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Concentrating Solar: Delivering Renewable Electricity When It’s Needed

MD Staff



Last year, right after graduating from college, Hajar Abjeg left her vibrant hometown of Agadir on the west coast of Morocco to live in the middle of the desert in Ouarzazate. A newly minted engineer, her goal was to work at the sprawling solar complex on the outskirts of the city because, she said, it was the future.

“What’s exciting for me about this plant (is) that we use a resource that’s taken for granted… to produce something that is essential for us,” Abjeg said. “The more we study this kind of plant, the more we operate it, the more we find ways to make it as efficient as possible, and the less reliant (we are) on traditional energy-producing methods such as fossil fuels. And in the long term, that’s fantastic.”

Abjeg is not alone in her optimism.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) is moving ahead in many countries, especially in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, where exceptional year-round solar resources and vast swathes of available land make it an attractive option, often over traditional sources of power such as coal and oil.

With thermal storage that is superior to batteries for bulk energy storage, CSP provides power that is dispatchable any time there is demand for electricity. The plants store heat from the sun in large tanks of molten salt – where it can be stored for hours, days or as long as needed — and turn it into electricity on cloudy days or during peak usage, which occurs at night for many countries in the Middle East and North Africa. This allows electric utilities to regulate electricity production and integrate other variable renewable sources of electricity – solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind – into their energy mix more easily.

In 2017, CSP had a global installed capacity of 5.1 GW. That number is expected to reach 10 GW by 2022, with almost all new capacity incorporating storage, according to the International Energy Agency. Worldwide, 23 countries have CSP projects. While the largest installed capacities are in the United States and Spain, there are CSP plants in operation or under development in numerous other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, India, China, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, Australia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In Morocco, the Noor Ouarzazate CSP project is the country’s first utility-scale solar energy complex, and expects to reach over 500 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, ultimately supplying power to more than 1 million Moroccans and contributing to Morocco’s goal of producing 42 percent of its electricity through renewable sources by 2020.

But while CSP will undoubtedly play a role in the energy mix for some countries, significant hurdles remain.

The high cost of setting up a CSP plant is one such challenge. CSP technology is expensive and more time-consuming to build than wind or solar PV. Developing countries already face difficulties in financing capital-intensive infrastructure, so for a relatively new technology like CSP, investment can be much harder to attract. In many cases, the World Bank and other international financial institutions have stepped in and provided concessional financing to help attract private investors and make the market for CSP competitive and drive down prices even further.

Concern around costs, especially when compared to solar PV, is also a hurdle. But prices are dropping – in 2017 the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) fell to 6 US cents in Australia and 7.3 US cents in Dubai.  Also, as CSP has a built-in storage solution, the true comparison is against solar PV plus batteries – the price of which are also falling, but remain expensive. Without costly battery storage, PV often cannot deliver power when its value is highest—which is where CSP shines. It offers the guarantee of continuous electricity production – especially at night – something solar PV cannot do.

Ultimately, solar PV plus some form of storage will likely be CSP’s biggest competitor.  But for the moment, CSP has a potentially important role in the energy mix for many countries – particularly those with abundant sunshine and available land – helping improve energy security and In Morocco, CSP is expected to decrease dependence on oil by about 2.5 million tons and reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year, CSP is expected to decrease dependence on oil by about 2.5 million tons and reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year. The Noor Ouarzazate project has also encouraged several start-ups in the country and youth, and women in particular, to pursue education and jobs in the renewable energy sector.

“The future of CSP is very bright,” said Abjeg. “When I first walked in here, (I saw) the sheer size of the plant and how much energy they produce. To produce that just from collecting sun rays – it’s amazing.”

World Bank

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Cambodia: Electricity Access Increased, Reliability Needs Improvement

MD Staff



While access to grid electricity has expanded in Cambodia to 71.5 percent, reliability of electricity supply can be improved, as nearly two-thirds of households with access face frequent power shortages, says a new World Bank report.

The report, called Cambodia Beyond Connections: The Energy Access Diagnostic Based on a Multi-Tier Framework, looks at, among other factors, the capacity, reliability, affordability, and safety of the country’s energy sector. Nationwide, nearly 90 percent of Cambodian households have access to at least four hours of electricity a day.

“Cambodia has made rapid progress in increasing access to electricity for villages and consumers, but progress has been achieved at a cost. It is time now to turn our attention to strengthening the reliability and quality of electricity supply, which would enable families and business to flourish,” said H.E. Ty Norin, Chairman of Electricity Authority Cambodia.

Some 30 percent of rural households rely on off-grid power for electricity, including solar home systems, solar lanterns, and rechargeable batteries. With improvement of transmission and distribution systems, as well as promotion of expanded grid connections and solar home systems, Cambodia will strengthen the potential of its economy.

“Energy is critical for enhancing industrial competitiveness that create more jobs, and improving public services that broaden opportunities – leading to a better quality of life for all Cambodians,” said Inguna Dobraja, World Bank Country Manager for Cambodia. “Cambodia is the first country in the East Asia and Pacific region to carry out the Multi-Tier Framework survey, which offers detailed household data on energy that will strengthen policy-making for the energy sector.”

The report’s policy recommendations include expanding access to modern energy cooking solutions. More than 66 percent of households still use biomass stoves, hence helping families – particularly low-income and female-headed households – gain access to clean fuels and stoves would reduce health risks.

