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Making clean energy a key part of the global economic recovery

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Ministers from around world joined by leaders of international organisations and major companies in meeting focused on role of energy efficiency and renewables in stimulus plans.

The International Energy Agency and the Government of Denmark today hosted a high-level roundtable meeting in which government ministers and business leaders from around the world discussed the importance of making clean energy a central part of the global economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

Co-chaired by Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities of Denmark, and Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, the virtual meeting focused in particular on the potential of energy efficiency and renewables – two of the key pillars of clean energy transitions – to create jobs, enhance economic competitiveness and improve the resilience of energy systems.

Leading participants included Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission; Simonetta Sommaruga, President of Switzerland; Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources of Canada; Elisabeth Borne, Minister for an Ecological and Inclusive Transition of France; and R.K. Singh, Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy of India. A full list of the main participants is provided lower down in this article.

“Putting clean energy at the heart of stimulus plans is an excellent strategy for revitalising economies while building a more secure and sustainable energy future,” said Dr Birol. “I am delighted that such a high-profile and diverse group of ministers and leaders – in large part from countries supporting the IEA’s Clean Energy Transitions Programme – joined us today for this vital conversation during such challenging times. I warmly thank everyone for their contributions, and Minister Jorgensen for his leadership.”

At the meeting, ministers from around the world highlighted the extraordinary challenges governments are confronting as a result the immediate public health and economic crises – and their desire to make well-informed decisions in their plans to rekindle economic growth as their countries emerge from confinement.

“In the face of human tragedy and the plethora of consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have also been handed an opportunity to rebuild society in a manner that makes it more resilient to future crises,” said Mr Jørgensen. “The choices we take now to kick-start our economies will also determine our ability to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The impressive turnout at today’s roundtable is a clear indication that this approach resonates in many capitals, and I would like to thank all participants, and of course my great co-host Fatih, for their invaluable contributions.”

The aim of the roundtable event was to catalyse and elevate the conversation among governments on the best ways to achieve the mutual benefits that clean energy transitions and economic recoveries can bring to one another.

“Today’s discussion provided ample food for thought. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are both cornerstones in our fight against climate change, and at the same time both sectors have massive job potential,” Mr Jørgensen said. “As we look to stimulate the economy, it only makes sense to design our interventions in ways that takes advantage of these synergies. Not only will that allow us to create even more green jobs, it will also support and underpin our efforts to keep global temperature rise to manageable levels.”

The meeting is expected to be the first in an ongoing series of high-level discussions about accelerating the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in order to spur renewed economic activity and put the world on track to meet international climate goals and other sustainability objectives.

“It was very encouraging to hear governments reaffirm their commitments to support renewables, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies despite the current crisis,” said Dr Birol. “As the leading global energy authority covering all fuels and all technologies, the IEA will continue to support governments with the highest quality data, analysis and advice to inform the enormously consequential decisions they are making as they design their stimulus packages. It is crucial to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past: although emissions fell as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis, they soon rebounded sharply. We must learn from that experience.”

Key IEA reports and events coming soon:

  • In June, the IEA will release a new World Energy Outlook special report that will provide hard numbers on the economic and job-creation potential of building a more resilient and cleaner energy sector.
  • The Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency will soon publish its recommendations, providing actionable recommendations to governments around the world on how they can act quickly to accelerate energy efficiency progress.
  • In early July, the IEA will release the first instalment of our revamped Energy Technology Perspectives report, the world’s guidebook on clean energy technologies. The July release will have concrete advice on how governments can accelerate technology innovation even in this time of crisis.
  • On 9 July, the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit take place. This major global event will bring together a very large group of ministers and key energy decision-makers in an effort to identify ways to step up real-world action.

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World Bank Project to Boost Household Access to Affordable Energy

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Today, the World Bank Board of Directors approved $150 million in financing to improve access to modern energy for households, enterprises, and public institutions in Rwanda and to enhance the efficiency of electricity services. $75 million will be provided as grant funding, and $75 will be provided as a loan.  

