The cost of solar technology has come down, way down, making it is a viable way to expand access to energy for hundreds of millions of people living in energy poverty. For farmers in developing countries, the growing availability of solar water pumps offers a viable alternative to system dependent on fossil fuel or grid electricity. While relatively limited, experience in several countries shows how solar irrigation pumps can make farmers more resilient against the erratic shifts in rainfall patterns caused by climate change or the unreliable supply and high costs of fossil fuels needed to operate water pumps. Experience also suggests a number of creative ways that potential water resource trade-offs can be addressed.
But PPPs don't have to be big to be successful. In Malyn, a town of nearly 30,000 in Ukraine, a biofuel PPP helped the city administration heat three schools last winter by refitting a municipal boiler house, allowing it to substitute expensive, unreliable imported natural gas with locally-produced biofuel made from locally-produced pellets made from wood or straw.
Examples of this organic knowledge-sharing, born of individuals’ first-hand positive experiences with PPPs, can be found among thought leaders across a range of fields. Editors of Handshake, the World Bank Group’s PPP journal, have interviewed many of these experts about their experience with PPPs and have compiled some of their perspectives here.
Edward Glaeser, urban economist and Professor of Economics, Harvard University (Cities issue, p. 30, “Triumph of the PPP”), on the need for oversight of PPPs: “There is a lot to be gained in the marriage of public and private, but there are also enormous risks. There are cases where either the government has mistreated the private partner, or companies have figured out a way to mistreat the government. PPPs always require firm oversight. They are enormously valuable as a way to solve a financing problem, and the people who are fighting to solve this problem are doing one of the most important jobs in the world.”
Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture (Tourism issue, p. 26), on PPPs as a solution for World Heritage Sites: “Over the past 10 years we’ve had an increased level of attention to World Heritage Sites, and there’s been a subsequent expansion in the number of sites as a result. When you have an expansion of your core business the first question you ask yourself is 'How do I keep delivering the same quality of services?' For us, this includes monitoring services, support to member states, tracking and responding to trends, and trying to use tourism as a resources instead of just a force of destruction. We want to deal with tourism in a way that’s constructive. PPPs can help us do that.”
Water security is a major challenge for many countries, especially developing ones. The numbers tell a story of water resources under stress while competition for their use is increasing – by 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity. Clean water and adequate sanitation is still far from reach for many of the world’s poorest. At the same time, more water is needed to produce food and energy to satisfy the rising needs of the earth’s growing population.
When I was growing up in Albania in the mid-80s, gas flares were a constant and silent backdrop to our holidays by the seashore. The fiery plumes would shimmer in the early morning summer light while we squeezed like sardines into the bus that would take up to the beach. At night, from our cabin, they looked like rows of giant torches in the distance. As a child, I was mesmerized by the way the flames danced and shimmered from the tall chimneys in clouds of black curling smoke. I was told that the oil wells were on fire and eventually the flares burned themselves out. I didn’t ask many questions then; in communism asking questions was discouraged and could get one in trouble.
The city has constrained human and financial resources to respond to this issue, as energy supply is struggling to keep up with ever-growing demand. Consequently, severe electricity shortages occur at the national level, resulting in frequent load shedding and energy price inflation, to the tune of 12 percent in the third quarter of 2014 alone.
Dumsor or load shedding has become part of the everyday life of local inhabitants; in fact, it is such a chronic issue that it has even made it into Wikipedia. Under the current timetable, residential customers have up to 24 hours of power outage for every 12 hours of power and are forced to use back-up power, kerosene lamps or be without power. At the same time, the Energy Commission of Ghana estimates that every year end-use electricity waste is around 30 percent of all of the electricity consumed, which in part, is due to the inefficiency of appliances and their overuse by the population. As is well known, inefficient use of energy contributes to higher levels of energy consumption than needed.
Although energy supply in the city is so often an issue, creative energies are bubbling in local information technology and innovation hubs, ready for a “spillover” into other sectors such as energy. Accra is home to a growing community of technologists and innovators, offering great and untapped potential for a new force to offer solutions, particularly, in the area of energy efficiency.
Each year on March 22 we mark World Water Day. It is an opportunity to keep the urgent water issues – from lack of sanitation to transboundary water to climate change -- top of my mind for practitioners, decision makers and the global public. In the coming days we will post here updates and stories from the field, as well as links to some of our partners’ content. But, more importantly, this is an opportunity to hear from you, too.
Cities are the engines of growth
People congregate in cities to share ideas, create businesses and build better lives. Urban centers have always been the hearts of economies, driving growth and creating jobs. But cities also strain under the burden, their transport and utility arteries often overloaded with the pressure of supporting rapid urbanization and development. While only around 30 percent of Kenyans have access to electricity, around 60 percent of all electricity is consumed in the country’s capital, Nairobi.
As a result, access to energy can be both costly and unreliable. In many fast-growing cities, the demand for energy outstrips both total supply and the capacity of the grid to deliver that energy to businesses and households. Blackouts are a typical result and they are costly and dangerous. Energy generation is also often very inefficient. As such, energy efficiency holds a big opportunity for reducing wasted energy resources, freeing up financial resources for private and public actors, and reducing the carbon footprints of the mentioned cities.
Why are petroleum prices dropping so fast anyway? Have they reached rock bottom yet? Should we be worried if they continue to fall? These are questions that probably every finance minister in either oil-rich or oil importing nations is trying to answer.
Henri Proglio is the chairman and CEO of Électricité de France (EDF). He spoke ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Leadership Summit about the importance of carbon pricing for the electricity sector to move toward a low-carbon economy.