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Solar power charges pandemic recovery for indigenous farmers in Viet Nam

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Overcoming adversity has long been the stock in trade of Do Thi Phuong, a 42-year-old mother of two living in a small village in Viet Nam’s lush Lao Cai province. As the primary breadwinner in her family of six, Phuong is accustomed to being a rock for her family in hard times. Years ago, landslides wiped out all but four out of 42 household rice fields in the village, yet Phuong managed to provide.

But COVID-19 has tested her resolve like nothing else.

Phuong’s village has traditionally been home to indigenous groups that farm the land. Many in the community raise chicken and pigs – each household maintains between 1,000-5,000 chickens, from which they derive their primary income.

Over the last few years, livestock production, particularly poultry, has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in agriculture in Viet Nam. And though it accounts for the country’s second-largest share of meat production, 89.6% of poultry production1 is led by smallholder farmers, who are far more vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and unexpected shocks – like a pandemic.

Viet Nam has recorded just over 1,000 cases of COVID-19, but the economic repercussions of prolonged lockdowns have had a profound impact on rural markets.

Phuong paints a bleak picture: “The village roads that were usually busy with many traders coming to buy chickens, fish and cinnamon products, were empty,” she says.

For her family, this meant an income loss of 60-70%.

Before the pandemic, Phuong’s household would raise a batch of around 3,000 chickens, and at the time of sale, traders would shell out VND65,000 (about US$2.8) per kilogram. Raising three batches a year would net the family about US$6500.

When the crisis hit, travel restrictions and social distancing rules made it challenging for Phuong to sell her chickens. Chicken prices crashed. Phuong returned home every night with barely VND500,000-60,0000 (US$21-26), just enough to cover feed costs for the birds.

Her family’s electricity costs also doubled, with unsold chickens continuing to require food and electricity and the children spending most of their time at home. Their meagre income was stretched to its limits, even after cutting expenses and taking out a loan.

Empowering farmers

The turnaround came via a powerful patron: solar energy. Through UNEP’s EmPower project, Phuong is procuring solar-powered chicken incubation and ventilation equipment. The monthly electricity cost for heating, ventilation and lighting for chicken rearing will be almost zero with the solar system. EmPower and its partner CHIASE are helping Phuong to develop her business plan and to select and procure the most suitable equipment. Phuong is also receiving support to access a loan from provincial Vietnam’s Women’s Union.

It is not only Phuong who has benefitted. The green chicken coops are scalable, bringing in quick cash flows and helping struggling communities bounce back from the economic crisis. EmPower is supporting around 300 women farmers across Viet Nam to harness the benefits of renewable energy and establish new business models for livestock rearing, agro and herbal product processing, and noodles, fish, and fruit drying.

Benefits for indigenous populations

Indigenous women especially are benefitting. While often the primary breadwinners in their households, their voices often remain unheard where policy decisions are being made.

“By giving indigenous women a stake in renewable energy development, EmPower is helping to ensure that their voices are being heard,” says Annette Wallgren, Programme Officer for Gender and Climate Change at UNEP’s Office for Asia and the Pacific.

“Renewable energy livelihoods and enterprises at the local level will be critical to helping communities bounce back from this pandemic. We must also be aware of the needs and solutions that indigenous women can bring to the renewable energy sector, as custodians of the land and change-makers in their communities.”

Some positive progress has been seen on that front. Viet Nam’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement included a section on gender equality and prioritizing the mitigation of risks for vulnerable communities.

For Phuong, the new technology is a sign of hope. “I hope that I can use solar energy to save on the cost of chicken production and I hope it will help my family to recover from COVID-19,” she says.

UN Environment

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Policy Measures to Advance Jordan’s Transition to Renewables

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A new report published today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has identified a series of policy measures that can help advance the energy transition towards renewable energy in Jordan.

The “Renewables Readiness Assessment: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” – developed in co-operation with Jordan’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, suggests opportunities exist to deepen private sector engagement in national efforts to reach a 31 per cent share of renewables in total power by 2030.

“The recommendations of this report comply with the newly issued Energy strategy 2020-2030 and its action plan,” said H.E. Engineer Hala Zawati, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jordan. “We are fully aware that to achieve all these ambitious targets, a strong partnership between the public and private sectors is needed. We are also eager to work with international friends and partners to make renewable energy a main pillar of the Jordan energy sector.”

The report presents policy action areas to increase energy security and boost supply diversity through the accelerated uptake of renewables and includes ideas to boost end-use electrification and increase the availability of energy transition investments from domestic institutions.

Jordan’s share of electricity from renewables grew from almost zero in 2014 to around 20 per cent in 2020 thanks to enabling frameworks and policies that have supported the deployment of renewable energy technologies, including solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind.

