Public and Private Sectors Unite on Need for More Renewables
Current energy systems are falling short of supporting the transition to a renewables-based system, participants of the third Public-Private Dialogue, organised by IRENA’s Coalition for Action, agreed. The policy makers, legislators, private sector and civil society representatives present, called for greater system flexibility, more active participation of market actors, and a redesign of today’s power system setup to accommodate higher shares of renewables.
“We should be seeing explosive renewable energy growth, yet this is not the case everywhere in the world. Creating encouraging market designs will be key,” emphasised Ben Backwell, CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council and co-Chair of the Coalition’s ‘Business and Investors Group’. This sentiment set the tone for discussions focused on how to achieve a 100% renewables-based power system.
Over the past decade, many countries have witnessed tremendous advancements in renewables according to the latest findings of the Coalition for Action in its white paper on utilities in transition to 100% renewables. Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, Vice-President of the European Renewable Energies Federation and co-Chair of the Coalition’s ‘Towards 100% renewable energy’ working group, pointed out that: “More and more countries, regions, cities and utilities around the world recognise the benefits of shifting to very high shares of renewables, not only in the power but in all end-use sectors too.”
Addressing perceived risk
Scaling-up investment is critical to advancing renewable energy, particularly in regions with high renewable energy potential, such as Africa. Participants of the dialogue demonstrated significant interest in investing in Africa, however the presence of real and perceived risks limits the flow of bankable renewable energy projects — both small and large.
While each country presents unique investment landscapes, a number of common solutions were identified to manage and mitigate risk including the creation of long-term and stable policy frameworks; improving market design (with a focus on de-risking investments); and adopting renewable-focused integrated planning strategies.
Participants also agreed that early involvement of local communities, continued collaboration among all stakeholders, and inclusive decision-making processes are key to ensuring that renewable energy projects lead to an inclusive development. In this context, Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA highlighted the importance of platforms for public-private exchange and knowledge sharing. “The Public-Private Dialogue has become an important platform for IRENA to engage a variety of stakeholders in the discussion on how we can better work together to scale up deployment of renewables and maximise socio-economic benefits,” he stated.
Throughout the meeting participants expressed concern that renewable energy targets in general, and in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in particular, fall short of what is needed to achieve global climate objectives, especially in wealthy and high-carbon emitting nations.
When reporting back from the meeting at the opening of the IRENA Assembly, Bruce Douglas, Deputy CEO of Solar Power Europe, on behalf of the Coalition for Action, called on all governments to urgently enhance their NDCs this year and reminded countries that, “significantly more ambitious renewable energy targets and domestic frameworks are required to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.”
The dialogue was organised by IRENA’s Coalition for Action on the side-lines of the IRENA Tenth Assembly on January 10. The meeting sought to foster a common understanding of the steps necessary to urgently increase the share of renewable energy and accelerate investments.
Read the Coalition’s full report back from the Public-Private Dialogue to the Assembly.
Qatari LNG shipments to Europe will drop
Qatar is sending less of its liquefied natural gas to Europe, where slumping prices have reduced its attractiveness as a destination for the super-chilled fuel, informs Bloomberg.
Less than 18% of Qatar’s LNG output has sailed to Europe so far this year, down from 25% in 2022, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. It marks a change from last year, when gas prices soared and sent European leaders on a worldwide search to replace supplies from Russia.
At the time, Energy Minister and CEO of QatarEnergy Saad Al-Kaabi said the company would keep supplying buyers in Europe, even though its long-term contracts had the option to divert as much as 15% of its cargoes to destinations with better prices.
European gas prices have since tumbled to less than €25 ($27) a megawatt hour, a fraction of last year’s record, and the self-imposed ban on diversions from Europe no longer stands, Kaabi said at a press conference in Doha.
“The data that made us make certain promises or direct certain quantities to specific markets no longer exist,” said Kaabi. “Prices have dropped and quantities are available. There is no problem in the market that existed previously.”
Congo oil auction: Perenco is interested, local communities want it out
The Anglo-French oil company Perenco has filed expressions of interest in two of the Coastal Basin blocks on offer in the giant oil auction the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) launched last July. Oil Minister Didier Budimbu visited the zone last Saturday to inaugurate new Perenco installations. A recent Greenpeace Africa field mission to the Coastal Basin, where the company has been present for nearly a quarter of a century, reveals strong opposition by local communities to any further fossil fuel activity, after years of pollution and abuse.
