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Suzhou Forum Calls for Faster Energy Transformation for Better Lives and Prosperity

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Senior government officials, business leaders and key players in the global energy sector met today at the Third International Forum on Energy Transitions (IFET) in Suzhou, China. The international gathering, co-organized by the National Energy Administration of China, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government of China, is an important platform for dialogue and collaborative action on how to transform energy systems towards a sustainable, low-carbon and resilient energy future.

Over the last decade, renewables have brought disruptive change to the global energy landscape. Driven by rapid technological advances, enabling policy frameworks and plummeting costs, renewables have created unprecedented opportunities to rethink the way our energy systems operate. IFET aims to identify solutions to scale up the latest renewable energy innovations, particularly in end-use sectors, accelerate power sector transformation, increase renewable energy financing, and transform urban energy systems.

In his keynote remarks, IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin stressed the need to take the global energy transformation to the next level by strengthening innovation, mobilizing investments and modernizing gird infrastructure. Accelerating renewables deployment is essential to tackle challenges such as climate change, sustainable development and meeting growing energy demand. The Director-General underlined that the energy transformation offers us vast socio-economic benefits in terms of powering sustainable growth, creating jobs and creating local value-added.

Leading the way on the energy transformation are those frontrunner countries, like China who, early on, recognised the potential opportunities in and are developing the policies, market mechanisms, and systems necessary to reorient their economies towards the high-tech industry and workforce of the future. As highlighted in IRENA’s Corporate Sourcing Report, it is not only countries that are leading the way: companies in 75 countries actively sourced 465 terawatt hours of renewable energy in 2017, enough to power a country the size of France.

In his speech at the Sub-Forum on International Cooperation on Renewable Energy Industry Development, the Director-General also highlighted that international cooperation is needed to share lessons and experiences to overcoming challenges in transforming existing energy structures to low-carbon sustainable systems based on renewables and energy.

During his remarks at the Energy Future session, the Director-General identified five priority action areas to advance the energy transformation. These include: fostering a power sector that integrates higher shares of variable renewables and decarbonising end-use sectors, strengthening system-wide innovation, scaling up investment, ensuring equitable costs and benefits of the transition, and furthering international cooperation.

The previous conferences in 2015 and 2016 adopted the Suzhou Declaration and Consensus, respectively, which called for higher levels of ambition and decisive action to accelerate the energy transition.

IRENA also participated in the Belt and Road Energy Ministerial Conference taking place in Suzhou at the same time. Renewable energy has been identified as central to one of the initiative’s key pillars as a means to build a sustainable energy future.

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AIIB’s USD60-M Solar Investment in Oman Supports Diversified Energy Mix

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The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) Board of Directors has approved a USD60-million loan to increase Oman’s renewable power generation capacity and reduce the country’s dependence on gas and other fossil fuels for electricity generation. This is AIIB’s first nonsovereign-backed financing in the country’s renewable energy sector.

The project is a 500-megawatt greenfield solar photovoltaic power plant in Ibri being developed by a special purpose company established by ACWA Power, Gulf Investment Corporation and Alternative Energy Projects Co. It is Oman’s first utility-scale renewable energy project to be connected to the grid. The total project cost is approximately USD400 million.

Oman’s sustained economic and population growth over the past decade has led to fast-growing electricity demand and put a strain on the existing power infrastructure. The country has one of the highest solar densities in the world, providing a great development potential for solar energy resources. Currently, almost all the installed electricity capacity in Oman is fueled by natural gas, leaving huge potential for renewable energy.

“AIIB’s investment will increase the availability of Oman’s renewable power generation capacity and contribute to filling the anticipated gap in peak demand,” said AIIB Vice President D.J. Pandian. “The project will also help the country move toward a more balanced and environmentally sustainable energy mix to ensure long-term energy sustainability.”

The project is in line with AIIB’s energy sector strategy in reducing the carbon intensity of energy supply and catalyzing private capital investment in renewable energy infrastructure. AIIB’s involvement will ensure the use of high environmental and social standards in the project.

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IEA support Luxembourg’s ambitious energy transition goals

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Luxembourg is targeting a sharp reduction in emissions by 2030, but new measures are needed to boost investment in renewables and energy efficiency, new IEA report says.

The International Energy Agency released its latest in-depth review of Luxembourg’s energy policies today, welcoming the country’s ambitions to shift to a low-carbon economy.

Luxembourg has shown positive signs in its efforts to move ahead with its clean energy transition, according to the report. While the country has enjoyed robust economic and population growth, its energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions have declined for much of the past decade, until they started to rise again in 2016, due to increased fuel sales to trucks in transit. The share of renewables in its energy supply has doubled since 2008.

“The Luxembourg government is committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement and has adopted ambitious energy sector targets, including reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 55% by 2030,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The IEA is ready to support the government’s efforts to achieve these goals, starting with the recommendations contained within this report.”  

The report notes that Luxembourg faces challenges in achieving its energy objectives. The country’s energy supply is dominated by fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide emissions are rising since 2016. This trend is driven by higher fuel consumption in the transport sector, mostly from fuel sales to international freight trucks and commuters.