“Jordan boasts significant renewable energy resource potential that if realised will reduce consumer energy costs, improve national energy security, create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth – boosting post COVID-19 economic recovery efforts,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “This report highlights a series of policy and regulatory measures that will allow Jordan to build on its energy transition progress to date and align it with 2030 national decarbonisation goals.”

Capacity building in local financing institutions and project developers can drive their engagement in the energy transition, the report says, while helping the country to meet its needs in important areas such as the build-out of electric charging infrastructure for the transport system.

Challenges associated with integrating higher shares of renewables in Jordan can be addressed by building and upgrading transmission and distribution infrastructure, deploying storage, promoting demand-side management and incentivising electrification of heating, cooling and transportation.

Renewables Readiness Assessment: Jordan lists concrete recommendations around the following seven action areas:

  • Provide the conditions for renewables to grow in the power sector
  • Foster continued growth of renewable power generation
  • Plan for the integration of higher shares of renewable power
  • Incentivise the use of renewables for heating and cooling
  • Support renewable options for transport and mobility
  • Catalyse renewable energy investment
  • Strengthen local industries and create jobs in renewables

Read the full report

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World Bank Supports Angolan’s Electrification with $250 Million

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The World Bank approved $250 million to improve the operational performance of the electricity sector utilities and increase electricity access in selected cities of Angola.

The  Electricity Sector Improvement and Access Project will finance electrification investments in the provinces of Luanda, Benguela, Huila, and Huambo, delivering 196,500 new electricity connections that will benefit close to one million people and 93,857 public lights.

The project will focus on electricity access expansion and improvement of revenue collection, electricity service improvement, capacity improvement of the public electricity producer (PRODEL, Empresa Pública de Produção de Electricidade), and strengthening sustainable management of generation plants. The project also aims to increase the commercial performance of the national electricity distribution company (Empresa Nacional de Distribuição de Electricidade, ENDE) as well as provide financing to the national transport network Rede Nacional de Transporte, RNT) for targeted interventions to improve and optimize the dispatch of electricity supply and the overall management of the national transmission network. Furthermore, the Project will also finance immediate measures to raise the operational, commercial and technical capacity  of  the three national power utilities, leading to significant electricity service improvement.

“Investment in infrastructure, especially in energy, is key to  economic development ”, said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Director to Angola “Quality access to electricity services will have a spillover effect in many other sectors, including agribusiness, health, education, just to name a few.”

Angola’s power generation capacity, largely based on hydropower, has developed at a fast pace with the national installed generation capacity quadrupling in just one decade, but transport, distribution and cost recovery remain very challenging. Less than 40 percent of Angolans have access to electricity, with inadequate electricity services impacting poverty, productivity and regional disparities. Therefore, the project aims to deliver the most critical actions needed to help expand electricity access, improve the operational and commercial performance of utilities, and ultimately boost their creditworthiness. This, in turn, will contribute to reducing extreme poverty, improving the resilience of communities to impacts arising from COVID-19, and increasing shared prosperity.

The total project cost is $417 million, financed with a $250 million loan from the World Bank and a credit of $167 million from Agence Française de Développement.

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IEA and SICA to collaborate on clean energy transitions in Central America

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The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote clean energy transitions in Central America. Under the MoU, the two organisations will expand their cooperation on energy data and statistics, energy efficiency and climate resilience of electricity systems. These have all been identified as key areas for energy transitions and climate change mitigation in the region under SICA’s Central American 2030 Sustainable Energy Strategy.

“The IEA is pleased to team up with SICA to expand our work in Central America, a dynamic region that is home to over 55 million people and has excellent clean energy potential with distinctive transition opportunities and challenges,” said IEA Deputy Executive Director David Turk. 

Under its Clean Energy Transitions Programme, the IEA has been expanding its collaboration in Latin America. This is taking place both bilaterally with key partner countries – including the two largest economies, Brazil and Mexico – and on a regional level through cooperation with leading regional organisations, including the Latin American Energy Organisation (OLADE) and the Inter-American Development Bank. The signing of the IEA-SICA Memorandum of Understanding is a new milestone for the IEA’s engagement with the region. 

“Today’s signing ceremony marks an important step for SICA’s work on clean energy transitions – an important priority for our member countries, which can now benefit from the IEA’s leading analysis and expertise,” said Vinicio Cerezo, SICA Secretary General.

The Central American Integration System (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana, or SICA) is an economic and political organisation composed of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá and the Dominican Republic, that works to foster closer ties and integration across Central America and the Dominican Republic to promote peace, liberty, democracy and development in the region.

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