“No political elite in Kinshasa would accept to live in the oil-drenched ecosystems where Perenco drills, or accept the poverty and intimidation that constitute its legacy,” said Patient Muamba, Greenpeace Africa forest campaigner. “The DRC government must listen to its people and block Perenco from bidding to expand its toxic enterprise in the country.”
DRC’s only operating oil company, Perenco, is currently being sued in France by Friends of the Earth France and Sherpa in order to repair environmental damage. The firm is also being investigated by France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s office for “corruption of foreign public officials” in Africa. The multinational has a dark record in Gabon, Peru, and Guatemala, and is recently responsible for an oil spill in the UK.
The Congo oil auction has faced a barrage of criticism from Congolese and international scientists and NGOs as a potential cataclysm for human rights, the rule of law, biodiversity and the climate. Although deadlines for submitting expressions of interest have been extended twice, without explanation, it appears to have been shunned by Big Oil so far. Exploration contracts, most of which are to be signed during an election year in DRC, require the immediate payment of juicy signature bonuses.
Last month, just before the announcement of Perenco’s expressions of interest, Greenpeace Africa visited the three blocks of the Coastal Basin, a zone rich in mangroves located in the territories of Muanda and Lukula (Kongo-Central province), to talk with fishermen and fisherwomen, farmers, traditional leaders, young people, and local NGOs.
The pernicious impact of the oil industry is felt across the area and opposition among local communities is palpable. It echoes that of communities visited by Greenpeace Africa during three previous field trips since last July to six designated oil blocks in Equateur, Tshuapa, Haut Lomami, and Tanganyika provinces.
Only two days before our arrival, a huge fire broke out in Mangroves National Park, in a storage area for fuel imported from Angola. The Park is an internationally-recognized biodiversity hotspot, home to sea turtles, manatees and hippos. The oil explosion reduced approximately 500 m² of mangroves to ashes and caused significant water pollution. While Perenco wasn’t involved in the incident, it demonstrates the risks of expanding the oil industry in this ecosystem.
The company is infamous among locals. On 19 April Muanda was paralyzed by city-wide protests on various issues, some avenues barricaded with burning tires. Similar protests have been going on for years, often met by violent repression. Recently, residents have been demanding that a USD 10 million payment by Perenco be invested in the electrification of the city.
The villages lie within the Matamba-Makanzi II block, for which the Nigerian firm Century Energy Services and a certain “Kebo Energy” have filed expressions of interest. Perenco has filed expressions of interest for the Nganzi and Yema II blocks.
In Malela, a resident says no one there is aware of the existence of the oil auction: “We don’t understand why the government has to treat us as if we don’t exist and have no right to know what is planned for our lands.”
Already, restrictions imposed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) for protecting the area’s biodiversity, are making life difficult for fishermen and fisherwomen. Some fear oil exploration would impose further restrictions.
In Kimbanza and Malemba, residents complained that no one from the Oil Ministry had come to consult them. They knew their area might be at risk – about a decade ago the oil company Surestream had carried out unsuccessful seismic studies in the area. Now they reject any new oil development.
One resident, who worked for Perenco for decades, wonders: “How can the government approve this kind of project without telling us anything?”
Malemba residents are working on a management plan for their community forest concession, awarded in January, which they hope will block any land grabbing by a government-backed Perenco: “No one will come and take our land away from us, we already have legal rights!” says one community member.
Inhabitants of Matamba-Makanzi, which lies within the Yema II block, say they received a visit from individuals presenting themselves as Oil Ministry officials, but the latter told them absolutely nothing about any oil tender. They were only looking for guides to accompany them to the boundary between the Yema II and Matamba-Makanzi II blocks.
Neither villagers nor local civil society groups are aware of any environmental impact assessment done in the past 25 years
Activists in the area listed the complaints that Friends of the Earth France and Sherpa have brought before the French courts. Several scientific studies, investigations from Congolese and international civil society organisations and the Congolese Senate have revealed the installation of wells and flares near homes and fields, oil spills, waste incineration, the dumping of sludge and toxic waste in rivers, and land erosion.
