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Boosting clean tech to power a low-carbon future

Zhihong Zhang's picture
A thermo-solar power plant in Morocco. Photo by Dana Smillie / World Bank.

Global warming can be limited by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gases stemming from human activities - particularly in the energy, industry, transport, and building sectorswhich together account for over 75% of global emissions. So low carbon technologies are key to achieving mitigation while creating new economic opportunities.
Since 2008, the $5.3 billion Clean Technology Fund (CTF) - one of the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds' (CIF) four funding windows—has been partnering with multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the World Bank and the IFC, to provide concessional financing to large-scale country-led projects and programs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.
As the world gets ready for the climate negotiations in Paris later this month, the governing bodies of CTF met in Washington D..C. MDBs, donor countries, recipient countries and civil society organizations gathered to, among other things, share the results and lessons of how the CTF is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating energy savings, and improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by creating jobs and reducing pollution.
The CTF report card is based on the results from operational projects and programs over a one year period. In total, the CTF has achieved 20 mtCO2e in emission reductionsthat’s the equivalent to taking four and a half million cars off the road or shutting down six coal fired power plants.

Solar energy brings smiles to healthy babies and happy farmers

Amit Jain's picture
A solar irrigation pump in Siliguri Region, West Bengal, India. (Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank)

Last month, I met an obstetrician in India and in the course of conversation, asked her how many babies she had delivered.
“After ten thousand babies, I stopped counting,” she said.
Naturally, I was curious to know if anything scared her when she’s delivering a child. Her answer: “I pray that there is electricity for sterilized water and other equipment during the process.”
The obstetrician is also the project director for part of a World Bank health project in Nagaland—a remote Northeastern state in India. She is an ardent advocate for the expansion and promotion of solar energy in the primary health care sector because she, like many of her colleagues, believes that more solar energy in the health sector can spur a revolution by boosting the standard and reliability of health delivery services in the country.
When I joined the World Bank four months ago as a renewable energy specialist, I had always considered solar in the context of electricity for homes and businesses. But working with other sectors and exploring solar interventions in increasing crop productivity, safe drinking water and child delivery in health centers has shown me the massive potential solar energy has to help other areas of development as well. There is a clear business case for why solar is fast becoming a mainstream technology for providing power even in non-energy sectors like agriculture and water.
Until recently, the biggest hurdle in adopting solar power was the high upfront cost (more than $3 per watt before 2010) and lack of project financing for solar projects.
But much of that has changed. In the last four years, solar module prices have fallen more than 70% (less than $1 a watt), and per unit cost of solar power (kwh) has fallen from 30 cents per unit in 2010 to less than 8 cents per unit not only in India but also in Brazil, Chile, UAE and other countries.

Getting to 100% renewable: dream or reality?

Oliver Knight's picture
© Abbie Trayler-Smith Panos Pictures UK Department for International Development via Creative Commons
​Attending the Future of Energy Summit last month, an annual event hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, I was struck – for the second year running – by the rapid pace of cost reductions and innovation happening across the clean energy spectrum. With the news that a recent solar photovoltaics tender in Dubai obtained bids at less than US6c/kWh, to major investments in electricity storage and electric vehicles, to increased interest in demand-side management at the grid and consumer level, the message is clear: clean energy has most likely reached a crucial tipping point that will start to suck in increasing levels of investment. Some commentators also noted the opportune timing: with capital investment in upstream oil production sharply curtailed due to falling global prices, there is potentially a lot of financial capital looking for a home.
But perhaps one of the more interesting messages was the one coming from progressive regulators here in the U.S. The head of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker, noted that with renewable energy already supplying 40% of the state’s electricity a few days last year, the target for 50% renewables by 2030 is “not really a challenge”. Perhaps more interesting, he seemed very relaxed on reaching 100% renewables at some point in the future, on the back of strategic generation placement, transfers to neighboring states, and embedded storage. And note that we’re not talking about large hydropower here, which supplies between 6-12% of California’s electricity and is unlikely to increase.