“It is encouraging that the government has embraced an electric vehicle initiative with the intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel imports”, Dr Birol said. The initiative is targeting the deployment of 800 public charging stations for electric vehicles by 2020. The aim is for 49% of all vehicles registered in Luxembourg and 100% of the national bus fleet to be electric by 2030. These goals are supported by subsidies for electric vehicles, major investments to increase the level and quality of electrified public transport, the introduction of free use of almost all forms of public transport in March 2020, and gradual increases in excise duties on diesel and gasoline. The report calls on the government to evaluate how much existing transport policies contribute to its energy sector targets and formulate a set of coherent measures to achieve a sustained reduction in fuel demand.

Luxembourg has the highest share of electricity imports among IEA member countries, with imports covering nearly 90% of electricity demand in 2018. Luxembourg expects its electricity demand to rise as a result of a growing population and economy and the increasing electrification of the transport and heat sectors.

The IEA report notes that Luxembourg is undertaking actions on several fronts to ensure a secure supply of electricity. The country is aiming to increase domestic electricity generation to cover one-third of national demand by 2030, mostly from solar PV and wind. Luxembourg is also actively cooperating with neighbouring countries on energy security and is planning to strengthen its electricity grid to support additional imports and domestic renewable generation. The report recommends that infrastructure plans and processes should be aligned with renewable energy deployment and should facilitate smart grid technologies such as demand‑side response, batteries and other energy storage options.

Luxembourg has generous support programmes for energy efficiency and renewable energy, two of the pillars of clean energy transitions. However, the IEA report finds that the country’s low taxes on energy represent a barrier to the investments needed in energy efficiency and renewables to meet the government’s targets. The report calls for the gradual introduction of carbon pricing, which if done wisely, could stimulate the behavioural changes and investments required for the transition to a low-carbon energy system. The government has announced a plan to introduce a carbon price in 2021. 

“I strongly believe that both policy and regulatory reforms can help Luxembourg achieve a cost-efficient, equitable and sustainable pathway to meeting its ambitious energy transition goals,” said Dr Birol.

Because of the exceptional situation resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, the IEA and the government of Luxembourg agreed to launch the report online rather than via a press conference.  

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Battery Storage Paves Way for a Renewable-powered Future

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photo:IRENA

Battery storage systems are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrate high shares of solar and wind renewables in power systems worldwide. A recent analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) illustrates how electricity storage technologies can be used for a variety of applications in the power sector, from e-mobility and behind-the-meter applications to utility-scale use cases.

Utility-scale batteries, for example, can enable a greater feed-in of renewables into the grid by storing excess generation and by firming renewable energy output. Furthermore, particularly when paired with renewable generators, batteries help provide reliable and cheaper electricity in isolated grids and to off-grid communities, which otherwise rely on expensive imported diesel fuel for electricity generation.

At present, utility-scale battery storage systems are mostly being deployed in Australia, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States and other European countries. One of the larger systems in terms of capacity is the Tesla 100 MW / 129 MWh Li-ion battery storage project at Hornsdale Wind Farm in Australia. In the US-State of New York, a high-level demonstration project using a 4 MW / 40 MWh battery storage system showed that the operator could reduce almost 400 hours of congestion in the power grid and save up to USD 2.03 million in fuel costs.

In addition, several island and off-grid communities have invested in large-scale battery storage to balance the grid and store excess renewable energy. In a mini-grid battery project in Martinique, the output of a solar PV farm is supported by a 2 MWh energy storage unit, ensuring that electricity is injected into the grid at a constant rate, avoiding the need for back-up generation. In Hawaii, almost 130 MWh of battery storage systems have been implemented to provide smoothening services for solar PV and wind energy.

Globally, energy storage deployment in emerging markets is expected to increase by over 40% each year until 2025.

Figure 1. Stationary battery storage’s energy capacity growth, 2017-2030

Currently, utility-scale stationary batteries dominate global energy storage. But by 2030, small-scale battery storage is expected to significantly increase, complementing utility-scale applications. 

The behind-the-meter (BTM) batteries are connected behind the utility meter of commercial, industrial or residential customers, primarily aiming at electricity bill savings. Installations of BTM batteries globally is on the rise. This increase has been driven by the falling costs of battery storage technology, due to the growing consumer market and the development of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs), along with the deployment of distributed renewable energy generation and the development of smart grids. In Germany, for example, 40% of recent rooftop solar PV applications have been installed with BTM batteries. Australia aims to reach one million BTM batteries installations by  2025, with 21 000 systems installed in the country in 2017. 

Figure 2. Services provided by BTM battery storage systems

Overall, total battery capacity in stationary applications could increase from a current estimate of 11 GWh to between 180 to 420 GWh, an increase of 17- to 38-fold.

Read IRENA’s full Innovation landscape briefs on Utility-scale batteries and Behind-the-Meter batteries

Find more information about enabling technologies in IRENA’s Innovation Landscape briefs: Enabling Technologies

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