Building on the achievement of previous World Bank support to the energy sector, the Rwanda Energy Access and Quality Improvement Project (EAQIP) will advance Rwanda’s progress towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, while also contributing to the country’s aim of reducing reliance on cooking fuel by 50%.

“The proposed project is well-timed to build on the World Bank’s decade-long support to the Government’s energy sector agenda. It will contribute directly to Rwanda’s push toward universal energy access by 2024 and universal access to clean cooking by 2030”, said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda. “We are honored to be a long-term partner in this journey.”

Rwanda EAQIP aims to improve electricity access by providing funding for the country’s ongoing program of expanding grid connections for residential, commercial, industrial, and public sector consumers, as well as by providing grants to reduce the costs of off-grid solar home systems. The project will also enhance the availability and efficiency of low-cost renewable energy by restoring capacity at the Ntaruka Hydro-Power Project, reducing voltage fluctuations on transmission lines, and supporting the national smart meter program.

The project includes the World Bank’s largest clean cooking operation in Africa, and the first project co-financed by the recently launched Clean Cooking Fund (CCF), hosted by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). The CCF will provide $20 million for clean cooking, with $10 million provided as a grant and $10million extended as a loan. The project targets 2.15 million people, leveraging an additional US$30 million in public and private sector investments. By incentivizing the private sector and improving the enabling environment, the project aims to develop a sustainable market for affordable clean cooking solutions in Rwanda. 

The project is part of the Rwanda Universal Energy Access Program (RUEAP), which coordinates the efforts of development partners supporting the energy sector to contribute to the achievement of the targets set out in the National Strategy for Transformation (2017-24).

“The World Bank is proud to have led the RUEAP on behalf of the development partners, including the French Development Agency (co-financing the EAQIP). The World Bank looks forward to supporting the implementation of the ongoing program and expects to report positive outcomes in the lives of Rwandans” said Norah Kipwola, World Bank Senior Energy Specialist and the project Task Team Leader.

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Reaching energy and climate goals demands a dramatic scaling up of clean energy technologies

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A major effort to develop and deploy clean energy technologies worldwide is urgently needed to meet international energy and climate goals, particularly in order to reduce carbon emissions from areas beyond the power sector such as transport, buildings and industry, according to a new IEA report released today.

With global carbon emissions at unacceptably high levels, structural changes to the energy system are required to achieve the rapid and lasting decline in emissions called for by the world’s shared climate targets. The IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 – the first core ETP report for three years following a revamp of the series – analyses more than 800 different technology options to assess what would need to happen to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 while ensuring a resilient and secure energy system.

It finds that transitioning just the power sector to clean energy would get the world only one-third of the way to net-zero emissions. Completing the journey will require devoting far more attention to the transport, industry and buildings sectors, which today account for about 55% of CO2 emissions from the energy system. Much greater use of electricity in these sectors – for powering electric vehicles, recycling metals, heating buildings and many other tasks – can make the single largest contribution to reaching net-zero emissions, according to the report, although many more technologies will be needed.

“Despite the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 crisis, several recent developments give us grounds for increasing optimism about the world’s ability to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach its energy and climate goals. Still, major issues remain. This new IEA report not only shows the scale of the challenge but also offers vital guidance for overcoming it,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

“Solar is leading renewables to new heights in markets across the globe, ultralow interest rates can help finance a growing number of clean energy projects, more governments and companies are throwing their weight behind these critical technologies, and all-important energy innovation may be about to take off,” Dr Birol said. “However, we need even more countries and businesses to get on board, we need to redouble efforts to bring energy access to all those who currently lack it, and we need to tackle emissions from the vast amounts of existing energy infrastructure in use worldwide that threaten to put our shared goals out of reach.”

Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 (ETP 2020) examines how to address the challenge of long-lasting energy assets already operating around the world – including inefficient coal power plants, steel mills and cement kilns, most of which were recently built in emerging Asian economies and could operate for decades to come. It finds that the power sector and heavy industry sectors together account for about 60% of emissions today from existing energy infrastructure. That share climbs to nearly 100% in 2050 if no action is taken to manage the existing assets’ emissions, underscoring the need for the rapid development of technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture.

