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Embracing Renewables in Cuba

MD Staff

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“The energy transformation offers a path of prosperity and sustainable development, particularly in islands. But an ambitious effort to boost economic growth and diversification requires leadership, which we are seeing here in Cuba and with this forum,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin, opening the Cuba Sustainable Energy Forum 2018 to delegates from the Cuban energy sector and government, the European Union, international energy companies, and the private sector.

Held in Havana from 30 to 31 January 2018, the forum provided a platform for the Cuban authorities to present the country’s sustainable energy and foreign investment opportunities, and for the EU to showcase renewable energy technologies, lessons learnt and financing instruments available to Cuba.

IRENA’s Director-General used the opportunity to underscore that strong partnerships are vital for accelerating Cuba’s energy transformation and realising its goal of generating 24 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

An urgent need

For Cuba, a small island state with a dependence on imported oil which led to gasoline and power shortages in mid-2017, the need to develop its indigenous renewable resources is a pressing one.

Today, less than five per cent of Cuba’s electricity is generated from renewables. The government’s goal is ambitious and backed by a well-educated labour force and domestic renewables organisations such as the Centro de Investigaciones de Energía Solar, that are working to build the technical capacity throughout Cuba to scale up renewable energy.

However, the country faces a key barriers to accessing financing for renewable energy projects. With the government’s renewable energy investment goal of USD 3.5 billion, foreign investment in the small island state is critical.

Involving IRENA

In this context, Cuba is strengthening its engagement with IRENA through the SIDS Lighthouses Initiative, which has surpassed its initial goals of mobilising USD 500 million for renewables and deploying 100 MW of solar PV in SIDS by 2020. The Agency has been supporting Cuban renewable energy deployment since 2013, at both technical and political levels, through convening technical expert exchanges with other countries, and by participating in Cuban energy conferences and workshops.

Furthermore, IRENA has recommended a state-owned 10-megawatt solar PV project in Cuba to its partner, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), for an award of USD 15 million in co-funding — Given Cuba’s renewable energy financing constraints, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has the ability to inspire investor confidence and attract further finance.

During a meeting with Cuba’s Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Minister of Energy and Mines, and Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, the IRENA Director-General agreed to strengthen the partnership between IRENA and Cuba in support of the country’s energy transformation.

For island states, renewables offer secure and diverse energy, sustainably. Through the Cuba Sustainable Energy Forum 2018 and its growing cooperation with IRENA, Cuba can help accelerate its pursuit of a sustainable energy future.

IRENA

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Energy

Gas first – energy for peace

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When history is written, then President Trump’s decision on 8th May to abandon the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran may well be seen as a historic turning point.

In fact the origins of President Donald Trump’s aggressive stance against Iran may lie in his ‘Energy Week’ speech on June 29 which saw a historic change in U.S. foreign policy doctrine and language, when the world heard from President Trump for the first time in addition to America First, a new U.S. rhetoric of Energy Dominance.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, May 21, threatened to place “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran if its government doesn’t comply with Trump Administration policies. He called for a new nuclear agreement with Iran following Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. He said that the Trump administration prefers for it to be a treaty that is ratified by the U.S. Congress.

In response, Iran’s foreign minister criticized the U.S. secretary of state, tweeting that he saw U.S. diplomacy as a “sham” that was “imprisoned by delusions & failed policies.” Minister Zarif wrote: “It repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards.”

An Iranian VIP delegation participated at the pre-eminent European annual Flame natural gas conference in Amsterdam last week, during which speakers and delegates from Mediterranean Sea to Iran, Korea to Kazakhstan (Caspian Sea) and the U.S. to Russia discussed gas market and infrastructure development while elsewhere, heads of state and diplomats were meeting to address the JCPOA fallout, called for depoliticizing the energy industry.

Energy dominance & America first

I asked Chris Cook from University College London who participated at the Flame as speaker about the U.S. new policy on Iran.   He said: “I first analyzed the U.S. Energy Dominance doctrine announced by Trump on June 29, 2017 in an article published on August 2, 2017 and since then this U.S. strategy has become much clearer.”

He added: “ Firstly, the oil price has been re-inflated from around $45/bbl (Brent) & $42/bbl (WTI) to over $80/bbl & $75/bbl respectively as so-called ‘funds’ crowded in, buying over one million barrels of  oil futures contracts of 1,000 barrels each. The outcome for China – who historically overtook the U.S. as the greatest global net buyer – is that they are now paying an additional $30/bbl for 8m barrels per day of imports….this represents an astonishing $250m per day or $7.5bn per month to producers, and this massive cost has recently placed China in a trade deficit for the first time.

