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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Sept/Oct 2002 : Special Section

Special Section

Power to the People

Advancing clean energy enterprises worldwide.

A number of governments and private organizations made specific commitments during the recent Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development to show their support for renewable energy and energy efficiency. For instance, a group of nine major electric companies signed agreements to undertake sustainable energy projects in developing countries. In addition, the European Union (EU) announced a $700 million partnership initiative on energy.

U.S Initiatives
For its part, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) committed to provide $43 million in 2003 for a Clean Energy Initiative, which will aim to provide millions of people with access to new energy services, to increase the efficiency of energy use and reduce deaths from air pollution by changing the way people use energy for transportation and in their homes. The United States expects to attract an additional $400 million in investments in the initiative through partnerships with other governments and organizations.

DOE is contributing to the initiative through its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). International projects are now being conducted by EERE in countries such as the Ukraine, Poland, Russia, China, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Ghana.

“Sustainable development in any country calls for an increased use of renewable energy and the efficient use of all energy resources,” said Robert G. Card, Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment at the U.S. DOE. “The United States has a quarter-century of experience in developing and using these technologies, working with our research laboratories, public-private partnerships, states and non-governmental organizations. We are committed to sharing this experience with international partners as we work together for a sustainable future.”

The U.S. Initiative has three goals:
* Energy Efficiency for Sustainable Development to reduce waste, save money, improve reliability and optimize investments in new generating capacity.
* The Global Village Energy Partnership to bring electricity to the two billion persons in the world now without it and to another billion who experience frequent supply disruptions.
* Healthy Homes and Communities to promote cleaner transportation fuels and healthier indoor cooking and heating equipment.
Card also highlighted a number of DOE’s international efforts that include:
* The energy efficiency investments at the Gostomel glass plant in Kiev, Ukraine. DOE supported an energy-saving audit at the plant—one of several audits under a DOE- and USAID-project—which led to an investment of $2.7 million with a payback of three years.
* A pilot project in China that is replacing existing motors with energy-efficient motors and showing a payback period of seven months.
* The Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program (CLASP), a program seeking the harmonization of international standards and labels. CLASP is led by the International Institute for Energy Conservation, the Alliance to Save Energy and DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. CLASP is active in China, Mexico, India, Brazil, Ghana and Poland.
* Renewable resource assessment and mapping to provide a developing country with basic information about its unique mix of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other renewable resources. DOE will draw on its experience with renewable village power projects in Chile, Russia, China, Mexico, Brazil and other regions.
* DOE Clean Cities International which has worked with international partners to create border coalitions in Tijuana, Juarez and Monterrey, Mexico; and in Winnipeg and Toronto, Canada. The DOE is creating coalitions in Mexico City; Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; New Delhi, India; and Manila, the Philippines.

Additionally, the DOE issued a compendium of sustainable energy and water success stories. The report, “Energy and Water for Sustainable Living: A Compendium of Energy and Water Success Stories,” can be accessed electronically at ewsl.html.

Global Efforts
The United Nations is also launching a new initiative, called the Global Network on Energy for Sustainable Development (GNESD). Initially comprising 10 centers in 10 developed and developing countries, the GNESD will help promote the research, transfer and deployment of green and cleaner energy technologies to the developing world.

Speaking at the launch at the World Summit, Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said, “The provision of environmentally sound energy services are integral to poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

“Over two billion people in developing countries do not have access to reliable forms of energy,” he continued. “Nine out of 10 Africans have no access to electricity. Providing clean energy on a sustainable basis is not only vital for fighting environmental issues like global warming, but for reducing poverty and misery in Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America.”

Access to affordable, modern energy services is increasingly seen as a pre-requisite for sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Access to energy is a condition for achieving the UN’s Millennium Development goals including the goal to halve the proportion of people in poverty by 2015, a major element of the discussions in Johannesburg.

For one-third of the world’s population, dependence on traditional fuels results in many hours spent each day gathering wood, animal and crop waste. Moreover, limited access to adequate and appropriate energy, including electricity, means that value-adding, income-generating activities are constrained.

The consequences for the environment of present energy production and consumption patterns are also significant. For example, in developing countries, the widespread use of traditional fuels for indoor cooking and heating results in serious respiratory diseases and loss of life related to indoor air pollution, as well as a contribution to deforestation, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas.
Air pollution in developing countries is one of the four most critical global environmental problems. Such pollution causes an estimated two million excess deaths per year, or five percent of the global burden of disease. At the global level, emissions of greenhouse gases, which mostly originate from the use of fossil fuels, (presently 80 percent of the world’s primary energy comes from fossil fuels), will have to be reduced in order to combat global warming. Solving the climate change challenge means reducing global dependence on fossil fuels.

The new Global Network on Energy for Sustainable Development (GNESD), hopes to achieve its goals by strengthening collaboration between existing “centers of excellence” that work on energy, development and environment issues. And, through these centers, influence sustainable energy policies, strategies and programs.

“The underlying rationale of the network is that it increases the capacity of developing country research institutions to look at energy for sustainable development issues,” says Mark Radka, head of UNEP’s Energy Unit. “Furthermore, it creates a shared research and information base on policy and technical guidance, advice and information. Critically, the network will help all partners to develop and apply policies suitable to the needs and constraints of developing countries, thus supporting the use of energy as an instrument for poverty alleviation and sustainable development,” he said.

Promising advances in energy-related technology hold a great potential for sustainable development, particularly regarding renewable energy and energy efficiency. A number of technology options (energy from wind, “new” biomass, solar, geothermal sources) have been advanced to a state of technical reliability, and technological developments continue to reduce costs. The challenge remains to introduce or scale up the application of sustainable energy services. Similarly, policy and regulatory challenges remain if these are to become commercially viable options and able to compete with conventional and environmentally harmful energy options that typically benefit from favorable pricing conditions and perverse policy incentives. “Technological solutions to energy problems are available today. We now need the political will and action to implement them,” UNEP’s Toepfer said.

“The choices humankind makes on energy in the next decade will largely determine the history of the 21st century and, in particular, whether we are able to put ourselves securely on the path to sustainable development,” he said.

Energy Enterprises
The GNESD announcement followed the release on August 30th of a report detailing how NGOs can work together with entrepreneurs to jump-start clean energy enterprises in developing countries. Released jointly by the UN Foundation and UNEP, it details how an innovative approach is bringing affordable, clean and efficient energy technology to the rural communities in Africa, Brazil and China as a basis for long-term, sustainable development.

Open for Business: Entrepreneurs, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development” details the findings of the $8.6 million partnership between the UN Foundation and UNEP. Their partnership with U.S. non-profit clean energy investor E+Co and a number of local NGOs called the Rural Energy Enterprise Development initiative (REED) combines small amounts of start-up capital with extensive enterprise development services to help new entrepreneurs create clean energy enterprises in Brazil, China and five African countries. In Africa, these new enterprises are offering energy efficient cook stoves, windpump repair services, the supply and service of solar home systems and energy efficiency services.

“The UN Foundation and UNEP have invested considerable resources in this effort because we believe that new and innovative approaches such as REED are needed to simultaneously address the multitude of development and environment challenges facing many of the world’s poorest countries,” said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the UN Foundation.

Many of the world’s poorest communities still rely on traditional forms of energy, mostly wood fuels, dung and crop wastes. These energy resources are often expensive, inefficient, and damaging to the health of humans and the environment. The resulting pollution is estimated to cost $150 to $750 billion per year globally.

“The economic burden of this pollution is staggering,” notes Toepfer. “We believe that it is the cause of four to five percent of the global burden of disease and is one of the leading causes of childhood and infant mortality.”

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