Ensuring that new clean energy technologies are available in time for key investment decisions will be critical. In heavy industries, for example, strategically timed investments could help avoid around 40% of cumulative emissions from existing infrastructure in these sectors. Accelerated innovation is crucial for this – and for scaling up the clean energy technologies needed across the energy system.

Hydrogen is expected to play a large and varied role in helping the world reach net-zero emissions by forming a bridge between the power sector and industries where the direct use of electricity would be challenging, such as steel and shipping. In the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario – a pathway for reaching international energy and climate goals – the global capacity of electrolysers, which produce hydrogen from water and electricity, expands to 3 300 gigawatts in 2070, from 0.2 gigawatts today. In 2070, these electrolysers consume twice the amount of electricity that China generates today. Carbon capture is also employed across a range of sectors in the Sustainable Development Scenario, including the production of synthetic fuels and some low-carbon hydrogen. And modern bioenergy directly replaces fossil fuels in areas like transport and offsets emissions indirectly through its combined use with carbon capture.

The blistering pace of technological transformation that would be necessary for the world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is explored in the report’s Faster Innovation Case. It finds that to meet the huge increase in demand for electricity, additions of renewable power capacity would need to average around four times the current annual record, which was reached in 2019.

Governments need to play an outsized role in accelerating clean energy transitions towards meeting international goals, according to ETP 2020. The report highlights core areas that policy makers need to make sure they address. And it notes that economic stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis offer a key opportunity to take urgent action that could boost the economy while supporting clean energy and climate goals.

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CSOs to ADB: End dirty energy legacy, ban coal

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Days before the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Annual Governors Meeting, civil society groups challenged the bank anew to jumpstart Asia’s energy transition by decarbonizing its energy investment portfolio.

The call was made in a webinar and publication launch on Friday, where the groups said “Leaving behind ADB’s Dirty Energy Legacy” must begin with a formal ban on coal investments.

“Thanks to the lenient Energy Policy it adopted in 2009, ADB is guilty of having shaped Asia’s energy sector into its carbon-intensive state today. No amount of renewable energy investments could cover up the bank’s role in advancing the myth of clean coal and the fact that half of the total installed capacity of power generation projects it funded the past decade is from fossil fuels,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED).

Arances said that with the worsening climate crisis, deteriorating air quality, increasing viability of renewable energy, and environmental and economic imperatives highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic on the need for a green recovery, the imperative to decarbonize is clear.

“The critical reflections we from civil society offer today mirror what the bank’s Independent Evaluation Department reported: that ADB needs a new energy policy that accurately responds to the region’s needs. In doing so it must live up to its role in global energy transformation, which it can begin by completely leaving coal in its dirty past,” Arances said.

Prior to its release today, the publication has been used by CEED and NGO Forum on ADB, a network of over 250 civil society organisations across Asia, in engaging the bank’s energy decision-makers towards a full transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.

“The Taal volcano eruption, Australian forest fires, floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the typhoons in the USA all struck within a span of 7 months amid COVID-19. If there ever was a time to be climate responsible for ADB, it is now,” said Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of NGO Forum on ADB.

Forum representatives Vidya Dinker of Growth Watch in India, Hasan Mehedi of Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) in Bangladesh, and Richard Kahulugan of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice were present in the webinar to express a unified call for an end to ADB’s advancement of dirty energy in their countries.

“The ADB IED Evaluation on ADB’s Energy Policy recommends ending coal power for Asia-Pacific. We as NGO Forum on ADB demand that the ADB Board of Directors and ADB Senior Management take heed of this recommendation and act swiftly towards an immediate end on all coal and coal-related power and forge towards a just transition to limit global temperature rise to the Paris goal of 1.5°C. ADB must end coal, and end it now. We are out of time,” said Hassan.

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