Investment in West Africa – Renewables on the rise…

flag of the Economic Community of West African...
flag of the Economic Community of West African States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

REN21 recently participated at the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Investment Week in Accra, Ghana. Coordinated by ECREEE (the ECOWAS Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) this conference celebrated the second year of ECREEE’s RE Investment Initiative. This initiative works to reduce one of the main bottlenecks in region—the mobilisation of investments for RE infrastructure projects. Perhaps the most interesting part of the conference was the ten investor-ready clean energy projects from around the region. The range of project was impressive. Interested in a wave powered desalinisation plant in Cape Verde? How about pay-as-you-go solar technology in Nigeria or the commercialisation of biomass in Senegal? Regardless of geographic or technical preference it is clear that there is a real entrepreneurial drive in West Africa to increase energy access. Securing the necessary financing however still remains a problem. The financial environment is still too risky for most investors and the returns too low. However as presentation and discussions illustrated governments and development banks are stepping into the void; creative solutions are beginning to emerge. It will be interesting to see one year on how well these partnerships are able to fill this important funding gap.

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Powering the search for information

Here I sit, continuing to relish the quiet time in the office that summer affords. I know it won’t last long so I’ve been taking advantage of the calm to do some overdue research, catch-up on reading and delve a little deeper into a few renewable energy issues that have piqued my interest over the past months. This got me to thinking about the Internet, how we use it and ultimately the energy that is needed to search through billions of pieces of information and neatly line-up the results for one’s reading pleasure.

According to a recent article on Google by Felicity Carus (Guardian Professional) most of Google’s emissions come from its data centres. Google reckons it uses about 1% of worldwide data centre electricity, making it responsible for about 0.01% of total global demand. According to the same article, “…the energy used in 100 searches is equivalent to drying your hands, ironing a shirt or drinking a glass of orange juice. The energy used to answer the average search query is estimated to be 0.0003 kWh and one year of Gmail only emits 1.2kg of CO2”. Not a lot admittedly. But when you process data for over four billion daily search queries and approximately 425 million email users, these seemingly small numbers soon add up and are unlikely to slow as use of the ‘cloud’ continues to grow. Renewables can provide this needed power while avoiding CO2 emissions. However critics continue to point to the cost of electricity produced by renewables as being higher than that produced by conventional fuel sources. The comparison is specious. Continue reading “Powering the search for information”

National climate change policy is key to a successful international agreement

When it comes to climate change talks the UNFCCC is without a doubt the institution that’s paving the way. Two authors from GLOBE-International and CDKN, however, stress in a new paper “National climate change legislation: The key to more ambitious international agreements” to look beyond these talks and to turn the spotlight on domestic climate  legislation.

The key factor for successful international negotiations is the lively commitment on national policy level. The goals you want to achieve on domestic grounds, are the ones you most likely want to achieve on international as well. This might not come to a surprise at first, but quite often it seems we focus too much on the outcomes of the COP events that we lose sight of the importance of what is happening at home.

Three among a range of countries are primarily distinguished by the authors: South Korea, Mexico, and the UK They have advocated ambitious domestic legislations in terms of targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The overall motivation and reasons for them, as identified by the authors, are the same: competitiveness, confidence and knowledge.

I find the last two the most striking ones. Whereas competitiveness is an obvious reason and bound to the countries’ self interest, the last two, confidence and knowledge, are more ‘subtle’  and would not have necessarily crossed my mind first. And yet the authors argue that with a growing dedication to the topic, their knowledge grows around climate change impacts and they become more aware of opportunities associated with low-carbon development. They experience the co-benefits of energy-security, greater efficiency and resiliance, improved air quality and reduced vulnerability to price shocks.

It’s an interesting point of view that these countries are not acting in reaction to an international treaty, but are in fact the enabler of such. Therefore the report concludes that in order to develop a strong international climate treaty in 2015 under the Durban Platform, key countries should until then actively push their national legislations towards strong actions on climate change. Or to put it into the author’s words. Governments should:

  • Encourage the creation of cross-party parliamentary groups on climate change, supported by a dedicated secretariat.
  • Routinely engage with legislators before, during and after the annual UNFCCC meetings (as a minimum) to exchange views and build common understanding.
  • Support international processes to engage legislators, to help inform the development of climate change legislation, promote good practice and develop peer groups.


For reading the full report:


REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status Report- Main Messages

REN21’s Renewables 2012 Global Status Report notes that during 2011, renewables continued to grow strongly in all end-use sectors – power, heating and cooling and transport. Renewable sources have grown to supply 16.7 % of global final energy consumption. Of that, traditional biomass’s share has declined slightly, while modern renewable energy’s share has risen. In 2011, renewable energy technologies continued to expand into new markets: around 50 countries installed wind power capacity, and solar PV capacity was moving rapidly into new regions and countries.

Photovoltaic module prices fell by close to 50%, and onshore wind turbine prices by around 10%. These changes brought these two leading renewable power technologies closer to competitiveness with fossil-fuel alternatives such as coal and gas. China remained the leader, with $52 billion of renewables investment, excluding large hydro, closely followed by the US with $51 billion. Europe remains the biggest region for dollars invested, with $101 billion in 2011. Among the other major developing economies, the star performer was India, where the country’s National Solar Mission helped to spur an impressive 62% increase in renewable energy investment to $12 billion, the fastest investment expansion of any large renewables market in the world.

At least 118 countries, more than half of which are developing countries, had renewable energy targets in place by early 2012, up from 96 one year before, although some slackening of policy support was seen in developed countries. This weakening reflected austerity pressures, particularly in Europe, and legislative deadlock in the US Congress. Support for RE generation remains the most popular policy option with at least 65 countries and 27 states now having feed-in-tariffs.

