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Sustainable bioenergy use: A clear path to biodiversity regeneration

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While renewable energy is advancing rapidly in Africa due to consistent efforts and investment, wood fuel is still largely used on the continent. In addition to being of significant value to African economies, it is the single most important energy source for most households. However, high dependence on biomass, even with the development of improved cookstoves, contributes to deforestation, degradation of soil quality and reduced biodiversity. Wood fuel use in households is also an important source of indoor air pollution, which, according to the World Health Organization, kills 4 million people every year.

Urgent action is therefore required to address fuelwood use and management on the continent, where only 25 per cent of the population has access to clean fuels and energy for cooking. A recent desk study published jointly by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Union, Review of Woodfuel Biomass Production and Utilization in Africa, takes stock of the current situation and proposes policies and strategies for Member States to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources.

UNEP and its partners promote the development of renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency as part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative and climate mitigation effort. With the financial support from the International Climate Initiative, UNEP just concluded the Building capacity for enhancing bioenergy sustainability through the use of Global Bioenergy Partnership indicators project in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The project provides technical assistance to government officials and experts in Ethiopia and Kenya to assess the sustainability of their bioenergy sectors and to build their capacity for long-term, periodic monitoring. The project is structured around the application and interpretation of 24 indicators to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of bioenergy production and use. Results from the indicators will be used to inform the decision-making process.

Energy consumption in Ethiopia was an estimated 42 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2016. Biomass energy sources account for 91 per cent of final energy consumption and for 98 per cent of energy consumption in the residential sector. The Global Bioenergy Partnership project in Ethiopia examined the development of biogas and solid biomass (firewood and charcoal) production to understand how it can contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals as well as to national development policies, such as the Climate Resilience Green Economy Strategy.

With 99 million people relying on the traditional use of biomass for cooking in Ethiopia, access to modern energy, reduction of poverty and better health are potential benefits that biogas and improved biomass cooking solutions can bring. This is compared with the traditional use of biomass in open fires. Other benefits accruing from this intervention include increased employment, greater gender equity and climate change mitigation.

“These findings help improve our overall knowledge and understanding about Ethiopia’s bioenergy sector and serve as a starting point to improve the sustainability of this sector and support the design of effective sustainable bioenergy policies as part of low-carbon development strategies,” said Fikadu Beyene, Commissioner of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Ethiopia.

The energy mix of Kenya is dominated by biomass then oil and oil products, geothermal and other renewables, according to its National Bureau of Statistics. Biomass contributes a large share of the country’s final energy consumption, supplying more than 90 per cent of rural household energy needs. 43 million people rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking in the country.

The project helped to assess the current and future potential of the country’s bioenergy sector focusing on two courses of action: the use of sugarcane bagasse briquettes residues by the tea industry and charcoal production from forests, woodlands and farmlands for use by households. The tea industry consumes almost 1 million tonnes of firewood per year, or more than 4 per cent of the volume of firewood consumed each year in Kenya. The summary report prepared for the project therefore outlines the consequences of the widening gap between supply and demand for wood fuel with current wood fuel supply outstripping demand in various parts of the country.

“The project outcomes give a better understanding of the environment, social and economic impacts of bioenergy use, and helps to sustainably manage this important national resource in Kenya,” said Charles Mutai, Director, Climate Change Directorate in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

In Kenya, the project was implemented by Stockholm Environment Institute in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and UNEP. The Stockholm Environment Institute conducted the calculation and analysis of the 24 indicators applied to the two priority pathways together with the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Strathmore University and the World Agroforestry Centre.

In Ethiopia, the project was undertaken by the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission and the Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute, which conducted the technical calculation and analysis of the 24 indicators applied to the two priority pathways.

These indicators were developed in a collaborative process, led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which currently hosts the Global Bioenergy Partnership Secretariat. The partnership works with various stakeholders such as governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society.

UN Environment

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World Bank: META 2 to Modernize the Energy and Mining Sectors in Brazil

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The World Bank Board of Directors approved today a US$38 million loan for the Energy and Mineral Sectors Strengthening Project II (META 2). Under the program, various Brazilian public institutions and sectoral agencies will be offered technical assistance activities varying from studies, training, methodologies, databases and IT equipment.

