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.
When a small Bank team, of which one of us was a member, first visited the project site in December 2004, it wasn’t exactly a picture-perfect scenario. We were deep in the Himalayas and it was the middle of winter. Barren mountainsides rose up all around us, the icy Satluj river flowed steadily down, and the wind was howling.
How could we possibly build a hydropower project in this forbidding terrain in a few years’ time? Stories of past challenges from the earlier Nathpa Jhakri project - about 15 kilometers upstream - came flooding into everyone’s mind. But failure was not an option. The Bank was reengaging in hydropower in India after a gap of more than 10 years, and a great deal was riding on each one of us.
Now, more than a decade later, we find ourselves standing before the almost-fully built Rampur powerhouse. As a wonderful coincidence, both of us happen to be present as the first of the project’s six units roars into operation and is synchronized with India’s northern power grid.
As African Presidents, Prime Ministers, and business leaders arrive in Washington to attend the first US-Africa Summit, one topic that will be paramount in their discussions with President Obama and his Cabinet is: how governments and families can access affordable electricity across the African continent.
Consider the facts: one in three Africans, that’s 600 million people, has no access to electricity. Neither do some 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises. Those homes and businesses fortunate enough to have power pay three times as much as those in the United States and Europe; furthermore, they routinely endure power outages that cost their countries from one to four percent in lost GDP every year.
Despite the fact that Africa is blessed with some of the world’s largest hydropower and geothermal resources (10-15 GW of geothermal potential in the Rift Valley alone), bountiful solar and wind resources, as well as significant natural gas reserves, total power generation capacity in Africa is about 80,000 megawatts (MW) (including South Africa), roughly the same as that of Spain or South Korea.
As Africa enters its 20th consecutive year of economic expansion, with the World Bank forecasting that Africa’s GDP growth will remain steady at 4.7 percent in 2014, and strengthening to 5.1 percent in each of 2015 and 2016, the continent needs more electric power. Specifically, Africa needs to add 7,000 MW of generation capacity each year to meet the projected growth in demand, yet it has achieved only 1,000 MW of additional power generation annually.
Over the last week I visited Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two of Africa’s so-called ‘fountain states.’ The resources in these two countries – along with Guinea, Ethiopia, and Uganda – can generate enough hydroelectricity to satisfy the growing demand in Africa. I saw the range of applications for which this power is needed, and I saw clear solutions.
In Eastern Cameroon I visited the construction site for the Lom Pangar hydropower project. Once construction is complete and the reservoir is filled in the next couple of years, this new dam on the Sanaga River will improve the reliability of power supply and lower the cost for up to five million Cameroonians. The Lom Pangar project will also pave the way for developing the full 6,000 MW of hydropower potential of the Sanaga River by regulating the flow of the river.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, last week, I visited the Inga hydropower site on the mighty Congo River. DRC’s overall hydropower potential is estimated at 100,000 MW, the third largest in the world behind China and Russia, yet only 2.5% of this key resource has been developed. With 40,000 MW of generation potential, Inga is the world’s largest hydropower site. Its proper development can make Inga the African continent’s most cost-effective, renewable source of energy with an estimated generation cost of US$ 0.03 per kilowatt hour with little or no carbon footprint--a significant added virtue.
KAMPALA, Uganda--World Bank Africa Region Vice President Makhtar Diop, in Uganda for development talks with President Museveni, his Cabinet, and other development partners, visits the site of the World Bank Group-financed Bujagali Hydropower plant in Uganda, which at 240 MW now generates the bulk of the country's electricity needs.
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.
In May this year, I joined World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on their historic visit to Africa’s Great Lakes region.
As we travelled this war-weary region, at every stop, whether in towns or the countryside, we saw families involved in an epic effort to keep the peace, find jobs, feed and educate their children, and make their lives more prosperous.
This past Monday I was present as the 250 megawatt Bujagali hydropower plant on Uganda’s River Nile – supported by MIGA, as well as our sister institutions the World Bank and IFC – was commissioned into active service.
After many years of preparation and planning, this was an auspicious moment indeed for Uganda, with the plant’s opening coinciding with the Jubilee celebrations marking the country’s 50 years of national independence. The new Bujagali power plant comes close to doubling the country’s electricity capacity and in a single step has elevated Uganda to having the second largest kilowatt consumption per capita in East Africa, following Kenya.
This weekend marked the beginning of an important new chapter of nation-building, with the celebration and formal launch of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a host of dignitaries were on hand. The civil war with the north ended in 2005, and the World Bank has had an office there since just after that.
I spent several days there two weeks ago, pre-independence, but very much in a moment of great excitement about what the nation the size of the Iberian peninsula with a population of 8 to 9 million could accomplish.
South Sudan will begin life as both a tremendously poor and under-served nation in terms of the services for its people, and a fantastically rich one in terms of resources and potential. The country has less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of paved road. At present, conflict with the north’s Khartoum-based government continues over the key oil, gas, and mining provinces of the border region, where much of the international press is focused, as well as great deal of investment interest.
My focus was in the other direction, south of the sprawling capital of Juba, along the dramatic White Nile. With fantastic logistical support from the World Bank Juba office, from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s South Sudan conservation team, and from the director of the Nimule National Park.
Brazil relies heavily on its abundant hydropower resources to meet electricity demand, which is rising by about 5% a year. These resources have helped Brazil hook up more than 2.4 million rural homes since 2003, in addition to delivering electricity to its big cities. But hydropower is vulnerable to drought too, and the Brazilian Amazon—home to most of the country’s hydropower potential—has had two devastating droughts since 2005.
That’s just one example of the exposure of the energy sector to climate impacts. Up to now, most of the focus for the discussion of the energy-climate nexus has been on the impact of fossil-fuel energy use on climate change, the need to mitigate it, and the shift to renewable energy sources. This week, two World Bank colleagues of mine have just launched a new study that looks at the issue from the opposite side of the equation: climate impact on energy systems.
The study is entitled Climate Impacts on Energy Systems, Key Issues for Energy Sector Adaptation, by Jane Ebinger and Walter Vergara. It provides a framework for further analysis of vulnerability indicators for climate impacts on hydropower, wind, solar, wave and tidal energy. It also offers analytical tools that experts and policymakers can use to construct vulnerability and impact metrics for their energy sectors, along with a review of emerging adaptation practices.