One of the local activists says: “The exploitation of oil impoverishes us and makes us suffer. Young people are being used for useless work. I’d never work for Perenco – even if it were the only employer in Kongo Central!”.
Perenco did not respond to the issues raised by local communities when contacted by Greenpeace Africa.
Australia has raised its climate targets and now needs to accelerate its clean energy transition
Australia is taking positive steps to increase its climate and clean energy ambitions. The International Energy Agency has reviewed Australia’s progress and recommends that it continues to strengthen its policies and long-term plans to ensure it meets its targets.
Today, Australia is a major exporter of both fossil fuels and the critical minerals used in many clean energy technologies. A successful clean energy transition would support the country’s economic diversification and industrial growth while providing long-term resilience against global energy market shocks, according to the new IEA report.
Since the IEA’s last review in 2018, Australia has passed the Climate Change Act in 2022, which doubles the target for emissions reductions by 2030 and sets the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. The Australian government also signed up to the Global Methane Pledge in 2022, joining 130 governments who are collectively targeting a reduction in methane emissions of at least 30% by 2030.
In recent months, the Australian government has presented a host of policy strategies to fast-track the country’s energy transition. The IEA review welcomes these strategies, including the Rewiring the Nation Plan, the National Energy Transformation Partnership, and National Energy Performance Strategy.
“Australia is an important player in global energy markets that is helping to meet today’s needs while advancing the transition to clean energy,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “I welcome Australia’s efforts to drive progress on low-emissions hydrogen and supplies of critical minerals – and its leadership on working with partners, including through the IEA, to strengthen the diversity and resilience of clean energy supply chains. Our new report sets out the steps Australia can take to accelerate its own clean energy transition securely and affordably.”
The report finds that Australia can make sufficient progress on emissions reductions by 2030 to align with the goal of net zero by 2050. However, stronger efforts are needed to improve energy efficiency and boost clean energy investment. A whole-of-government approach is needed to end the country’s high reliance on fossil fuels. The IEA review calls for an updated net zero emissions reduction plan for 2050 to guide implementation across all parts of government. A national energy and climate information system is also needed to track progress towards reaching these targets.
Greater energy efficiency efforts in transport and residential buildings can help bring forward Australia’s peak in emissions and mitigate rising energy bills. The IEA review estimates that a 60% productivity improvement would be needed for a net zero aligned trajectory. The new National Building Code and the Electric Vehicle Strategy are critical steps forward in this regard.
Australia’s renewables deployment has a positive outlook thanks to the success of rooftop solar, ambitious targets, and increased funding at federal and state levels. Three million Australian households, the equivalent of one in three, have solar PV installations, together accounting for 17 gigawatts of capacity.
Power sector decarbonisation efforts need to be stepped up considerably, as Australia aims to increase the share of low-carbon power generation by 2030 – with 82% to come from renewable energy, up from 27% today. This will require an accelerated implementation of renewable energy zones, faster permitting of grid related projects, and additional coal retirements.
The Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a new set of energy security challenges for all IEA members, including Australia. In 2022, Australia’s domestic gas and electricity markets experienced supply disruptions and rising prices. The Australian government has enacted laws and programmes aimed at boosting fuel security at home. Based on lessons learned from recent energy crises, investment in clean energy infrastructure, grids, energy system flexibility, and fuel availability should be key priorities for Australia’s orderly transition.
One of Australia’s security challenges is its exposure to frequent and extreme weather events. The energy sector – from production and generation to transport and distribution – will need to be more resilient to better cope with ever more disruptive storms, flooding, wildfires, and heat waves. Australia has yet to complete a comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts on the energy sector outside of electricity. A national-level energy sector plan that lays out future steps for climate resilience is needed.
Australia also has the potential to play a key role in providing critical minerals and new technologies for clean energy transitions globally. It produces cobalt, rare-earth elements, and lithium, of which it is the single largest producer. In 2022, Australia’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project produced and transported liquified hydrogen to Japan, the world’s first such shipment. Australia has a broad range of demonstration projects for low-emission hydrogen and carbon capture and storage development, which are also critical for the decarbonisation of industrial sectors where emissions are hardest to reduce.
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