That could also jeopardize the global goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Energy poverty broadly refers to the lack of access to modern energy services—like electricity, heating and cooking fuels—necessary for human development.

“It's not ‘I can't pay my heating bill’ or ‘I can't log onto my internet.’ It's that ‘I literally have nothing’ and it's a difference between life and death for millions of people,” she told Cipher in a recent Newsmakers virtual interview. “It’s not just and it's not equitable and it's not fair in terms of our energy transition journey.”

Watch the full interview with Ogunbiyi here. 

The U.N. is striving to ensure access to affordable, clean and modern energy for the entire world by 2030, a goal known as the agency’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). 

Globally, 733 million people have no access to electricity. The majority of those, 568 million, are in Africa, according to the World Bank. Sub-Saharan Africa alone represented 77% of the world’s population without electrification in 2020. 

What’s more, some 2.4 billion people don’t have access to clean cooking solutions, instead using materials such as wood and charcoal, which are unhealthy because of the pollution they create and bad for the environment as more CO2 goes into the air. Ogunbiyi describes this as the “stepchild of electrification that nobody mentions.” 

The Covid 19 pandemic has been a key factor in slowing down recent years’ progress toward universal energy access, and the war in Ukraine may create further setbacks, the World Bank said in June. 

At the current rate of progress, 670 million people will remain without access to electricity by 2030, far from meeting SDG7. 

“You can't continue to want to maintain your standard of living while other people are literally dying in other countries,” said Ogunbiyi, who is also the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, an international organization set up by the U.N. to help achieve SDG7.

Ogunbiyi spoke to Cipher as world leaders prepare to gather in New York City later this month for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, which will take stock of progress to meet sustainable development goals, as well as the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh, which is focused on scaling up clean technologies. 

Sustainable Energy for All helps speed up energy access through the Universal Energy Facility, a multi-donor financing platform that subsidizes de-centralized energy systems such a mini-grids or smaller solar systems. These can be especially helpful to women working in marketplaces or farmers with their irrigation in Africa, said Ogunbiyi, who is Nigerian.

“It’s not just having energy for energy’s sake,” she said. “It has to be energy for productive uses that increases GDP but fundamentally improves the lives of people.”  

Ogunbiyi was the first female managing director of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency and the first woman to be appointed general manager of the Lagos State Electricity Board. During her time in Nigeria, she was responsible for the deployment of solar mini-grids and solar home systems. 

In her current role tackling energy poverty, she must navigate a fine line between advocating for clean energy and ensuring energy access, which don’t always overlap. 

Several African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya, said they want to develop their natural gas resources to help tackle energy poverty and ensure domestic economic development.

This is at odds with increasingly tight funding conditions from international organizations and the developed world, which want to restrict fossil fuel financing as part of wider goals to cut emissions. 

“I think the conversation has been too narrow on fossil or not fossil [fuels],” Ogunbiyi said. “The conversation is: what does it take to have a full energy transition?” 

Some countries might not need to use any fossil fuels, others might need to use natural gas to balance renewable energy on the grid, while others could leapfrog directly to clean hydrogen, she said. 

“You're asking people to transition out to something they don't have,” Ogunbiyi said. “Some people were even joking about it— ‘Can we transition to energy first?’—because you're starting at such a low base point.” 

Africa, which is made up of 54 countries, has had a negligible effect on climate change, representing only about 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet the continent is one of the most vulnerable to the changing climate. The world’s top emitters are China, the United States, India and the European Union. 

“There isn't a scenario in the world where one half of the world can achieve its climate goals and you leave other people behind,” Ogunbiyi said.

Lunchtime Reads and Hot Takes

To fight climate change, environmentalists may have to give up a core beliefThe Washington Post

Amy’s take: This is an important story, which well-known climate activist Bill McKibben criticized. I don’t think anyone is likening powerlines moving clean energy to a natural gas pipeline; instead, it’s seen by some as a necessary compromise with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). I would love to see McKibben make a full-throttled endorsement for building cleantech infrastructure. This piece said that but in a relatively passive way.

Trouble on pipeline's path hits home for ManchinE&E News (paywall)

Amy’s take: Not every opponent to a project is on equal grounds (looking at you, folks who are upset over viewsheds allegedly ruined because of powerlines). This person’s home is within the blast zone if the pipeline explodes (an unlikely but still physical possibility). Serious question: Was there really no other route to avoid being so close to this home (or any)?

