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Making power systems more flexible as global energy transition accelerates

MD Staff

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The global energy landscape is witnessing a rapid and disruptive change driven by an unprecedented growth in renewables. Last year alone, a record-breaking 168 GW of renewable energy capacity were added globally – the sixth consecutive year in which additions from renewables have exceeded those from conventional sources. Today, a quarter of the world’s electricity comes from renewables.

But, the recent IPCC report has sent a clear signal and called for a scaling up of renewables both in the power and in end use sectors such as transport and buildings. This echoes IRENA’s own analysis which estimates that avoiding the worst effects of global warming will require to source 85% of global power and two-thirds of total energy supply from renewables by 2050. Around 60% of electricity would come from so called variable renewable energy (VRE) like solar and wind.

Experiences from frontrunner countries show that flexibility in the power system can help integrating solar and wind into the market.

Flexibility can be found in different parts of the power system including generation, grid, storage and end-users.

With today’s report on Power system flexibility for the energy transition and a new tool to assess the flexibility of the power system – the FlexTool – IRENA opens a new work stream that support its members in finding the most cost-effective mix of flexibility solutions. The tool has been applied jointly with IRENA members Colombia, Panama, Uruguay and Thailand to assess the flexibility of their power system based on the latest national plans.

Figure 1. Flexible Power System – Accelerated uptake of wind and solar 

Claudia Cabrera from the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM) of Uruguay, who presented the Uruguayan FlexTool analysis during the 16th meeting of the IRENA Council, said: “The FlexTool can assess in an integrated manner sector coupling alternatives, which is an aspect of great importance in an electric system like the Uruguayan characterized by energy surpluses. Therefore, the IRENA FlexTool can complement the existing planning toolkit by providing additional insights on flexibility and options to further increase it.” The Uruguayan FlexTool analysis concluded that Uruguay’s power system is flexible enough to accommodate the actual and future deployment of VRE resulting from the country’s long-term generation expansion plan.

Dolf Gielen, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Center added: “The new report showcases flexibility in all parts of the energy system. Findings show that the smooth integration of variable renewable energy into power systems requires innovations. Beyond technological solutions, flexibility can be unlocked through market design, operational practices and new business models.”

Demand has a significant potential to contribute to the flexibility of the power system – from quickly responding to supply shortages to following price signals in order to consume energy when it is cheaper, and the grid does not face congestion. A central element of flexibility is sector-coupling, the coupling of energy demand for heat, fuels and mobility by using power to heat (e.g. heat pumps), power to gas (e.g. hydrogen from renewable electricity) and power to mobility. Electric vehicles for example can act as battery storage devices if regulations and technologies are aligned and provide short term storage and grid services.

For more information, see Power system flexibility for the energy transition, including an Overview for Policy Makers, IRENA Flextool Methodology (coming soon) and two case studies.

IRENA

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People Can Prosper and Thrive If Pakistan Reforms Faster

MD Staff

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Pakistan urgently needs to invest more and better in its people if they are to be richer, better educated, and healthier when the country turns 100 years old in 2047, says a new report by the World Bank.

Launched today at the Human Capital Summit, the report, Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future, urges Pakistan to overcome its boom-bust cycles through a deep-rooted economic transformation. It recommends the essential reforms Pakistan needs now to accelerate and sustain growth. This means increasing and improving human capital investment, boosting productivity, promoting social and environmental sustainability, ensuring good governance, and leveraging its location to connect more with neighbors and the world beyond says the report. 

“There are steps Pakistan can take today to boost its economic performance and thereby ensure a better future for its people,” says Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “These steps are ones that other countries have taken to open up their business sectors to competition and innovation and laying the foundations for growth, investment, and good jobs.”

The forward-looking report argues that Pakistan’s greatest asset is its people – a young population of 208 million. This large population can transform into a demographic dividend that drives economic growth. To achieve that, Pakistan must act fast and strategically to: i) manage population growth and improve maternal health, ii) improve early childhood development, focusing on nutrition and health, and iii) boost spending on education and skills for all, according to the report.

“Because the next generation is meeting only 40 percent of its potential it means that Pakistan is foregoing much of its economic growth, but this can change if women’s potential is unlocked,” says Annette Dixon, World Bank Vice President for Human Development. “When women and girls are empowered to make their own decisions, they stay in school longer, they start families a little later, have fewer children, contribute more to the economy, and invest more in their children. It’s a virtuous circle that’s good for families and good for the whole country.”

In addition to human capital, Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future calls for reforms in other key areas.

To increase investment levels, the report recommends ways to make it easier to do business in Pakistan, as well as reforms to tax policy and administration to increase fiscal space and public investment in the country’s top priorities. Strong governance will be crucial to implement a difficult set of reforms. The report discusses the key elements of a strong governance environment, including the need for a stronger civil service.

“Accelerating and sustaining Pakistan’s growth over a 30-year period is ambitious, but possible,” says Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “Many other countries have achieved economic transformations within a generation with the right set of policies. The World Bank is committed to working with the government of Pakistan and other stakeholders in the country to advance the necessary reforms, so that Pakistan can significantly increase growth and sustain it, so it is an upper middle-income country by the time it celebrates its centenary.”

Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future has also benefited from funding by the UK Department for International Development and Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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Trade in fake goods is now 3.3% of world trade and rising

MD Staff

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Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods has risen steadily in the last few years – even as overall trade volumes stagnated – and now stands at 3.3% of global trade, according to a new report by the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office.

Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods puts the value of imported fake goods worldwide based on 2016 customs seizure data at USD 509 billion, up from USD 461 billion in 2013 (2.5% of world trade). For the European Union, counterfeit trade represented 6.8% of imports from non-EU countries, up from 5% in 2013. These figures do not include domestically produced and consumed fake goods, or pirated products being distributed via the Internet.

Trade in fake goods, which infringe on trademarks and copyright, creates profits for organised crime gangs at the expense of companies and governments. Fakes of items like medical supplies, car parts, toys, food and cosmetics brands and electrical goods carry a range of health and safety risks. Examples include ineffective prescription drugs, unsafe dental filling materials, fire hazards from poorly wired electronic goods and sub-standard chemicals in lipsticks and baby formula.

“Counterfeit trade takes away revenues from firms and governments and feed other criminal activities. It can also jeopardise consumers’ health and safety,” said OECD Public Governance Director Marcos Bonturi, launching the report with the Director of the EU Observatory on IPR infringements at the EUIPO, Paul Maier, and the EU Ambassador to the OECD Rupert Schlegelmilch. “Counterfeiters thrive where there is poor governance. It is vital that we do more to protect intellectual property and address corruption.”

The goods making up the biggest share of 2016 seizures in dollar terms were footwear, clothing, leather goods, electrical equipment, watches, medical equipment, perfumes, toys, jewellery and pharmaceuticals. Customs officials also noted an increase in counterfeits of goods less commonly seen in the past such as branded guitars and construction materials.  

The majority of fake goods picked up in customs checks originate in mainland China and Hong Kong. Other major points of origin include the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand and India.

The countries most affected by counterfeiting in 2016 were the United States, whose brands or patents were concerned by 24% of the fake products seized, followed by France at 17%, Italy (15%), Switzerland (11%) and Germany (9%). A growing number of businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong and emerging economies like Brazil and China are also becoming targets.

Small parcels sent by post or express courier are a prime and growing conduit for counterfeit goods. Small parcels accounted for 69% of total customs seizures by volume over 2014-2016 (57% via post and 12% via courier), up from 63% over the 2011-2013 period.

Along with insufficient screening of small parcels, other areas where policy gaps are facilitating counterfeit trade are inconsistent penalties on traffickers and the special rules governing free trade zones. Past OECD-EUIPO analysis has shown that free trade zones – where economic activity is driven by reduced taxes, customs controls and lighter regulation – can unintentionally facilitate counterfeit trade. The OECD is working with its member countries on formal guidelines to help authorities stem the problem.

Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods covers all physical fake goods which infringe trademarks, design rights or patents, and tangible pirated products, which breach copyright. It does not include online piracy, which is a further drain on economies.

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Oil Market Report: Supply cushion insures against losses

MD Staff

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The electricity crisis in Venezuela has paralysed most of the country for significant periods of time. Although there are signs that the situation is improving, the degradation of the power system is such that we cannot be sure if the fixes are durable. Until recently, Venezuela’s oil production had stabilised at around 1.2 mb/d. During the past week, industry operations were seriously disrupted and ongoing losses on a significant scale could present a challenge to the market. As it happens, 1.2 mb/d is also the size of the output cuts agreed by OPEC countries and some non-OPEC producers. The cuts were implemented in January and compliance by OPEC reached 94% in February, with Saudi Arabia cutting back by about 170 kb/d more than required. The non-OPEC countries are complying more slowly at a rate of 51%, with Russia reducing its output very gradually. Due to the cuts, OPEC members are sitting on about 2.8 mb/d of effective spare production capacity (Iran and Venezuela are excluded from the calculation), with Saudi Arabia holding two-thirds of it. Much of this spare capacity is composed of crude oil similar in quality to Venezuela’s exports. Therefore, in the event of a major loss of supply from Venezuela, the potential means of avoiding serious disruption to the oil market is theoretically at hand.

Before the seriousness of the situation in Venezuela became apparent, our oil balances for the first half of 2019, which have not changed significantly since our last Report, suggested that the market is tightening. On the basis of solid oil demand growth, modest declines in OPEC production due to Iran and Venezuela, and rising US output, the market could show a modest surplus in 1Q19, before flipping into deficit in 2Q19 by about 0.5 mb/d. This does not take into account Saudi Arabia’s announced plans to reduce its exports further in April.

Although we must await developments in Venezuela, if there were to be a collapse in production, it could provide an opportunity for other producers who can supply comparable barrels. Venezuela currently ships about 400 kb/d to both China and India. Elsewhere, other producers have already taken advantage of Venezuela’s problems: as exports to the US have slumped following the imposition of sanctions, Russia has taken the opportunity to increase its shipments to the US from relatively modest levels to around 150 kb/d.

Geopolitics has added another complication to the global oil market. At the same time, production cuts have increased the spare capacity cushion. This is especially important now as economic sentiment is becoming more pessimistic and the global economy could be entering a vulnerable period. Another way in which the world is better placed to weather geopolitical storms is shown in the IEA’s five-year oil market outlook Oil 2019 – Analysis and Forecasts to 2024, which we published on 11 March. A key theme is the growing importance of the US in global markets. Rising production there is not a new story; what is game changing is that the US in 2021 will become a net oil exporter on an annual average basis. With Canadian production also increasing, and most of its exports moving to US refineries, this frees up US crude for export. This year US seaborne oil trade will move into surplus with net exports rising to nearly 4 mb/d of by 2024. The rising profile of the US not only brings greater choice to consumers, but, crucially, it enhances security of supply, especially when, as now, there are heightened geopolitical concerns.

IEA

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