As the world marks the UN “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” the REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status Report includes a special focus on rural renewable energy, based on input from local experts working from around the world. Renewable energy is seen increasingly as a means for providing millions of people with a better quality of life through access to modern cooking, heating/cooling and electricity.

Direct link for the 2012 GSR:

REN21 Renewables 2011 Status Report launched in ten countries

This year, for the first time since its initial 2005 edition, the REN21 Renewables 2011 Global Status Report was officially launched in ten countries around the world. The series began with a GSR2011 launch event in Fiji, followed by events in Germany, Ghana, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Singapore, the United States, Morocco, South Africa and Australia. The series of outreach events enabled people from the renewable energy community all around the world to participate at live presentations of GSR2011 key findings and engage in discussions about facts and figures presented in the report and the state of renewable energy in general.

The second GSR2011 Outreach Event was held by REN21 in advance of the IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre (IITC) Opening, on 7 October, in Bonn/Germany. The event was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) and brought together speakers Janet L. Sawin – lead author of the GSR, Jürgen Becker – State Secretary of the BMU, Mohamed El Ashry – Chairman of REN21, Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes – Member of the Board of BEE and Karsten Sach – Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation, BMU. The event was moderated by Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21. Presentation on the key facts and figures from the GSR2011, given by Janet L. Sawin, and other event details are now available here.

In Accra/Ghana, the launch event was organized back to back with the ECREEE Regional Workshop on Renewable Energy and Energy Access. Western Africa is a region where renewable energy data is scarce, the GSR launch amplified awareness of the fact that collecting, producing, and providing data on renewable energy is crucial for exploring the renewable energy potential in a strategic way. ECREE and REN21 will continue to work together for filling the existing data gaps in the region.

On the 1st of November, REN21 and IRENA jointly launched the REN21 Renewables 2011 Global Status Report in Abu Dhabi/UAE. IRENA Director General Adnan Amin opened the event and REN21 Chair Mohammad El Ashry presented the key trends and facts from the GSR2011.  The launch was held at the 17th Annual Energy Conference “Global Energy Markets: Changes in the Strategic Landscape” at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

In Cairo/Egypt, at the opening of 10th World Wind Energy Conference & Renewable Energy Exhibition dedicated to the theme “Greening Energy: Converting deserts into Powerhouses, the GSR2011 was launched in the first opening session entitled “Towards 100% Renewables,” moderated by Mr Hans-Josef Fell, Member of the German Parliament. The GSR2011 was met with great enthusiasm particularly in the context of the huge potentials of renewable energies for economic growth, sustainable energy supply and the creation of green jobs in the MENA region.

In Singapore, where the clean energy industry is expected to contribute S$1.7 billion (US$ 1,4 billion) to the GDP and create 7,000 jobs by 2015, the launch of the GSR2011 presented decision makers with a solid background on rapid renewable energy growth throughout the world and contributed to orient future energy policy decisions in the region towards renewable energy. The event was organized in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank at the Clean Energy Expo Asia, one of the flagship events of Singapore International Energy Week.

On the 15th of November, the GSR2011 launch took place in Washington DC, where the Worldwatch Institute joined Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), REN21, and a panel of energy experts. |Read more

During the last week of November the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report was presented in Casablanca/Morocco as well as at an IRENA/NREL workshop in Denver/Colorado. The Casablanca launch event was held together with a REN21 Renewables Global Futures Report Roundtable. The event was organized by REN21, World Future Council and the African Renewables Energy Alliance in order to gain a representative overview of future renewable energy development in Africa.

In Durban/South Africa. REN21 and the World Watch Institute held a COP17 press briefing on the Global Status Report followed by a Q & A session , under the title “How Long Until We Power the Globe with Renewables? – Insights from REN21’s Renewables 2011 Global Status Report”. Watch the event video.

This year’s series of Outreach events was closed by a GSR2011 launch in Melbourne/Australia, an event held on the margins of the “7th Australian Wind Energy Conference”, that took place on the 12th and 13th of December.

The launch of the REN21 Global Status Report triggered extensive press coverage; preparations for the 2012 edition of the REN21 Global Status Report have started, its launch is planned for June 2012.

RE & EE Events Listing: online, USA, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, South Africa

Welcome back to REEEP’s Events Listings after a few weeks’ break. Before I get onto the events a quick reminder that if you think you’re up to the top job at REEEP you have just two more days to submit your application – the deadline for applications for the all important job of International Director is this Friday 9th September. Click here for the details.

In my adopted home of France they call the start of September the ‘rentrée’ because everyone (including me) takes their holiday in August and the whole country seems to shut down. The rentrée is consequently a busy time of the year and it will be in the USA too – I’ve got news of three events there this month. For those of you not in the US I’ve got a couple of conferences in Belgium and Saudi Arabia in October and a call for papers for one in South Africa in 2012. And for those of you not in any of those places I’ll start with a webinar:

Continue reading “RE & EE Events Listing: online, USA, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, South Africa”

RE & EE Events Listing: Belgium & Singapore, plus energy awards

At the end of this Events Listing there’s some news of energy Awards that you may wish to apply for, but before that we’ve got a focus on buildings and cities, covering Europe and Asia. I’m a long way from any cities as I write, sitting here in the French countryside, but I have recently improved the insulation and therefore the energy efficiency of the building I’m in…

Buildings and cities – first priority for energy efficiency?

Commencing in 2005, the CONCERTO Initiative aims to empower governments to implement concrete strategies and actions which lead to sustainable and highly efficient energy outcomes. The initiative is a ‘test laboratory’ for new technologies and sustainable policies, involving 58 cities in activities ranging from constructing eco-buildings, and refurbishing existing building stock to implementing renewable technologies on to the energy grid. Continue reading “RE & EE Events Listing: Belgium & Singapore, plus energy awards”