Von der Leyen announced five ‘immediate’ moves to tame EU energy prices POLITICO

Anca’s take: This is significant. It includes mandatory targets to reduce peak hour electricity use and a cap on profits of power generators and fossil fuel companies. The ball is now in national governments' courts, as EU leaders warn of massive social unrest if prices are not brought under control.

Germany’s Garbage Is Getting Dirtier Due to the Energy CrisisBloomberg

Amy’s take: One of many, tragic knock-on effects of this crisis: potential shortages of ammonia, which comes from natural gas and is used to neutralize waste emissions.

Europe’s Energy Crisis Dampening Corporate Deals for Clean PowerBloomberg (paywall)

Anca’s take: Yet another unfortunate consequence of the crisis, which risks undermining some parts of the green transition at a time it needs to flourish even more.

Neutral Foods gets money from Gates, Cuban, and LeBron James to help dairy farmers cut greenhouse gas emissionsCNBC

Amy’s take: This is personally exciting because my family has a cattle ranch, and we are always pondering how to move forward in an uncertain future.

Noya Labs turns cooling towers into direct air capture devices for CO2 emissionsTechCrunch

Amy’s take: This could be another cool example of repurposing existing fossil-fuel infrastructure for our cleantech future. 

Why California wants to give residents $1,000 not to have a carThe Washington Post

Amy’s take: This is a breath of fresh policy air. I love Seattle, but I strongly dislike that it's difficult to get around without a car. I also think it's right it's limited to lower-income people.

Europe blamed for ‘hypocrisy’ in offshoring climate policy to Africa — Devex

Anca’s take: This complements well our Newsmakers interview from this week. Europe is turning to fossil fuel projects in Africa to help it deal with the energy crisis at home but there’s also a growing Western push to restrict fossil fuel financing for domestic use in Africa.

"Smart glass" is coming to a building near youAxios

Amy’s take: I sure could use these in my apartment with lots of leaky windows!

More of what we're reading:

  • California skirts blackouts with heat wave to test grid again — Bloomberg (paywall)
  • UN calls for demilitarised zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — The Guardian

  • Putin says Russia to stop supplying energy if Western price caps imposed — Reuters
  • Biden, Remaking Climate Team, Picks John Podesta to Guide Spending — The New York Times
  • Nuclear fusion power inches closer to reality — The Washington Post

  • How Occidental Petroleum Captured Warren Buffett’s Eye — The Wall Street Journal (paywall) 
  • Microsoft and Alaska Airlines are working with this startup to make clean jet fuel from carbon emissions — CNBC

American air conditioners are energy hogs

Source: Energy for Growth HubInternational Energy AgencyEnergy Star • Country data is from 2019.


Even the most efficient U.S. window air conditioner uses more energy than the per capita electricity consumption of numerous African countries whose economies are still developing.

The irony is stark. These populations largely do not have access to ACs despite often sweltering temperatures that are getting hotter due to climate change caused primarily by wealthier nations.

Today’s air conditioning technologies account for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings today, according to the International Energy Agency.

As the world warms—due largely to climate change—more and more people will need air conditioning, creating a cruel feedback loop: As the Earth warms, we use more air conditioning, which could (if we don’t update technologies) warm the planet even more.

“Could the need for cooling wind up cooking the planet? Actually, this is the wrong question to ask. Ditching AC is not an option, and it should not be the goal either,” write experts, including from the Energy for Growth Hub, in a Scientific American article from May.

They go on: “Instead of a threat, this should be seen as an opportunity to explore greener cooling technology and encourage the adoption of renewable energy. Meanwhile air-conditioning has the potential to equalize conditions between different countries as an essential part of climate justice.”


Fjord futures

Sila Kiliccote, a Cipher reader and Breakthrough Energy Ventures investor, snapped this photo on a recent trip to Norway of what the makers describe as “the first all-electric, carbon-fibre vessel in the world.” The vessel, named “Future of the Fjords,” is powered by two electric engines of 585 horsepower each, which will get power from a battery pack. Most of Norway’s electricity comes from hydropower (though its wealth comes largely from oil).

Editor’s note: Breakthrough Energy Ventures is affiliated with the broader Breakthrough Energy, which supports Cipher.

Each week, we feature a photo that is somehow related to energy, the thing we all need but don’t notice until it’s expensive or gone. Email your ideas and photos to

You received this email because you signed-up for newsletters from Cipher.
Change your preferences or unsubscribe here.

Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up now to get Cipher in your inbox.

Cipher by Breakthrough Energy
P.O. Box 563
Kirkland, WA 98033
United States



Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign