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Organic waste has huge untapped potential to provide clean energy around the world

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The world’s biogas and biomethane resources could cover 20% of global gas demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to new IEA report.

The world is only using a fraction of the potential to produce gas from organic waste, which could cover around 20% of today’s global demand for gas, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency released today.

Modern societies and economies produce increasing amounts of organic waste – such as agricultural residues, food waste and animal manure – that can be used to produce biogas and biomethane, clean energy sources with multiple potential benefits for sustainable development. Biogas offers a local source of power and heat for communities, and a clean cooking fuel for households. Upgrading it to biomethane brings all the energy system benefits of natural gas without the associated net emissions.

“Biogas and biomethane can play major roles in a sustainable energy future, but for the moment we’re missing out on this opportunity to cut waste and cut emissions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “A push from governments can give biogas and biomethane the necessary momentum, with benefits across energy, transport, agriculture and the environment.”

Every part of the world has significant scope to produce biogas and/or biomethane. The availability of sustainable feedstocks for these purposes is set to grow by 40% by 2040, according to the IEA report, The Outlook for Biogas and Biomethane.

The largest opportunities lie in the Asia-Pacific region, where natural gas consumption and imports have been growing rapidly in recent years. There are also significant possibilities across North and South America, Europe, and Africa.

Most of the biomethane resources examined in the IEA report are currently more expensive to produce than the prevailing natural gas prices in their region, but the cost gap is projected to narrow over time. Recognition of the value of avoided carbon dioxide and methane emissions goes a long way towards improving the cost-competitiveness of biomethane.

The production and use of these gases embody the idea of a more circular economy in which resources are continuously used and reused – and in which rising demand for energy services can be met while also delivering wider environmental benefits.

“As governments seek to accelerate their clean energy transitions, they should not forget the importance of low-carbon gases such as biomethane and biogas,” added Dr Birol. “Among other benefits, biogas and biomethane also offer a way to bring rural communities and industries into the transformation of the energy sector.”

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IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit

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Ministers from countries representing the vast majority of global GDP, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will take part in the International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Transitions Summit on Thursday 9 July, gathering around a virtual table to discuss measures to boost economies, create jobs, reduce global emissions and make energy systems more resilient.

Ministers in attendance will represent almost 80% of global energy consumption and carbon emissions, making the Summit the highest-profile energy and climate discussion since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. They will include representatives of the world’s largest energy users: Minister Zhang Jianhua of China, Secretary Dan Brouillette of the United States, Minister R.K. Singh of India, Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans of the European Commission, and Minister Kajiyama Hiroshi of Japan.

Among the high-level participants will be António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Alok Sharma, Secretary of State of the United Kingdom and President of the upcoming COP26, as well as Ministers representing the countries that held the past two COP meetings. They will be joined by the President of the Asian Development Bank, the President of the World Economic Forum (Davos), CEOs from across the energy sector, major investors, and representatives from civil society.

“The IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit represents the key moment in 2020 to build momentum towards international energy and climate goals,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “Rather than letting the Covid-19 crisis undermine our clean energy transitions, we need to take advantage of the massive economic recovery plans to achieve a definitive peak in carbon emissions and put the world on path to sustainable recovery.”

In addition to two plenary sessions, the Summit will consist of high-level panels. These will focus on Accelerating Clean Energy Technology Innovation, co-chaired by Tina Bru, Minister of Petroleum and Energy of Norway, and Juan Carlos Jobet, Minister of Energy of Chile; An Inclusive and Equitable Recovery, co-chaired by Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources of Canada, and Aziz Rabbah, Minister of Energy, Mines and Environment of Morocco; and A Resilient and Sustainable Electricity Sector, co-chaired by Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, and Sontirat Sontijirawong, Minister of Energy of Thailand.

The IEA first announced plans to convene the Clean Energy Transitions Summit during its Ministerial Meeting in December – before Covid-19 became a global health emergency. As the pandemic escalated, the IEA led the calls worldwide for governments to put clean energy at the heart of their economic recovery plans in order to avoid the kind of sharp rebound in emissions that followed the 2008-2009 crisis. The IEA quickly refocused its work to analyse the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the energy world, conducting in-depth assessments across fuels, technologies and emissions trends – and developing policy advice for governments to help them respond.

In the lead-up to the Summit, the IEA brought together numerous Ministers and other international decision-makers from industry, the investment community and civil society to address immediate energy issues arising from the crisis. These Ministerial-level meetings included Economic Recovery through Investments in Clean Energy (April); Mobilizing Investments for Secure and Sustainable Power Systems (May); the Fifth Annual Global Energy Efficiency Conference (June); and the Africa Energy Ministerial on Covid-19 Impacts (June). Ministers from Denmark, the United Kingdom and Senegal, who co-chaired these three events with Dr Birol, will each share the main outcomes of these roundtables.

The high-level discussions at the Summit, which the public can watch live online, will draw on key IEA reports, most notably the Sustainable Recovery Plan and the Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation. Together, those two reports provide both near-term and longer-term strategies for improving economic development and meeting energy and climate goals.

You can watch the sessions on our livestreams here, and follow the conversation around the event on social media via the hashtag #IEASummit.

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The Gambia: World Bank to Strengthen Access to Energy and Water

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The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a $43 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA)* for The Gambia’s Electricity Restoration and Modernisation Project (GERMP). The additional financing was made available through reallocation of IDA18 balance, thus augmenting the Banks initial funding envelope for The Gambia by 20 percent.

The people of The Gambia face many challenges in terms of access to electricity and water. Nearly 50% have still no access to electricity, and in urban areas, about 69 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water. Further, the quality of services is weak due to frequent service outages, with some neighbourhoods not receiving water for days, weeks or even months at a time. While the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) has made significant improvements in its operational and financial performance in recent years, the utility has yet to achieve financial viability. Customers still face erratic supply of water and electricity, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This support will build on the ongoing efforts of the government to strengthen the electricity and water sectors, and further boost the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic through communications and targeted investments including hand washing facilities in the Greater Banjul Area,” said Elene Imnadze, World Bank Resident Representative.

The additional financing will further strengthen NAWEC’s transmission and distribution network, provide additional support to transform NAWEC into an efficient and credit-worthy utility, and expand the scope of the project to the water sector. Specifically, more than 1.6 million people will have gained or improved access to electricity; 17 km of transmission lines will be constructed or rehabilitated; 20 grid-connected photovoltaic system with storage will be installed; 20,000 water meters will be installed or replaced; and three water storage tanks will be repaired.

“This additional grant comes at an important moment in the reform process underway. We have already seen significant improvements in NAWEC’s performance. Additional resources will help to solidify these gains,” said Chris Trimble, Task Team Leader and Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank.

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ADB Approves $200 Million Loan to Modernize Power Supply, Distribution System in Nepal

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $200 million concessional loan to improve power supply and distribution systems in Nepal.

Nepal has made significant progress in electricity supply after years of chronic power shortages. However, its power transmission and distribution systems need further strengthening to increase network capacity, improve quality and reliability, and remove delays between generation hubs and load centers.

The project will finance, among others, the reinforcement and modernization of the power supply system in Kathmandu Valley, Bharatpur metropolitan area of Chitwan district in Bagmati Province and Pokhara of Kaski district in Gandaki Province, where supply interruptions are frequent and prolonged. The project also aims to support Province 2, where the quality of electricity supply is poor and about 20% of households are still without access to the national grid.

“The project will help sustain Nepal’s improved electricity supply momentum over the past two years. This will facilitate meeting future demand from commercial and industrial activities as well as from communities, particularly women, who can now benefit from electricity-based enterprises and focus on productive economic and social activities,” said ADB Principal Energy Specialist Jiwan Acharya. “It is also very timely because the project will create employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labor during the construction phase as the country adopts measures to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Complementing ADB’s loan, the Government of Norway is providing a $35 million cofinancing grant for the installation and upgrading of power distribution networks in Province 2 and various substations to evacuate hydropower in the country. In addition, it is providing a $5 million technical assistance grant for capacity development of the Nepal Electricity Authority to ensure that gender equality and social inclusion are strengthened, and new technologies are used to make electricity infrastructure resilient.

The project is aligned with the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation program on intraregional power trade through cross-border power exchange. The upgrading of substations in Khimti, Barhabise, and Lapsiphedi to 400 kilovolts will facilitate cross-border power exchange with India.

ADB and other development partners have been engaged in Nepal’s power system reform efforts, including the approval of the Nepal Electricity Regulatory Commission Act of 2017, which created the Electricity Regulatory Commission as an independent regulatory body with respect to tariff-setting and consumer protection.

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