Brazil’s energy and mining sectors are among the largest in the developing world and are key to the country’s growth. However, both still face challenges to realize their full development potential and promote environmental sustainability and social inclusion. The project will allow the production of more reliable power, at lower prices, and the economic benefits of growing more efficient, resilient and competitive energy and mining sectors.

“The energy and mining sectors are among the main drivers of the Brazilian economy as they form the basis for the sustainability of the industrial and commercial sectors, in addition to leading to the provision of services that are essential for the quality of life of citizens. This project is a continuation of long-term collaboration with the World Bank. This new phase will promote changes to support the sustainable extraction and processing of minerals and metals to meet the needs of the global supply chain for inputs and new technologies. In energy, working together will make it possible to increase the efficiency and resilience of markets in Brazil,” said Bento Costa Lima Leite, Brazil Minister of Mining and Energy.

In Brazil, the electricity, oil and gas and mining and mineral processing sectors represent approximately 3, 13 and 4 percent, respectively, of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These sectors, though, stand at different stages of development. The power sector is one of the most sophisticated in Latin America, but it is facing a number of challenges with respect to supply security, affordability and increasing its resilience to climate change. In the natural gas sector, Brazil has started adopting various measures under a new program aimed at establishing an open, dynamic and competitive natural gas market.This has significant potential to enhance energy security and to reduce industrial energy costs, but still needs to solve regulatory and governance issues. The mining sector requires modernization to achieve sustainable practices and a new strategy underpinned by sustainability.

“META’s first phase provided technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of key public institutions to increase the sector’s contributions towards a lower carbon growth path that is environmentally and socially sustainable,” says Paloma Anós Casero, World Bank Director for Brazil. “This second stage aims at increasing efficiency, long term infrastructure adequacy and climate resilience in both sectors, allowing them to grow in a more efficient and competitive way.”

Among the outcomes supported by the Project are:

  • Increase efficiency, long term infrastructure adequacy and climate resilience in the energy and mining sectors;
  • Institutional strengthening of energy and mining institutions to establish and implement strategies, policies and regulation; and
  • Implementation support, monitoring and evaluation, knowledge sharing and dissemination.

This fixed spread loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to the Ministry of Energy is guaranteed by the Federative Republic of Brazil and has a final maturity of 20 years, with a 19.5 year grace period.

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Energy Transition at the Heart of Africa’s COVID-19 Response

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The African Union Commission (AUC) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) held a virtual high-level dialogue  to discuss Africa’s needs in responding to the COVID-19 crisis and the role of the energy transition in the post-pandemic recovery.

The dialogue brought together a number of ministers and high-level participants from Africa, Europe, the GCC and the European Union, as well as Vice Presidents of the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), the UNDP Administrator, the Director-General of IRENA as well as representatives of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).

During the two-hour virtual event led by H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union Commission, and IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, participants highlighted that energy potential in Africa can turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for the continent and its population. They agreed that energy transition is critical to both the response to the crisis and to the post-pandemic recovery.

AU Commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid remarked that: “The energy sector cannot sit back and only react, it has to join in the fight as well while at the same time positioning itself to play a pivotal role in the recovery after the crisis. Through this forum, we hope to share the actions taken by various countries and organisations and the results they have had. This will provide lessons that will be instrumental in shaping the response and preparing for recovery.”

She highlighted the measures that the AU had taken including conducting wide consultations with regional and global stakeholders and developing an emergency, resilience and recovery action plan, which was adopted by the Bureau of African energy ministers on 12th May 2020. 

On his part, IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera hailed the collaboration with the African Union noting that their commitment to work together in the wake of the pandemic was starting to yield results with the high-level dialogue as a milestone. He noted that: “Accelerating the energy transformation can help Africa respond to COVID-19, while allowing the continent to meet its medium and long-term objectives of a decarbonised, just and prosperous society. IRENA will continue to work closely with the African Union and partners to create pathways for accelerated renewable energy deployment in Africa, to bolster resilience in the face of the current pandemic while building a future of health, wealth and opportunity for millions of people across the continent.”