Secondly, just weeks after Gary Cohn (the architect of Energy Dominance) and Rex Tillerson left office within a week of each other, a fundamental shift in the foundations of global markets took place, on or around April 18, 2018. At this point unprecedented changes took place in the oil market ‘curve’ (forward pricing structure) while oil and the dollar began to rise together, which is extremely unusual. Meanwhile, the currencies of many emerging and developing nations, including Iran, have fallen dramatically against the U.S. dollar.”

Oil prices and U.S. dollar?

Mr. Cook is correct since while historically, crude oil prices have had an inverse relationship with the U.S. dollar the recent trends has seen crude oil prices increasing as the U.S. dollar rallied along with it.  In fact, by looking at the U.S. dollar rate against other currencies and the crude oil prices, it can be seen that the rally in crude oil prices over the last year has mostly coincided with a decline in the U.S. dollar. But, over the last six weeks, oil prices and the U.S. dollar are rallying in the same cycle: this coincidence has only occurred 11 times since 1983 and is drawing the attention of market commentators & analysts such as Mr. Cook.

Mr. Cook says: “In my analysis, this sudden shift is a result of a new direct linkage of the dollar to the oil price through opaque Enron-style tripartite ‘prepay’ funding of U.S. shale oil reserves. If I am correct (and I invite your readers to bear witness to my forecast) then when (not if) oil prices fall the U.S. dollar will fall with it.”

He continues: “In that context, I do not expect major consumer nations such as China and India to continue to accept market prices set by producers indefinitely. China launched a new physically delivered Shanghai crude oil contract on 26th March 2018 and has accumulated over 700m barrels of strategic oil reserves in the last three years. If I were in China’s position as the largest buyer of oil in the market, I would switch my purchases to Shanghai; invite producers and traders to sell priced against the benchmark contract I had created; and in the event that producers refused to sell, simply draw upon my reserves until they capitulate.”

Declaring war on Iran?
By what the U.S. foreign minister declared on 21st May there is no doubt that the U.S. Iran strategy is to weaponise the dollar by using access to the dollar clearing system to coerce compliance by any country with U.S. secondary sanctions. The effect was evident at Flame, as Total announced they could not risk sanctions, and would have to pull out of Iran’s South Pars natural gas Phase 11 project unless they receive a U.S. exemption, which U.S. foreign minister announced on May 21 that will not be granted.

Meanwhile, discussions continue at the EU Central Bank level as to how Iran may access the euro clearing system. But European companies operating internationally, particularly those who operate in the U.S., point out that simply obtaining Euro payments and finance would not resolve their problems in relation to U.S. control of a dollar system on which they largely rely, and access to U.S. markets.

Russian reaction?
Whereas the relationship between Russia and Turkey has long been strategic, Russia’s relationship with Iran has tended to be tactical, due to competition in respect of gas supply where Russia zealously protects its market in Europe. However, the recent evolution of energy markets suggests that this relationship may be changing in important respects from competition to cooperation.

Dr Ali Vakili – who recently retired from Ministry of Petroleum as a senior, highly experienced and influential Iranian energy official – was among the Iranian VIP delegation to Flame and in his first engagement since retiring as Senior Advisor to Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh and Managing Director responsible for fuel efficiency together with his colleague Mahmood Khaghani outlined how Iran’s strategic energy policy has long been to use natural gas to replace petroleum products wherever possible. Statistics show that as Iran’s natural gas production has grown, it has almost entirely been used domestically, with relatively restricted exports to neighboring countries including Turkey, Armenia, and to Iraq.

As documented in the Tehran Times in the past, at a major conference in Ashgabat in December 2014, Mr. Ramazani, former Director at the NIGEC, gave an early insight into Iran’s evolving energy strategy, as he pointed out that it made more economic sense for Turkmenistan to convert gas to power locally and dispatch electricity regionally in a new High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Caspian Energy Grid, than to export gas thousands of kilometers into Europe, as envisaged in the U.S. & EU sponsored Southern Corridor initiative which aimed to displace Russian and Iranian gas supply.

Iran has 3.5 million cars fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) as well as fleets of buses and commercial vehicles. Iran has also massively increased domestic use of natural gas instead of naphtha as a petrochemical feedstock. The original Iranian rationale for domestic use of gas was national security (oil product import substitution). However, as Mr. Cook suggests: “With oil prices at current levels it now makes commercial sense for CNG vehicles to displace diesel & gasoline fuelled vehicles. In fact this point was driven home at Flame by VW’s Group Head of Strategy, Jasper Kemmeyer in his plenary presentation on VW’s strategic move into what VW call CNG Mobility.”

