Is the shale gas revolution a brake on progress towards faster adoption of renewable energy? Many argue that it is, but there is also persuasive evidence that it could also boost integration of renewable energy into power grids, by providing a complement to intermittent sources of electricity.
Looking back at 2013, the Climate Investment Funds’ (CIF) fifth year, I am encouraged by the amount of ground we have covered. Not only are we beginning to see more tangible results of CIF investments, we are also venturing into new territory both geographic and financial. New contributions of $400 million received in 2013 make us the largest source of climate finance with pledges of $8 billion, demonstrating the confidence donors have in our mission and multilateral development bank (MDB) partnership to deliver on the promise of transformative, climate-smart development.
The CIF was created to trigger investments for immediate climate action and to facilitate learning on the technologies and methods needed to promote clean technology, renewable energy, sustainable management of forests, and climate-resilient development. The clock is ticking in the race against climate change, and we are on the move.
In Mexico, for example, $45 million from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) has leveraged over $500 million of commercial resources to help catalyze the commercialization of Oaxaca’s wind industry. In Turkey, $149.5 million in CTF financing has attracted $1.38 billion from other sources to expand national bank lending to renewable energy and energy efficiency markets to stimulate their growth. And in Morocco, $197 million in CTF financing has played a pivotal role in launching the first phase of the 500MW Ouarzazate concentrated solar power complex by raising awareness and attracting over $1 billion in additional financing.
The green energy revolution used to look pretty far off. Today, businesses are starting to factor the cost of climate change into their planning, countries have set targets for increasing the use of renewable energy, and wind farms and solar panels are popping up everywhere. But large-scale renewable energy development is still a challenge – especially in the absence of government incentives. Large-scale renewable power such as solar, wind, and wave power, though technically viable, is often seen by investors as too expensive to develop and too risky.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, is working to overcome those concerns. In Chile – a country with considerable renewable energy potential – these efforts are starting to have an impact. As the video below shows, Chile plans a significant shift in its energy equation – from 37% renewables today to 55% by 2024. Though still a very small percentage of the overall energy mix, non-conventional renewable power such as wind and solar is starting to happen there, without government subsidies.
Last month, I drove through dust on bumpy dirt roads from Nairobi to visit the Oloirowua Primary School in Suswa, 140 kilometers northeast of the Kenya capital. The school sits on the vast savannah near Hell’s Gate National Park, an area with substantial geothermal potential.
At the school, classes are being taught outdoors and kids sit under a few trees with notebooks in their laps. Their old and crumbling school will soon be replaced by a new building that will accommodate 200 students. Their faces light up when they talk about the new school, and I feel thankful for being able to work with projects like this where I see the direct effects of our work on kids’ education.
Photo courtesy: Priya.Balraju1/Flickr
Many people have voiced pessimism over an international agreement to address climate change since the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen fell short of expectations. The lack of a comprehensive, global effort to curb emissions; the failure by the United States to pass meaningful federal legislation, the continued recession in Europe; and, most recently, the election results in Australia have undermined efforts to put a price on carbon and dampened hope for market-based solutions to climate change.
The somber mood was evident at the Carbon Forum Asia, held in Bangkok between September 24 – 27. But participants at the event also found a glimmer of hope.
Between 2007 and 2011, Peru doubled electricity access rates from 30 percent of households to over 60 percent. The national rural electrification program has been supported by US$50 million in World Bank financing and US$10 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
This is a remarkable achievement, but to make sure that the new opportunities benefit local people in rural areas, an additional initiative was launched. This “productive uses of electricity” pilot project adapted lessons from two World Bank-supported activities in Indonesia under which the national utility reached out to local communities through NGOs.
For years, the thermal energy beneath the surface of the Earth has been used for many things. Bathing, agriculture, aquaculture, industrial or heating purposes, or even to generate power; the results are often impressive. The Earth’s structure radiates a constant flow of thermal energy outwards to the crust. This phenomenon is a natural, renewable source of heat which provides a substantial contribution to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global energy demand is likely to grow by more than one-third between now and 2035. Mobilizing investment capital is one major task. Additionally, energy infrastructure such as electric power facilities has a long time span – up to 40 or 50 years in the case of base-load nuclear or coal plants. As the new Growing Green report, released by the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region, points out, with such a long time span and the enormous amount of capital at stake, power sector investments need to consider at least three types of uncertainties—changing regulations, changing technology, and changing climatic conditions.
Regulatory uncertainty persists in countries without formal greenhouse gas emission restrictions. Even in the EU, the emissions trading system is still evolving and future prices for carbon emissions will in large part depend on political decisions. Such schemes may spread to other parts of Europe and Central Asia as the implications of climate change become more apparent and support for climate action rises. A price on carbon, either through a cap-and-trade sys¬tem or a tax, can profoundly alter the comparative economics of different power generation technologies. With a price on carbon emissions, the cost differential between fossil-fuel plants and low-carbon alternatives shrinks and in some cases disappears.
Many international firms and banks already incorporate an assumed carbon price into their financial investment feasibility calculations. Expectations of future carbon pricing have already altered investment decisions favoring natural gas over coal-fired power plants in the U.S. (although more recently the drop in gas prices has been a larger factor). Conversely, regulatory uncertainty also hinders investments in low-carbon generation. The IEA estimates (pdf) that uncertainty in climate change policy might add a risk premium of up to 40 percent to such investments, driving up consumer prices by 10 percent.
Under current trajectories, the world is headed toward a world that will be 4 degrees warmer by the end of this century. Despite the mounting concern around this scenario, many countries throughout the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region are understandably reluctant to introduce more ambitious climate policies because they are worried about the negative consequences on competitiveness or energy affordability, for instance.
However, as we try to show in our recent publication, Growing Green: the Economic Benefits of Climate Action, strategic investment in climate action can benefit these countries in the medium- and long-terms – thus offsetting the negative consequences of these investments.
Above all, countries need to focus on three types of climate action: climate action as a co-benefit, climate action as an investment, and climate action as insurance.