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renewable energy

Making Renewable Energy Happen

Donna Barne's picture

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. 

Kenya’s first Carbon Credits from Geothermal Energy Pay for Schools

Patricia Marcos Huidobro's picture

Kids at the Oloirowua Primary School in Suswa, Kenya.

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.

Here, KenGen, Kenya’s electric generating company, has built the country’s largest geothermal plant with support from the World Bank. It’s part of the utility’s effort to “green the grid.”

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.

A Possible Rebirth of the Carbon Market?

Chandra Shekhar Sinha's picture

 Priya.Balraju1/Flickr
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.

World Bank Support Delivers Electric Power to Millions – Sustainably

S. Vijay Iyer's picture

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. 

Geothermal Energy

Jessica Stewart's picture

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.

Dealing with Uncertainties in Energy Investments

Uwe Deichmann's picture

 John Hogg/World Bank

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

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.

Three Types of Climate Action for Europe and Central Asia Region

Uwe Deichmann's picture

An array of energy efficient light bulbs.
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.

Generating Marine Electricity: Transitioning From Subsidies to Commercial Financing

Alexander McPhail's picture
In-stream tidal units convert the energy of tides and currents into power – a type of hydropower which has operated successfully for decades. No matter what you call it -- wave, in-stream tidal, river current, or hydro turbines; or where it sits -- sitting on the river bottom or suspended from a barge -- the technology has proven itself. What has remained more elusive is the much-needed transition from subsidies to commercial financing.

Cutting Water Consumption in Concentrated Solar Power Plants

Julia Bucknall's picture
Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems are a great promise for renewable energy at scale.  But they can use a lot of water, which is a problem since they tend to be located in places where water is scarce. Some concentrated solar technologies need to withdraw as much as 3,500 liters per Megawatt hour (MWh) generated.

What Do Iceland and Kenya Have in Common? Lots of Clean and Renewable Geothermal Energy

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

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Walking out of Keflavik airport as the arctic breeze hit my face at 50 km per hour, I thought to myself, “I love my job.”  A job that makes a tropical citizen like me enjoy the hospitality of the very warm Icelanders and allows me to learn from their experience is hard to top. With 320,000 citizens and just the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, subpolar Iceland has a lot to teach us development practitioners.

We are only beginning to put together a vision for how to deal with the dilemma of a warming-- and therefore more unpredictable and punishing--climate and ever increasing energy needs. But Iceland has long ago put its mind to the challenge and now lives productively and peacefully in an environment that throws at it tremendous challenges and great gifts.

My appreciation of Iceland's strategy to make use of its environment and harness its renewable energy rose as I visited Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant. Feeling the rumbles of the earth and looking at the steam that puffed from its heart against the backdrop of a volcanic landscape, I was in awe both of nature and the people who have embraced its imposing power.


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