According to the International Energy Agency, global energy demand during the first quarter of 2020 declined by almost 4% relative to the same period in 2019 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and global lockdowns. Electricity demand was down by 20% in several countries, illustrating the magnitude of disruption of our society. Climate change emissions have fallen to levels similar to a decade ago. But once the world economy restarts, emissions gains will only hold if countries continue to decarbonize their electricity sectors. Falling solar and wind technology prices, ambitious climate change mitigation targets, and increased overall acceptance of renewable technologies are creating a friendly enabling environment for continuing the decarbonization of the sector if political will can stay the course.
While 2020 may mark a sea change in energy demand and consumption, it does not change the fact that, in many countries, energy access is still a problem. Although the number of people with access to electricity has fallen below one billion, many more people suffer from poor service quality, such as blackouts and brownouts.
Expanding access to modern energy services is a focus of USAID’s work in many developing countries. To improve energy access, USAID promotes generation, reliable transmission, efficient distribution, and affordable consumption. Additionally, USAID works with governments and utilities to achieve long-term improvements in governance and management of energy systems.
USAID also assists countries in modernizing their electricity generation infrastructure. Developing countries are leapfrogging the developed world in the pursuit of renewable energy, which contributes to climate change mitigation efforts and can improve energy access at the same time. USAID programs, such as projects Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SURE), assist in the development of long-term wind and solar solutions that will result in sustainable, reliable electricity for future generations. USAID’s collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (USAID-NREL Partnership) extends U.S. energy expertise to developing countries and offers free global technical platforms for advancing clean, modern energy systems. And programs such as Engendering Utilities ensure that the economic empowerment afforded by positive transformation in the energy and water sectors is extended equitably to women and other disenfranchised groups
A selection of recent and ongoing activities, as well as blogs, resources, and tools, can be found below.
Large-Scale Renewables are More Effective When Women are Included introduces a brief from USAID’s Advancing Gender in the Environment (AGENT) program titled, “Advancing Gender in the Environment: Making the Case for Gender Equality in Large-Scale Renewable Energy Infrastructure Development”. The brief provides information on how renewable energy projects have the potential to deliver better outcomes when they integrate women’s empowerment and gender equality strategies.
USAID-NREL Partnership Launches Resilient Energy Platform introduces a recently developed website, the Resilient Energy Platform, which provides resources, tools, and technical assistance for planning resilient, sustainable, and secure power systems. The blog also provides an introduction to the Power Sector Resilience Planning Guidebook, which covers threats, impacts, vulnerabilities, risks, and resilient solutions.
Assessing Climate Risks in the Energy Sector describes a paper from the Resources to Advance LEDS Implementation (RALI) Series, titled ”Climate Risk Screening Tools for Low-Emission Energy Development.” The paper highlights climate change risk screening tools available to help low-emission development planners, project investors and developers assess potential risks to new and existing energy programs.
The recently released Climate Finance Assessment: Opportunities for Scaling Up Financing for Clean Energy, Sustainable Landscapes, and Adaptation, from the Climate Economic Analysis for Development, Investment, and Resilience (CEADIR) project, provides a landscape analysis of recent climate finance. It also explores the different ways that donors, development assistance agencies, governments, financial institutions, impact investors, and private companies can accelerate financing for investments in clean energy, sustainable landscapes, and climate adaptation.
Bridging Climate Change Resilience and Mitigation in the Electricity Sector Through Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, produced by the USAID-NREL Partnership, describes how energy efficiency and renewable energy technical solutions can bridge action across climate change mitigation and resilience through reducing GHG emissions and supporting electric power sector adaptation to increasing climate risk. The paper is intended to aid countries in the design and implementation of policies, strategies, and sectoral plans that unite development priorities, climate change mitigation, and resilience.
The Scaling up Renewable Energy (SURE) project provides technical assistance and knowledge management in over 19 countries including India, Colombia, and Bangladesh. Auctions provide a transparent and competitive procurement framework for bringing on this new renewable energy. This brief Guide for Policymakers introduces key auction design concepts for energy ministries, utilities, regulators and others who make decisions on the design of renewable energy auctions. SURE will be releasing an Auctions Toolkit and three accompanying webinars this summer.
The Clean Energy Emission Reduction (CLEER) tool provides simple, standardized methodologies for calculating emission reductions from clean energy activities, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, biomass energy, and fuel switching. The tool is publicly available for general use by any organization that wants to estimate GHG emission reductions or projections for their purposes.
The Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) tool is an indicator-based tool that assesses the policy and regulatory environment for investment in sustainable energy. The tool establishes a framework to better depict the national enabling environment to attract public and private investment into sustainable energy. It aims to support government decision-making, inform country-level interventions, help stimulate policy dialogue, and identify a country’s priority areas for change.
The International Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (I-JEDI) model is a free, online tool for analyzing the economic impacts of renewable energy development around the world. I-JEDI estimates the employment, earnings, gross domestic product, and output from the construction and operation of renewable energy projects. The model results include total economic impacts, as well as impacts by industry (such as, construction, manufacturing, and banking services, among others).
The USAID-NREL Partnership supports clean, reliable, and affordable power in the developing world and assists with policy, planning, and deployment support for advanced energy technologies. The partnership addresses advanced energy system challenges, including renewable energy integration, grid modernization, energy efficiency, and power sector resilience. Access the project page to learn more about the global technical platforms developed through the partnership, including the Renewable Energy Explorer, Greening the Grid, and the tools mentioned above.
The South Africa Low Emissions Development (SA-LED) program supports the Government of South Africa’s Green Growth Agenda by strengthening the capacity of the public sector to plan, finance, implement, and report on low emissions development projects. SA-LED is a part of the USAID Enhancing Capacity for LEDs global flagship initiative, which supports more than 25 countries around the world.
The recently completed Resources to Advance LEDS Implementation (RALI) project assisted developing countries in speeding their transition to climate-resilient, low-emission, sustainable economic growth. The project provided tools and technical assistance to both USAID and partner countries in support of low emission development strategies. RALI shared lessons learned, supported evidence-based decision-making, and published the RALI Series, a collection of papers that share examples of low emission development in practice.
Stephan Hardeman is the Site and Community Manager for Climatelinks. He draws on more than five years of experience in communications for international environmental trust funds to support Climatelinks through USAID’s Sharing Environment and Energy Knowledge (SEEK) initiative by engaging the Climatelinks community and featuring its work. Stephan has MAs in International Affairs (American University) and Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (United Nations University for Peace) and BAs in English and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.