IRENA Side Event: Government Policies and Flexible Financing Needed to Scale-Up Renewables

In this latest round of climate negotiations, two things have become clear:

  1. There is an urgent need for rapid climate action to reduce global emissions.
  2. Phasing out fossil-fuels and scaling up renewable energy is the quickest, most realistic, most cost-effective way to achieve this.

What is not yet so clear is how best to achieve this scale-up of renewables in the world energy mix. Today, IRENA coordinated a side event with various public and private sector representatives to discuss this question, share success stories of renewable energy adoption, and discuss solutions.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin began the dialogue by providing some context based on IRENA research findings:

  • ECONOMIC: Renewables are now the most cost-competitive source of power in many parts of the world. Investment in new renewable capacity has exceeded investment in new fossil-based power generation capacity for three years running.
  • SOCIAL: The renewable energy sector employed 6.5 million people in 2013. Renewables brought power to 13 billion people off the grid in Bangladesh. 7 million premature deaths are linked to air pollution annually.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL: Renewables are 250 times less carbon intensive than coal. Doubling the share of renewables in the world’s energy mix would reduce emissions enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

(Presentation slides)

Two key areas that must be addressed in order to scale-up renewables are policy and financing. Representatives from Sweden and the United Arab Emirates discussed how government policies in their countries have enabled the implementation of renewables.

Policy Panel

“Sweden has the ambition to have a climate neutral society by 2050 and we are on track to meet this goal. Thanks to national policies, Sweden has achieved a 23% emission reduction since 1990 and our GDP has risen 60% during that same period. This proves that renewables make economic sense. Our dependency on fossil fuel has been reduced by half, and we are now one of the most renewable energy-dependent economies.” – Katja Awiti, Deputy Director General, Climate Department, Ministry of Climate and Environment Sweden

“The United Arab Emirates recognized early that our economy was based on one thing, oil and gas, so we needed to diversify. Renewable energy projects now make economic sense, specifically solar for our region. If renewables work in the UAE, they can work anywhere in the world.” – Majid Al Suwaidi, Chief Climate Change Negotiator, UAE

Representatives from the Climate Investment Funds and E3G further discussed the necessity of concessional financing in scaling up renewables. Concessional financing offers flexible or lenient terms for repayment, usually at lower than market interest rates.

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“This event is discussing a topic at the heart of what is going here at COP. According to the IPCC, 65% of our carbon budget has already been used. We need to rapidly scale up renewable energy projects and decrease emissions. CIF has already funded and implemented 61 projects towards this end.” – Mafalda Duarte, Manager of the USD 8.3 billion Climate Investment Funds

“Because most of the funding for renewable energy projects is up front and therefore involves a great amount of risk, concessional finance to buy down this risk is vital. This helps share risks with the private sector and makes projects more appealing to private sector funding.” – Dr. Amal Lee Amin, Associate Director of E3G

IRENA also offers concessional financing through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. The Project Facility has already earmarked USD 100 million in project funding over its first two cycles and will provide an additional USD 250 million in its remaining five cycles. Projects approved for funding to date include solar, hydropower, biomass, wind and hybrid projects in Ecuador, Mali, Maldives, Mauritania, Samoa and Sierra Leone.

New Initiative To Measure, Report and Enhance Action on Renewables and Efficiency

1GTThe 1 Gigaton Coalition was officially launched today at a special event hosted by the Government of Norway and UNEP at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru.

The coalition will help developing countries in particular promote achievements in reducing GHG emissions resulting from their actions on renewable energy and energy efficiency. It will help countries measure and report their GHG emissions’ savings, highlight their contributions to closing the emissions gap and encourage them to enhance their action in the energy sector.
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Speakers included IRENA’s Director General, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Executive Director of UNEP, COP 20 President from Peru and the UK Special Representative for Climate Change.

Head of IRENA and Peruvian Minister Discuss Renewables in Peru

Today, IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Amin, sat down with the Peruvian Minister of Energy and Mines, Eleodoro Mayorga, to discuss the evolution of the Peruvian energy sector. They discussed the integration of renewable energy into Peru’s system as well as how IRENA can assist the country in reaching its goal of 60% of electricity from renewable sources by 2024 as recently announced in the Peruvian Energy Plan.

Earlier this year, the Peruvian Government and IRENA cooperated on a Renewables Readiness Assessment for the country. The assessment identifies further actions that need to be taken to expand the share of renewables in Peru, as well as how to better complement rural electrification and improve on-going efforts to foster the development of bio fuel in the country.