America first or energy first?

During a joint presentation at the Flame, Mr. Khaghani and Mr. Cook put this question at the Flame workshop. Mr. Khaghani began by outlining how during decades of high level experience in Iran’s Petroleum Ministry he had developed what became known as Iran’s energy diplomacy in the Caspian region.

In particular, he outlined innovative Iranian energy swaps, such as the Caspian Oil Swap of Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Republic of Azerbaijan’s oil into North Iran for Iranian Oil delivered out of the Persian Gulf. Perhaps his proudest achievements were the supply of gas to Armenia in exchange for power to Iran, and the supply of gas to Nakhchivan which was termed Energy for Peace.

While historically producers of upstream oil and gas compete for sales, Mr. Khaghani and Mr. Cook proposed in respect of downstream heat/cooling, mobility & power that is in the interests of all to cooperate in respect of costs. They brought to the attention of the Flame participants that Western energy infrastructure and commodity markets in oil and gas which are capital intensive are now evolving into smart markets in energy services based on intellectual capital rather than finance capital.

GasCoins?

Three weeks earlier in Moscow at the invitation of Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister for Oil & Gas, H.E. Mr. Kirill Molodtsov, and Mr. Cook outlined how generic swaps of gas flow may be combined with issuance of simple credits (GasCoins) by gas producers as financing instruments returnable in payment for gas supplied.

Following an article published in Tehran Times, the GasCoin concept has attracted a great deal of attention in Iran and Mr. Cook during his presentation at the conference in Moscow fleshed out the concept by explaining how such GasCoin instruments may be practically implemented through a Gas Clearing Union (GasClear).  As he explained: “This consists of suitable guarantee (Protection & Indemnity/P&I) agreements for mutual assurance of performance, so that gas producers accept each other’s’ credits, and then account to each other, with administration and risk management by a trusted service provider.”

During a conversation he said: “In this way, a GasCoin, if driven by key gas producers such as Iran and Russia through the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) could mobilize the next Energy Fintech wave of financial technology, building on the current flood of unsustainable Blockchain/Coin initiatives.”

Mr. Khaghani and Mr. Chris Cook in their joint presentation at the Flame on 15th May 2018 suggested that “such a GasClear system is complementary to the existing energy commodity market and opens the way for payments through issuance, exchange, return and settlement (‘clearing’) of energy credits. The beauty of energy credits is that they are not bound by any national government currency or unit of account e.g. $ or €.”

Mr. Cook says: “The same GasClear platform may then be used by investors and consumers to invest directly in gas supplies and even gas savings. In this system, the role of banks is transformed from capital intensive middlemen who take credit risk, to a new and smart role as a risk service provider & administrator who manages credit risk and performance.”

Gas first and the European Union?

We saw only recently how important the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline route through the Baltic Sea is to Germany and Russia, and that U.S. resistance to it is based purely upon narrow commercial considerations of export of cheap shale gas. Both Russia and Germany are well aware that even at the height of the Cold War, the USSR reliably supplied gas to Germany who equally reliably paid for it, and it is ironic that the well documented breakdowns in supply via Ukraine involve difficult and often opaque relationships between oligarchs, particularly in Ukraine.

It was also interesting to hear from officials of the EU Commission that the politically motivated Energy Union initiative originated by Donald Tusk as President of the European Council to aggregate EU energy market power to better negotiate with Russia is, in their view, completely un-implementable. However, according to Mr. Cook: “The ongoing market trend from commodity transactions to services applies as much to energy markets as to all others. I believe that there exists an opportunity to create complementary networked Energy Tech financial infrastructure – a Eurasian Energy Clearing Union – in which all regional nations may participate.”

So, Iranian VIP delegation and Caspian Energy Grid founders participated at the Flame were offered the opportunity to lead the creation of smart markets in energy – where credit is accounted in the positive value of energy rather than the negative value of debt. This enables a new pathway – through energy economics rather than dollar economics – to a Transition through Gas to a low carbon economy.

In such an energy credit clearing system, Mr. Cook says: “Banks would no longer create credit (because they are not energy producers) but may manage transparent credit creation by producers. This opens the way for the € unit of account to be fixed against an agreed amount of energy and for the Euro to explicitly follow Denmark onto an energy standard (based on provision of energy as a service).”

He suggested: “In terms of institutions, countries like Iran could create a new Energy Treasury, in which representatives of oil and energy ministries participate in overseeing issuance by energy companies, alongside representatives of Iran’s Central Bank, who could not of course issue energy credits, but whose role would be as an independent monetary authority.”

