"Countries that move quickly down a clean energy pathway will be the economic powerhouses of the 21st century," Ban said in a visit to Colorado this week. "Their citizens will also enjoy cleaner air, better health, greater market competitiveness and enhanced security."
Ban's tour of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., was an initial step toward a partnership, expected to be formally announced this year, between the United Nations and NREL. The plan would involve NREL's Clean Energy Solutions Center.
NREL is the country's only federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
Addressing NREL researchers, Ban said that providing clean energy solutions for the estimated 1.4 billion people living without electricity across the globe was a top priority for the United Nations.
"When we put a priority on renewable energy we address job creation, we address climate change, women's empowerment and food security," he said. "Sustainable energy cuts across nearly every major challenge we face today and will face in the future."
Noting that the clean energy sector is becoming one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, the U.N. chief said that financing of global clean energy has grown almost six-fold since 2004, offering "extraordinary" opportunities.
Pointing to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the secretary-general said that more than 97 percent of the technical potential of renewable energy technologies has yet to be tapped.
"What we need most is strong, sustained political leadership to drive this clean energy revolution forward at the speed and scale necessary," Ban said.
During Ban's tour of NREL, Colorado's Ascent Solar demonstrated its CIGS thin-film modules, developed in conjunction with NREL and U.S. defense agencies, The Denver Post reports. The flexible units, designed to be stored away at night to prevent theft, are intended to be supplied to areas of the developing world.
Under a $450 million strategic agreement announced last week, Chinese company TFG Radiant will build a 100-megawatt annual capacity production plant to produce modules with Ascent technology in East Asia and will license Ascent's flexible thin-film photovoltaic technologies, paying royalties to the company.