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ESMAP

Updating the renewable energy lexicon

Oliver Knight's picture
Photo by ffennema via iStock
A just-published report by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) on the integration of variable renewable energy (VRE) into national grid systems shows once again that adding solar, wind and other forms of VRE does not represent the calamity for grid operators or the high costs that are frequently claimed, particularly in mainstream media. In fact, with proper planning, integrating relatively high levels of renewable energy generation into a large, interconnected grid is feasible at modest incremental cost.

This is important because with the cost of renewable energy continuing to fall, VRE is looking increasingly attractive. Just consider the recent results from South Africa’s renewable energy auctions.

Why then does the discourse around renewable energy continue to view it as a pesky annoyance at best, and a costly gamble at worst? Terms such as “intermittent” and “backup” are often used to pour cold water on the contribution that renewable energy might provide or to question the reliability of solar or wind generation. In addition to the damage they inflict on efforts to promote clean energy, they hint at a very conventional view of electricity systems that is rapidly becoming outdated.

Taking these two particular terms in turn, let us explore them in more detail.

The energy future, as seen from Denmark

Nicholas Keyes's picture
Photo by Blue Square Thing via FlickrDriving across the Danish countryside, they cannot be missed: towering white wind turbines as far as the eye can see, their slow-turning blades providing a 21st century counterpoint against the flat landscape of fields and farmhouses.
 
Denmark has committed to renewable energy further and faster than any country in Europe.  The Scandinavian nation generates a third of its annual electricity demand from wind, and solar capacity is growing as well. For countries that want to green their energy mix, there is no better place to get a glimpse of the future than Denmark. 
 
Its pioneering spirit has brought great benefits, and international acclaim, but like all first movers, Denmark is also learning as it goes. 
 
To tap into this learning, ESMAP—the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program—organized a study tour to Energinet.dk, Denmark’s transmission system operator, as part of its work to help client countries integrate variable renewable energy into their electricity grids. Joining the study tour were 26 participants—representatives from regulators, system operators and utilities from 13 countries, including South Africa, Chile, China, Pakistan, Zambia, and Morocco.

Ashden Awards Shine Spotlight on Energy Innovations from Island States

S. Vijay Iyer's picture
D&E Green Enterprises: Saving Energy and the Forest in Haiti through Improved Cookstoves

If you live on an island in the ocean, energy and climate issues come together in a palpable way. Most small island developing states depend heavily on imported fossil fuels, especially diesel, for their power. For remote islands, in the Pacific for example, the fuel must be shipped over long distances. It’s expensive, the supply is limited and intermittent, and paying for it stretches government budgets. Because of this, low-income families and communities often rely instead on kerosene, and wood or other biomass for lighting and cooking.

Building Consensus for a Green Growth Pathway in Vietnam

Pedzi Makumbe's picture

Ho Chi Minh city at night, Vietnam

Vietnam has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the past three decades.  Along with that growth has come the expansion of energy-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, transport and power generation.  Given the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, Vietnam’s total greenhouse gas emissions have more than doubled over the past decade, and are expected to triple by 2030.  Although per capita CO2 emissions are still low, Vietnam has the 20th highest carbon intensity in the world.

Belo Horizonte, no Brasil, busca melhorar a eficiência energética

Nicholas Keyes's picture

Belo Horizonte City Skyline

Belo Horizonte está decidida a ser conhecida por seu compromisso com a sustentabilidade. Nos últimos anos, a iluminação pública foi trocada por um sistema mais eficiente, conduziu-se um inventário de emissão de gases causadores de efeito estufa e foram criados programas de compras públicas e construções sustentáveis. A empresa responsável pelo serviço de limpeza pública e tratamento de resíduos gera eletricidade a partir do biogás gerado no aterro sanitário. A cidade se orgulha de seus parques públicos e de sua área verde – com tamanho duas vezes maior que o recomendado pela Organização Mundial de Saúde (OMS).

Brazil’s “Beautiful Horizon” Looks to City-Wide Improvements in Energy Efficiency

Nicholas Keyes's picture

Belo Horizonte City Skyline

The city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is determined to be known for its commitment to sustainability.  In recent years, the municipal government has switched public lighting to a more efficient system, conducted a greenhouse gas inventory, and created programs for sustainable public purchasing and building certification.   The utility responsible for public cleaning services and waste treatment generates electricity using biogas from landfills.  The city prides itself on its public parks and on having twice the green area inside the municipal boundaries than is recommended by WHO guidelines. The name of the city itself means “Beautiful Horizon”. Read this post in Portuguese (Leia este post em português.)