Chris Cook concluded: “The current trend which sees oil and the dollar rise together may be an anomaly and the usual relationship between oil prices and the U.S. dollar exchange rate against other currencies may shortly resume. But, if as I suspect the U.S. has essentially fixed the dollar to oil then we may expect the oil price to fall as and when U.S. dollar falls.”

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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Is the world on track to deliver energy access for all?

MD Staff

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A solar-powered metro station in Brasilia, Brazil Photo: Paulo Barros/Metro-DF/Handout

Do you have access to reliable electricity at home, at an affordable price? And how is the stove you use – is it an electric one, or does it rely on wood or coal, generating smoke every time you cook?

One billion people (13% of the world’s population) still live without electricity and more than 3 billion (41%) use polluting fuels to cook, undermining their health, productivity, and quality of life. That’s why the United Nations placed universal access to electrification and clean cooking technologies among the energy-related targets to be reached under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Additionally, SDG #7 calls for a substantial increase in the share of renewable sources (solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal, for example) in the global energy mix, as well as for a more efficient use of energy.

A new report, Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2018, provides a snapshot of the world’s advances towards the targets on access to electricity, clean cooking, renewables and energy efficiency. And while the study shows the world is not on track to meet the global energy targets for 2030, it also highlights recent experiences that offer encouraging signs – mostly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in Latin America.

The report is a joint effort of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Access to electricity

In Latin America, nearly three-quarters of countries are on track to attain universal access by 2020, and by 2030 the region is expected to achieve near universal access, with Haiti the only country with an access rate below 90%.

More good news comes from Africa, which in recent years saw electrification outpace population growth for the first time. Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania increased their electricity access rate by 3% or more annually between 2010 and 2016. Meanwhile, India provided electricity to 30 million people annually, more than any other country.

However, there is still much work to be done to meet the SDG target for electrification. If the current access trends continue, 8% of the global population will still be in the dark in 2030.

“The experience of countries that have substantially increased the number of people with electricity in a short space of time holds out real hope that we can reach the billion people who still live without power,” says Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank.

Puliti adds, “We know that with the right policies, a commitment to both grid electrification and off-grid solutions like solar home systems, well-tailored financing structures, and mobilization of the private sector, huge gains can be made in only a few years. This in turn is having real, positive impacts on the development prospects and quality of life for millions of people.”

Clean cooking

Of all the four energy targets set up in the Sustainable Development Goals, access to clean cooking technologies lags the furthest behind: if the current trajectory continues, 2.3 billion people will still be burning wood, coal and other types of biomass in 2030. These traditional methods generate household air pollution, which is responsible for some 4 million deaths a year – more than HIV and tuberculosis combined –, with women and children at the greatest risk.

Progress has been slow due to low consumer awareness, financing gaps, slow technological progress, and lack of infrastructure for fuel production and distribution, according to the report. Among the relatively few strong performances that stand out globally, are Indonesia and Vietnam, which provided access to an additional 3% of their populations each year from 2010 to 2016.

The report also highlights that, of the 20 countries that made faster progress between 2010 and 2016, four of them are in Latin America: Guyana, Peru, El Salvador and Paraguay.

Renewable energy

As of 2015, the world obtained 17.5% of its total final energy consumption from renewable sources, of which 9.6% represents modern forms of renewable energy such as geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. The remainder is traditional uses of biomass (such as fuelwood and charcoal).

While Sustainable Development Goal #7 does not provide a fixed target for renewable energy, it calls for a “substantial increase” in the share of renewable sources in the global mix. Based on current trends, the renewable share is expected to reach just 21% by 2030 (from 16.7% in 2010), falling short of the increase demanded by the SDG7 target.

Transport and heating, which account for 80% of global energy consumption, still need to accelerate progress. In transport, for example, renewable energy consumption reached only 2.8% globally in 2015. The greatest areas of concern remain in aviation, rail, and maritime transport, where penetration rates of biofuels are negligible at the present time. Whereas in heating, traditional use of biomass (such as fuelwood and coal) still accounts for 65% of the share of renewable energy.

Electricity represents the remaining 20% and has experienced better results thanks to the declining costs of wind and solar power. In this particular sector, the renewable share amounted to 22.8% in 2015. Hydropower remains the dominant source of renewable electricity, but wind power grew most rapidly from 2010 to 2015.

In Latin America, Brazil stands out for more than doubling the global energy share in electricity, heating and transportation.

