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Solar Power

The cost of renewable energy public-private partnerships in developing countries

Jeff Delmon's picture
Also available in: Español

 Tomislav Georgiev /World BankAltruistic and marketing motives aside, a private operator of infrastructure (in particular in an arrangement as highly structured as PPP) is likely to implement renewable energy technology only if profitable and/or mandated in the PPP arrangements. Critics are often angry that private operators think first about the bottom line, rather than make decisions based on the best interests of the environment. This is unfair to some extent, as private companies are often committed to climate friendly efforts (whether truly altruistic or for marketing opportunities). But as a general premise, the private sector will do what you pay it to do.

In the poorest countries, an acute climate risk

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

A man walks through a flooded rice field. © Nonie Reyes/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governancegender equality, conflict and fragility, preventing and adapting to climate change, and, finally, creating jobs.

Seawater is rising in coastal Bangladesh. The soil contains more and more salt as the sea encroaches on the land. As a result, farmers see their crops declining. Communities are hollowing out, as working-age adults move to cities. Freshwater fish are disappearing, reducing the amount of protein in local diets. And in the dry season, mothers have to ration drinking water for their children – in some areas, to as little as two glasses a day.
Climate change is finally being taken seriously in the developed world, but it is generally seen as a future threat, to be managed over the coming years.  For poor people in poor countries, particularly those living along coastlines, in river deltas, or on islands, it is a clear and present danger – and increasingly, a dominant fact of life.

The sunny side of PPPs: Rooftop solar, public-private partnerships, and the promise of a brighter future

John Kjorstad's picture
In 1899 American Ada Blenkhorn—inspired by a disabled nephew—wrote the popular folk song Keep On the Sunny Side. As legend would have it, Blenkhorn’s nephew always wanted his wheelchair pushed down the “sunny side” of the street. Not for the first time, sunshine was linked to optimism and the lyric stuck with working-class audiences.

The secret to India's success on rooftop solar PPPs? Satisfying stakeholders' needs

Pankaj Sinha's picture
When our team at IFC got the mandate in 2010 for a PPP to set up a 5MW grid connected solar rooftop (SRT) in Gandhinagar (Gujarat, India), some thought that the project was too small to make a difference.

Lighting up the future in Bangladesh

Yann Doignon's picture

Children using a computer powered by solar energy

Night falls in Dhaka. Commercial streets glow with lights and the neon-lit stores and restaurants are abuzz with shoppers enjoying a break from Ramadan. This is a great visual spectacle punctuated by the incessant honking of colorful rickshaws.

But the reality is different right outside the capital. Sunset brings life to a halt in rural areas as about 60 percent of rural households do not have access to grid electricity. Kerosene lamps and battery-powered torches are widespread yet limited alternatives, their dim light offering limited options for cooking, reading or doing homework.  

It is a sweltering hot day when our team sets out to visit a household of 14 in the village of Pachua, a two-hour drive from Dhaka. Around 80% of the villagers have benefited from the solar panel systems to access electricity. The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED), supports installation of solar home systems and aims to increase access to clean energy in rural Bangladesh.
We’re accompanied by Nazmul Haque Faisal from IDCOL, a government-owned financing institution, which implements the program. “This is the fastest-growing solar home system in the world,” Faisal says enthusiastically, “and with 40,000-50,000 new installations per month, the project is in high demand.”

We’ve now reached our destination and Monjil Mian welcomes us to his house, which he shares with 13 other members of his family, including his brothers, two of them currently away for extended work stints in Saudi Arabia.

Why Do More Than 50,000 Families in Bangladesh Buy a Solar Home System Every Month?

Zubair K M Sadeque's picture

“Does the solar home system work? Do you really get better lights? Or, is it just a big fuss?’ I have been asking solar home systems households in rural Bangladesh these basic questions for the past five years as part of my implementation review missions for the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development program, which has installed over  2.8 million solar home systems since 2002. This has so far contributed to a 9% increase in access to electricity in Bangladesh.

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. 

Longreads: Rise of Middle Class Jobs, ‘Real’ Birth of the Solar Industry, Ecosystem Modeling, Stranded on the Roof of the World

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.


LongreadsMiddle class gained on Twitter, with many people taking note of Thomas Friedman’s The Virtual Middle Class Rises. Friedman’s op-ed is about how cheaper computing is enabling people who earn only a few dollars a day to access the “kind of technologies and learning previously associated solely with the middle class.” Such access is driving social change and social protest, he says. It’s a trend also observed by sociologist and author Saskia Sassen in an interview with The Hindu, Why the Middle Class is Revolting, though Sassen’s vision is more pessimistic. Another trend—a  sharp, decade-long rise in “middle class” jobs in developing countries—is enlarging the middle class in the developing world and promises ultimately to drive global growth, says the International Labour Organization in a new study.  ILO says nearly 1.1 billion workers (42%) earn between $4 and $13 a day, which is middle class wages in the developing world.  The number of middle class workers in developing countries is expected to grow by 390 million to reach 51.9% by 2017.  The report notes, however, that “progress in poverty reduction has slowed” and the number of “near poor” is growing. Also check out the Guardian’s datablog on the report.

Workers by economic class, 1991-2011, developing world
Source: International Labour Organization

Is Concentrated Solar Thermal Making Progress in Developing Countries?

John Probyn's picture

Concentrated Solar ThermalIt’s no secret that renewable energy development in developing countries is on the rise.  In its most recent report on renewable energy investment, the UN states that investment in renewables in developing countries  has grown over ten-fold – from USD 8 billion to USD 89 billion in the past eight years.  When taking advantage of solar resources, the clear choice – assisted by large recent reductions in capital cost - has been for solar photovoltaic technologies (Solar PV). 

Meeting sustainable energy challenges by seizing private sector opportunities

Vivien Foster's picture

Photo Credit: David Waldorf for the Rural Solar Project in BangladeshA successful inclusive green growth strategy has to address the question of how we generate and consume energy. Indeed, the energy question is where poverty and climate pressures meet. One in five people worldwide lives without electricity. Two in five use wood, charcoal, dung or coal to cook and heat their homes, usually at risk to their health.