Between 2 Geeks: Episode 5 - A renewable energy tipping point?


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Which World Bank financed project can you see from space, and on Leonardo DiCaprio’s Instagram?

As Raka and I found out in this episode, it’s the “Noor Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Plant” in Morocco - an epic energy project that’s part of the country’s plan to have 42% of its energy mix come from renewables by 2020.

Seriously, it’s epic: just look at these pictures from CNN and this World Bank video.

Renewable energy seems to be getting cheaper than ever, and we ask the question: are we reaching a “tipping point” where renewable energy is cheaper to produce than energy from fossil fuels.

In our discussion with Mafalda Duarte, head of the $8.3 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF), I learned that renewable energy (in this case, concentrated solar power) is a bit more complicated than just finding somewhere sufficiently sunny or windy. For example, the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology being used in Noor Ouarzazate is relatively new and so more expensive. With the investment CIF is making, the cost of the CSP technology can be driven down, and the tipping point reached faster for other countries wanting to adopt the technology.

So what are the issues of geography, politics, technology and economics when it comes to large scale renewable energy, and how can we influence them to help countries reach the tipping point where renewable energy becomes the best option?

This episode of Between 2 Geeks is hosted by Tariq Khokhar & Raka Banerjee, and produced by Richard Miron. You can chat with us on twitter with the hashtag #Between2Geeks, listen to more episodes on the World Bank Soundcloud Channel and subscribe to “World Bank’s Podcasts” in your podcast app or on iTunes.



Raka Banerjee

Project Coordinator, Development Data Group

Join the Conversation

Bridget Chadwick
May 12, 2017

Progress on reducing energy-related CO2 (over three quarters of total GHG emissions for Annex I countries ("CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion: Highlights 2016", International Energy Agency) can be made clearer if data about the two main drivers: (i) total energy consumption (fossil fuels and carbon-free/neutral energy sources); and, (ii) the carbon intensity of the total energy, are provided along with the CO2 emissions data (outcome metric). A simple and straightforward analysis of the driver and outcome metrics can help the public understand the carbon-math, where progress has been made and what energy policies and measures should be supported to meet future target levels.
My analysis of U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions (2005-2015), total energy consumption and its carbon intensity data (sources: "Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Sinks: 1990-2015" (US Environmental Protection Agency) and the March 2017 "Monthly Energy Review" (US Energy Information Administration)) clearly shows that, between 2005 and 2015, the drop in the carbon intensity of electricity’s primary energy mix (17%) has pulled down the average carbon intensity of energy (-10%). Non-transport sectors (residential, commercial and industrial) are making progress, compared to a straight-line reduction of 27% below 2005 levels by 2025, because of their significant consumption of electricity and its decarbonization. The transportation sector is problematic because of its dependence on oil products; its carbon intensity has fallen more slowly as carbon-neutral biofuels have been mixed with some transportation fuels (eg. ethanol with gasoline).
I would like to see the World Bank's website present national data: energy/carbon-intensity/CO2 trends and CO2 emissions compared to target reduction lines (Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the Paris Climate Change Agreement). Government leaders and climate change educators can use this simple and straightforward presentation of data to educate people about the main cause of climate change and build support for climate change policies/programs/actions.