Energy efficiency

Improving energy efficiency means being able to produce more with less energy. And evidence shows that economic growth and energy use are increasingly uncoupling. Between 2010 and 2015, global gross domestic product (GDP) grew nearly twice as fast as primary energy supply. Economic growth outpaced growth in energy use in all regions, except for Western Asia.

One of the most important metrics for this SDG target is energy intensity – the ratio of energy used per unit of GDP –, which fell at an accelerating pace of 2.8% in 2015, the fastest decline since 2010. This improved the average annual decline in energy intensity to 2.2% for the period 2010-2015. However, performance still falls short of the 2.6% yearly decline needed to meet the SDG7 target of doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

Industry, the largest energy consuming sector, also made the most rapid progress, reducing energy intensity by 2.7% annually. However, advances in the transport sector were slower. As with renewable energy, this sector will be key to ensuring progress towards a low-carbon energy future.

World Bank

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We Need a Global Fund to Ensure a Clean Energy Revolution

MD Staff

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A radical new approach to energy innovation is needed if the sector is to meet the demands placed on it by the Paris Climate Agreement and play a positive role in the fight against climate change. This is the main finding of a white paper, Accelerating Sustainable Energy Innovation, published today by the World Economic Forum.

With energy consumption and production representing two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, business as usual is no longer an option. Increasing the pace at which innovative sustainable energy solutions get to market is critical to diversify the energy technology landscape and to meet the Paris targets at affordable costs.

The white paper, produced with analytical support from KPMG, highlights that while technology and innovation policies have been successful in rapidly scaling up some renewable technologies such as solar, photovoltaics and wind power in the past decade, the breadth of innovation and the way it has been coordinated have been disappointing. Because investments in energy technology typically require long investment horizons and entail high technological risks, the sector has struggled to attract sufficient amounts of funding, or to align the investments of those active in the space.

“Unleashing the full power of entrepreneurship and innovation across the energy system is at the crux of delivering global climate goals and spurring new opportunities for growth. We must take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to bring about a step change in investments and accelerate the pace at which new technologies are brought to market,” says Cheryl Martin, Managing Director and Head of the Global Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum.

The paper highlights a set of ideas that were identified to channel more investment into R&D and fast-track the road to commercialization, targeting regulatory frameworks and financial mechanisms. At the international level, the paper calls for a new global fund modelled on successful funds in other sectors to provide a secured and focused financing mechanism to tackle some of tomorrow’s most important energy technology challenges.

As well as increasing the energy sector’s contribution to the fight against climate change, the ideas set out in the paper also have the potential to generate significant employment opportunities and spur sustainable economic growth. The six ideas are in a nutshell:

Establish an independent international sustainable energy innovation accelerator fund to finance innovative energy technology projects, blending public and private sources of capital

Develop instruments for public-private co-investment at the national or regional level to support and finance deep-tech energy innovations, reduce risks and improve the effectiveness of available public and private funding; if properly designed, such instruments would not only stimulate more private money into breakthrough energy projects but also would significantly improve the success rate and impact of public RD&D grants

Mainstreaming energy innovation through strategic public procurement to use the power of public procurement to accelerate development and commercialization by providing first markets for innovative energy technologies and solutions

Create strong national institutions for energy innovation acting as a single voice for public support in energy innovation, bundling responsibilities as the main public funding authority, overlooking and steering the overall sustainable energy innovation process

Co-define energy technology roadmaps through public-private collaboration to align global policy and industrial innovation efforts and create a credible road to scale for technology areas of high potential currently advancing slowly

Super-transparency of government RD&D spending to improve the efficiency of the public R&D funding process and increase the transparency of opportunities and volume of public funding available for entrepreneurs and investors

“The opportunities that exist around energy innovation are incredibly exciting and demonstrate that the industry as a whole is focused on imminent change. However, the pace at which innovation occurs requires a deeper sense of collaboration from all of us as energy stewards to drive the agenda forward, including how we go about funding, access to technology, global energy policy, and research and development,” said Regina Mayor, Global Sector Head, Energy and Natural Resources, KPMG. “It is critical that the industry works to accelerate these discussions among industry players, government, entrepreneurs and investors around the world to address systemic barriers and fully develop and commercialize energy technologies that have the power to change the way we access energy in the future.”

One year since the start of their formal collaboration, the World Economic Forum and Mission Innovation continue to strengthen their partnership. In co-designed sessions at Mission Innovation’s third ministerial in Malmö, the collaboration is bringing together government ministers, industry CEOs and innovation pioneers to move to action on innovation challenges, discuss how to implement ideas, and set a precedent for the public-private partnerships that are required to accelerate sustainable energy innovation.

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