Lighting rural Bangladesh with rooftop solar & carbon credits

Xiaoyu Chang's picture
Installing a solar panel in Bangladesh. Xiaoyu Chang/World Bank

In the village of Aharkandhi in northeastern Bangladesh, life has changed since homeowners began installing solar panels on their roofs. At night, families gather at the local grocery store to watch TV, which boosts business. Children study longer than before.
This is due in part to a World Bank-financed electrification project to promote off-grid electricity in rural communities. This year, the project became the first renewable energy program in Bangladesh to be issued carbon credits for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and the world's first Programme of Activities for solar home systems under the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to generate carbon credits.
With access to electricity, people are finding new ways to increase their income, and the word is spreading quickly across villages.

Behind the numbers: China-U.S. climate announcement's implications for China’s development pathway

Xueman Wang's picture
Solar cell manufacturing in China

The past five weeks have given us what may be defining moments on the road to a Paris agreement that will lay a foundation for a future climate regime.

  • On October 23, European Union leaders committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 and increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use by at least 27 percent by 2030.
  • On November 12, during the APEC Summit in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama jointly announced their post-2020 climate mitigation targets: China intends to achieve peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with best efforts to peak as early as possible, and increase its non-fossil fuel share of all energy to 20 percent by 2030; and the U.S. agreed to cut emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
  • On November 20, at the donor conference in Berlin, led by the U.S., Germany, and others, donors pledged about US$9.3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

China’s announcement in particular is considered by many to be a game changer. China, the world’s biggest emitter with its emissions accounting for more than 27 percent of the global emissions, is setting an example for other major developing countries to put forward quantifiable emission targets. The announcement will hopefully also brush away the “China excuse,” used by some developed countries that have avoided commitments on the grounds that China was not part of action under the Kyoto targets.

Carbon pricing incentivizes clean energy innovation

Kerry Adler's picture
SkyPower's Fort William First Nation Solar Park is one of the first utility-scale solar parks in North America to be developed on First Nations lands. Photo courtesy of SkyPower

By Kerry Adler, President and CEO of SkyPower

​​The fundamental inequality that exists between emitters of carbon and the victims of its devastating byproduct requires global cooperation and intervention beyond our willingness to act thus far. Today, we have the necessary technology, ingenuity and global monetary tools to incentivize a shift to cleaner energy.

Placing a price on carbon enhances the competitive position of renewable energy technologies, such as utility-scale solar, relative to fossil energy, thus encouraging migration away from high-carbon fuels. It is an important step, and it can be supported with other initiatives to ensure accountability.

In the private sector, transparency regarding carbon emissions is essential. With the advent of the Internet and the plethora of information available today, it is not only possible, but imperative that emitters of carbon are held accountable in a public forum.

Are We Rising to the Renewable Energy Challenge?

Anita Marangoly George's picture

Renewable Energy PanelWe are living in very exciting times when it comes to renewable energy. All over the world, countries are taking steps to generate more and more of their power from their wind, solar and hydropower resources, among other means of clean energy production. This expansion is not just vital for human and economic development, it’s key to the world’s efforts to tackle climate change. With less than six weeks to go until policy makers gather for the next UN Climate Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru and as part of a series of events at the World Bank’s annual meetings, we hosted a panel of energy experts to look at what it will take to rise to the renewable energy challenge and address energy poverty.

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. 

Women at the Forefront of Climate Action

Rachel Kyte's picture
Mussarat Farida Begum Mussarat Farida Begum runs a small teahouse in Garjon Bunia Bazaar, a rural community in Bangladesh. As part of a program which has helped Bangladesh reach more than 2 million low-income rural households and shops with electricity, she bought a solar home system for $457, initially paying $57, and borrowing the rest. She repays the loan in weekly installments with money she earns by keeping her now-lighted chai shop open after dark. Her business is booming and her family lives much more comfortably with their increased income. They now have electricity at home and their children can study at night.

Women like Mussarat are at the forefront of our efforts to secure development by tackling climate change. On the one hand, they are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of extreme events. But it is also women who can make a difference to change entrenched behaviors. It is their decisions as entrepreneurs, investors, consumers, farmers, and heads of households that can put our planet on a greener, more inclusive development trajectory.

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.