Quote of the Day From Barbara Hendricks, Federal Environment Minister of Germany

Germany will continue the expansion of renewable energies to lower emissions from fossil-fuel power plants by an additional 22 million tonnes by 2020.

Overall it is a question of gradually tackling a key challenge: power generation in Germany needs to be almost carbon-free by 2050 in order to achieve our national and European climate targets. Replacing fossil power generation with renewable energies makes the biggest contribution to this.

Barbara Hendricks, Federal Environment Minister of Germany at COP 20 side event “Meeting national climate mitigation targets: Experiences from Germany and Mexico”

Action Needed to Balance Gender Disparity in Renewable Energy Sector

Today is Gender Day at COP 20, which is dedicated to advancing women’s contributions to climate change action. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, due to social status and gender roles, and can also play a key role in mitigation and adaptation efforts. Despite this, women are severely underrepresented in the decision-making process on climate change issues.

According to IRENA research, women’s talents and insights are also under-utilised in the renewable energy sector.

In all countries, gender stereotypes are a powerful roadblock which continue to restrict women’s participation in, and contribution to, the sector. But the nature of the gender gap is vastly different depending on where you are located.

In developed countries, where everyone has electricity access, women are still a minority in the renewable energy workforce, particularly among technical staff and management. Female employees make up roughly 20-25% of the sector workforce, with most women working in administrative and public relations positions. Among the key constraints are issues related to self-perception, mobility and skills. For example, the low percentage of women who graduate in the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields directly affects women’s participation in the renewable energy sector. Within the industry itself, barriers to women’s advancement relate not only to ingrained views and attitudes, but also to the way that workplaces are organised and influence the work/life balance.

In the majority of developing countries, women face day-to-day challenges related to cooking and lighting their households, especially in rural areas. They are often compelled to spend long hours collecting firewood and other materials for fuel, which markedly limits their ability to pursue education or find employment. In terms of employment, female employees are a minority in most rural renewable energy enterprises, particularly in managerial and technical positions. Limited capital and mobility, as well as socio-cultural restrictions, preclude a larger role for women in many modern renewable energy technologies.

Considering gender in the renewable energy equation can help address skill shortages in the industry while maximising socio-economic benefits. By removing existing barriers and working towards equal opportunity for the employment of women in the sector, the pool of talent can be substantially increased.

In developing countries, renewable energy employment provides an opportunity to address the disparity in poverty between women and men, especially considering that women represent 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion people in extreme poverty.

The inclusion of gender dimensions in renewable energy strategies and the empowerment of women in energy decisions can multiply renewable energy co-benefits, particularly those related to access, household consumption and micro-enterprises, where women are primary actors.

More information

Power to the People: Renewables Can Bring Power to 1.3 Billion With No Access

Great strides have been made in the last two decades to bring electricity to the masses, with 1.7 billion more people connected today than in 1990. Latin America has been a pioneer in this regard, boasting an electrification rate of 95%.

But much more remains to be done.

More than 1.3 billion people (30 million in Latin America) currently live their lives without access to electricity, and 85 million live without clean, modern cooking fuels.

Today, on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima Peru, a conference was held to address the issue of rural electrification. The Conference on Universal Access to Energy and Climate, organized by Acciona, highlighted projects underway to help address this issue and discussed funding, scalability and challenges to be overcome.

DG at Acciona EventIRENA’s Director-General joined the event to deliver a keynote speech, stating:

“There is an urgent need to scale-up development efforts aimed at achieving universal access to modern energy services. To meet the 100% energy access target by 2030, the pace of electricity infrastructure expansion will have to nearly double. In this endeavor, renewable energy has a crucial role to play.”

He argued that renewable energy technologies are cost-competitive, mature, modular, adaptable, environmentally friendly and have been proven to work in off-grid environments from Peru to Bangladesh.

So if renewables are cheap, good for the environment, and work so well, why aren’t they being implemented more? Here are a few reasons:

  • Ideology: In order to scale up deployment, the ideology needs to move from a project to project approach, to a market-level approach with targeted incentives and enabling policies.
  • Finance: We currently invest USD 9 billion a year on energy access, but USD 45 billion is needed to achieve universal access (but funds like ADFD are helping bridge this gap).
  • Capacity building: Adequate training and education are needed to support local implementation and decrease independence on foreign know-how.

Renewable energy technologies offer a pathway to leap-frog traditional energy infrastructure and meet the dual objective of increasing socio-economic development in an environmentally sustainable manner.

More information on providing modern energy access for all with renewables.

Covering the latest news from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and developments in renewables.