We 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.
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.
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.
It’s been clear here at the World Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, is fast emerging as a leader in forging a more sustainable energy future. With 159 countries—plus the EU— having joined it, a staff of 70 and a $28-million annual budget, IRENA held its third Executive Assembly here, making an impressive show on the sidelines of the summit. One example is its Renewable Energy Roadmap, which attracted lively interest among delegates.
“We could go a week without working. But now there isn't one day without work.”
At her hair salon an hour outside Nairobi, Kenya, Elizabeth Kyalo is talking about the impact of electricity. Specifically, the reliable supply of power that has allowed her to bring in more clients and build her business. “It has really helped us,” she says.
Energy is a primary driver of development. A steady supply of electricity allows students to study at night, health clinics to expand services, markets to stay open later, and small businesses such as Elizabeth Kyalo’s to grow, creating jobs.
Even if most news media dismissed last month’s Rio+20 summit as a failure, the conference did produce an agreement that may well wind up being its most positive legacy.
It was approval to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Another initiative that was launched at Rio+20 – the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative – is sometimes cited as an illustration of what SDGs would look like for the energy sector.
More broadly, these SDGs transfer the methodology of the poverty-focused Millennium Development Goals, largely seen as a successful work-in-progress, to address the sustainability challenge.