BRUSSELS, April 18 (UPI) -- The European Union said this week it will commit $65 million to a technical assistance fund for setting up sustainable energy projects in developing countries.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced Monday in Brussels the European Union will provide expertise to poor countries that take part in the United Nations' initiative.
That plan seeks to extend sustainable energy services to 500 million people in poverty-stricken nations by 2030.
Called the EU Technical Assistance Facility, Barroso said it would be made available to countries that "opt in" to the U.N. initiative and commit to the energy market reforms it calls for.
"We will draw on the best EU experts in the field and promote the development and growth of expertise in developing countries themselves," he said, noting the commission is spending $788 million annually in supporting energy initiatives of various kinds.
Along the with the new assistance through its Energizing for Development Initiative, Barroso said the European Union would "refine, expand and improve" ways to leverage private dollars "by providing investors with the certainty that today hinders the realization of many, otherwise profitable, projects."
He said that effort would include working with the European Investment Bank on new risk guarantee schemes in developing countries.
In the short term, the EC president said, Europe would provide "a further several hundred million euro to support concrete new investments in sustainable energy for developing countries over the next two years."
The details of those projects are to be unveiled at June's Rio+20 summit on sustainable development in Brazil.
"The bottom line is this: Without access to sustainable and modern energy services there can be no real development," Barroso said.
Appearing with him Monday was U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last year launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
Ban said the European Union's strong political commitment to access to sustainable energy will "enable developing countries to leapfrog over the energy systems of the past and build the resilient, competitive, clean energy economies of the future."
After meetings with Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, Ban said he is convinced of the European Union's backing of the United Nations' energy goals, which include ensuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030.
They also call for doubling the global rate of energy efficiency improvement as well as doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
"Today, despite mobile phones and the Internet and all our technical sophistication, one out of every five persons on our planet Earth still does not have access to modern energy services," he said. "Two out of five -- 3 billion people -- still rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating."
But Ban warned the goal of extending energy services in poor countries must be accomplished "in a way that is smart and sustainable, so that it protects the natural resources and ecosystems we depend on for our survival.
"Sustainable energy can power economies and empower women, it can turn on the lights for students and allow families to cook their meals on clean-cook stoves that do not fill their children's lungs with smoke," he said.