What are some stories that caught your attention in 2015?
They are ones that focus on people, data and events tied to sustainable growth, climate action and efforts to end energy poverty.
As we look ahead to 2016 we’d like to recap 12 popular stories that many of you read and shared in 2015. Thank you for a year of continued and growing readership. Tell us in a comment what you’d like to hear more of in the next year.
What are some stories that caught your attention in 2015?
"I am happy with my new electricity connection—I pay less to the utility now than what I paid someone who sold me power before," said a woman I met recently in Anono, a low-income neighborhood of Cote d’Ivoire’s capital, Abidjan.
She proudly waved her new customer card at the utility worker. “My neighbor recharges his prepaid meter less often than I do,” she said. “I want as much power as he gets. I do not have many appliances, so give me a low-ampere connection like he has.”
Her neighbors echoed her sentiment.
I was impressed by how savvy first-time utility customers are about the tradeoff between the quality of service and cost of electricity access. Our visit to Anono followed a recent evaluation of World Bank Group Support to Electricity Access from 2000 to 2014. The report shows that over those 14 years, only 14 million grid and off-grid connections were delivered, while the Bank Group financed an estimated 60.2 gigawatts of generation capacity over the same period.
The report was a wake-up call and led us to think—how do we ensure that our large investment program in generation, transmission and distribution actually translates into electricity access for more Africans? Yes, off-grid solutions, such as those implemented through our successful Lighting Africa Program, work. But we also have to invest in the last mile, or even the last few yards of the electricity supply chain, to connect people to the grid. In many countries in Africa, the "entry ticket" is what holds the poor from getting a legal connection to grid power.
The world forged a historic climate deal in Paris on Saturday, cheered on and celebrated by people around the world. Getting to that agreement has involved years of work and collaboration that resulted in what many of us thought we would not witness in our life time. The agreement is in—now it's time for us to help the countries we work with to put their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) into action.
Being in Paris was exhilarating. The World Bank Group team was active on many fronts—the support for carbon prices, the Africa Climate Business Plan, our work on renewable energy, energy efficiency and contribution to energy access. How do we waste less, pollute less and do more to promote energy access?
One such initiative that was strongly supported at COP21 was the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative. The one-page text that took almost a year of negotiations and discussion commits endorsers to end routine gas flaring in new oil fields and eliminate ongoing “legacy” gas flaring as soon as possible and no later than 2030. If all oil-producing countries and companies endorse the Initiative, it will make available approximately 140 billion cubic meters of gas each year. If used to generate electricity, this amount of gas could power all of Africa. The Initiative was initially supported by 25 endorsers—pioneers—who recognized ending routine gas flaring as an industry practice is a no brainer and an important contribution that oil and gas companies can make towards addressing climate change. Twenty-two more endorsers have joined since the Initiative was launched to take the total to 47 endorsers representing 100 million tons of CO2 emission reduction each year and more than 40 percent of gas that will no longer be flared. At COP21, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed, announced that Nigeria will endorse the Initiative—great news for the people of Nigeria, especially those who live near flare sites.
(See an inspiring video featuring Faith Nwadishi from Nigeria.)
Really – let’s.
It’s a fact: Indoor air pollution from cooking with solid fuels including wood, charcoal, coal, animal dung, and crop waste in open fires and traditional stoves is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, after heart and lung disease and respiratory infection.
Nearly 2.9 billion people, a majority of whom are women, still cook with dirty, smoke and soot-producing cookstoves and solid fuels. That’s more people using these dangerous appliances than the entire populations of India and China put together.
This has to change. And change is happening as I heard from the various discussions that took place in Accra, Ghana at the Clean Cooking Forum 2015 last week. Hearing the Minister of Petroleum of Ghana and the Deputy Minister for Gender and Development, I realize that the ambition to provide clean cookstoves and cleaner fuels to the households who need it most is definitely there. But transforming ambition into reality is a challenge. This is true not just in Ghana but in many other parts of the world.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately, especially as we come up on the climate change conference (COP21) in Paris, where world leaders will gather to reach a universal agreement on mitigating the effects of climate change. Adopting clean energy sources is key to reach that goal. To that end, the UN’s sustainable energy goal (SDG7) that aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all also aims for bringing clean cooking solutions to the 2.9 billion who do not have it today.
But such an operation did happen.
On July 30, the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors approved the largest guarantee support—$700 million in total—in the 20-year history of the Bank’s IDA/IBRD guarantee program. The combination is unique—it draws together the part of the Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries with the arm that offers long-term loans to middle-income developing countries.
But its result is even more critical, and possibly a best practice for other countries to follow in the future.
In July, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released reports (see U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather and Water-Smart Power: Strengthening the U.S. Electricity System in a Warming World) highlighting the energy sector’s vulnerability to future water constraints. The reports’ findings paint a worrisome picture: currently, 60% of coal power plants in the U.S. are experiencing water stress; hydropower is threatened due to more frequent and severe droughts; and energy infrastructure is endangered by water variability due to climate change.
Water is critical for producing power, and vice versa. Almost all energy generation processes require significant amounts of water, and the treatment and transport of water requires energy, mainly in the form of electricity. Even though the interdependency between water and energy is gaining wider recognition worldwide, water and energy planning often remain distinct. The tradeoffs involved in balancing one need against the other in this “energy-water nexus,” as it is called, are often not clearly identified or taken into account, complicating possible solutions.
Energy is essential to heat homes and cook meals. It is needed to deliver proper health care in hospitals and to teach children. It is essential for economic growth and development and for powering industries, farms and businesses. It is at the heart of any effort to make a better life possible for people all over the world, in particular for the world’s poorest.
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.
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.
A 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.