Emphasising the role of renewables, UNDP Administrator, Mr. Achim Steiner said: “The impact of COVID-19 on African economies is a major setback. Rapid policy responses across the continent have helped to mitigate the health crisis but socio-economic impacts could erode development gains of recent years. Expanding access to electricity through a bold expansion of ‘on-grid’ and ‘off-grid’ renewable energy is a major opportunity in the context of national stimulus and recovery programmes. They are economic, fast, shovel ready options to address energy poverty and accelerate Africa’s transition towards a clean energy economy of the 21st century.”

Participants observed that the adverse impacts of the pandemic are stretching the African energy sector’s capabilities thin. Unless urgent measures are taken to preserve the sector and prepare it for the post-pandemic recovery, the energy situation could impede the continent’s ability to cope with the crisis and economic downturn, ministers noted. Speakers agreed that it is imperative that the COVID-19 pandemic does not dampen efforts to increase energy access and clean cooking solutions which remain a major challenge in Africa. Today, around 548 million people still live without access to electricity and 894 million people lack clean cooking solutions.

The immediate priority for the African continent is to save lives, bring the health emergency under control and alleviate associated economic hardship. However, the recovery measures adopted should also address long-term development and create resilient economies. Utilising the locally available renewable energy resources that Africa is richly endowed with can alleviate immediate energy challenges, while creating jobs, advancing industrial development and promoting human welfare. It is estimated that renewable energy deployment could create an additional 2 million green jobs in Africa.

The meeting took place following an agreement between the two organisations to strengthen cooperation to combat the pandemic and pursue Africa’s development goals.

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ADB Finances First Wind Power and Battery Storage Project in Thailand

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a THB235.55 million ($7.2 million equivalent) loan with Lomligor Company Limited (Lomligor), a subsidiary of BCPG Public Company Limited (BCPG), to finance a 10-megawatt (MW) wind power plant in southern Thailand. The project utilizes an integrated 1.88-megawatt-hour (MWh) pilot battery energy storage system to increase the amount of renewable energy delivered to the grid.

The Southern Thailand Wind Power and Battery Energy Storage Project is the first private sector initiative in Thailand to integrate utility-scale wind power generation with a battery energy storage system. The battery system will allow energy to be stored when the wind turbines generate more power than the grid is able to absorb, which will help ensure the stability and reliability of the renewable energy source.

“This project contributes to Thailand’s Power Development Plan targets for clean energy and also demonstrates the potential of integrated renewables and batteries to provide clean energy for southern Thailand,” said Infrastructure Finance Division Director  for Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Jackie B. Surtani. “This will enhance the resilience of the region’s electricity grid, provide energy security for communities, and support economic growth across the country.”

“Lomligor is the first wind power plant in Thailand to adopt energy storage system technology as the solution to the intermittency of wind power,” said BCPG President Bundit Sapianchai. “This will help enhance energy management efficiency and the resilience of energy grids. We are grateful to ADB for acknowledging the initiative of Lomligor Project in applying energy storage system technology to energy production and providing BCPG with such significant financial support including Clean Technology Fund (CTF) mobilization for the project.”

The project will help increase the supply of renewable energy to Thailand’s domestic grid. It is expected to generate at least 14,870 MWh of electricity per year while reducing 6,364 tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions in the country beginning in 2020.

As part of ADB’s blended finance offering for the project, ADB will administer a $4.75 million concessional loan provided by CTF. The concessional loan was critical in overcoming some of the project’s bankability challenges and supports the scaling up and replication of battery storage projects in Southeast Asia. CTF is one of two trust funds comprising the Climate Investment Funds, established in 2008 to provide financing for climate-related development efforts. Kasikornbank PCL is also supporting the project with a THB235.55 million ($7.2 million equivalent) loan.

BCPG is a leading renewable energy company in Thailand with 507.5 MW of total installed capacity in operation and a further 415.0 MW under development. BCPG focuses on investments in renewable energy, including solar, geothermal, wind, hydro, biogas, and biomass.

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