“While tremendous strides have been made in expanding access to electricity, gains in efficiency, reliability and affordability will lead to even brighter prospects for families, business, and the country. We stand by to assist the government in their efforts to achieve reliable, affordable, and modern energy service by 2030,” said Julia Fraser, Manager for the World Bank’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice in East Asia.

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Global energy demand grew by 2.1% in 2017- carbon emissions rose for the first time since 2014

MD Staff



Global energy demand rose by 2.1% in 2017, more than twice the previous year’s rate, boosted by strong global economic growth, with oil, gas and coal meeting most of the increase in demand for energy, and renewables seeing impressive gains.

Over 70% of global energy demand growth was met by oil, natural gas and coal, while renewables accounted for almost all of the rest. Improvements in energy efficiency slowed down last year. As a result of these trends, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4% in 2017, after three years of remaining flat.

But carbon emissions, which reached a historical high of 32.5 gigatonnes in 2017, did not rise everywhere. While most major economies saw a rise, others – the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan – experienced declines. The biggest drop in emissions came from the United States, driven by higher renewables deployment.

These findings are part of the International Energy Agency’s newest resource – the Global Energy and CO2 Status Report, 2017 – released online today, which provides an up-to-date snapshot of recent trends and developments across all fuels.

“The robust global economy pushed up energy demand last year, which was mostly met by fossil fuels, while renewables made impressive strides,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The significant growth in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 tells us that current efforts to combat climate change are far from sufficient. For example, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency as policy makers have put less focus in this area.”

Other key findings of the report for 2017 include:

  • – Oil demand grew by 1.6%, more than twice the average annual rate seen over the past decade, driven by the transport sector (in particular a growing share of SUVs and trucks in major economies) as well as rising petrochemical demand.
  • – Natural gas consumption grew 3%, the most of all fossil fuels, with China alone accounting for nearly a third of this growth, and the buildings and industry sectors contributing to 80% of the increase in global demand.
  • – Coal demand rose about 1%, reversing declines over the previous two years, driven by an increase in coal-fired electricity generation mostly in Asia.
  • – Renewables had the highest growth rate of any fuel, meeting a quarter of world energy demand growth, as renewables-based electricity generation rose 6.3%, driven by expansion of wind, solar and hydropower.
  • – Electricity generation increased by 3.1%, significantly faster than overall energy demand, and India and China together accounting for 70% of the global increase.
  • – Energy efficiency improvements slowed significantly, with global energy intensity improving by only 1.7% in 2017 compared with 2.3% on average over the last three years, caused by an apparent slowdown in efficiency policy coverage and stringency and lower energy prices.
  • – Fossil fuels accounted for 81% of total energy demand in 2017, a level that has remained stable for more than three decades.

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Forum held in Kigali on increasing access to sustainable energy in East Africa

MD Staff



The Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa took place between 19 and 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Over 400 high-level representatives from government, business, civil society and international organizations came together to discuss how to increase access to sustainable energy in East African countries.

Three days of discussions focused on the actions needed to scale up sustainable energy development in the region.

“There is need to work together with partners and identify key areas for development of the sustainable energy in the  region as part of our  efforts of  fulfilling the pledge made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals’, said James Musoni, Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure.

While the various sessions showcased a diverse set of country experiences in sustainable energy, from scaling up access to electricity to clean cooking fuels, there was a general agreement on the need for new policies and enhanced financing for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency worldwide. To meet these goals, a combination of public and private, and domestic and international resources will be required. Engaging all relevant stakeholders is critical to stimulating progress in the energy transition and achieving the global energy goals.

Rachel Kyte, Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All, said: “There is a lot of good happening in East Africa’s energy transition. However, progress is not at the speed or scale we need to ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind. Continued strong political leadership is crucial to achieve energy productivity across economies, accelerate progress on access to electricity and clean fuels for cooking, and to further increase the share of renewable energy in the mix. East Africa has abundant renewable resources and business ingenuity, and can attract financing. With disciplined leadership and greater ambition, it can deliver an energy future for everyone.”

Another topic highlighted by participants was the relationship between energy and gender. There was a general understanding that the different needs for men and women should be taken into account in sustainable energy programmes and policies in order to increase their effectiveness.

Three reports produced by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) were released in support of the activities conducted at the Forum. The first study reflects on the main barriers to, and achievements of gender equality in the energy sector in the EAC. Another provides an inventory of ongoing and planned initiatives of sustainable city development across the region. The third study examines clean cooking fuels in the EAC.

Tareq Emtairah, Director of Energy, UNIDO, said “it is important to recognize the vast renewable energy potential in the EAC Partner states. Exploiting these locally available renewable energy resources is a great way to address major challenges such as poverty, energy security, industrial development and environment.”

The Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa was organized by the East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) in collaboration with UNIDO, the EAC Secretariat, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Sustainable Energy For All (SEforALL), and the Ministry of Infrastructure of the Republic of Rwanda (MININFRA), and is hosted by the Government of Rwanda.

It was the first of a series of events that will take place in 2018 with the aim of increasing progress on Sustainable Development Goal 7, which focuses on the global effort to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and interventions should be deployed to address global challenges such as population growth and migrations, urban development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, poverty, social, political, health and gender inequalities. Let us double our efforts and keep the momentum high,” said Jesca Eriyo, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Finance and Administration.

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