Field of solar photovoltaic panels in Vietnam.
A large solar panel field in Vietnam.

Tackling Climate Change Mitigation in the Power Sector

By Sophia Peters, Michaela Palmer

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius demands a dramatically different power sector – one that helps reduce overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 7.6 percent globally each year from 2020 to 2030. De-carbonization of the power sector will be crucial to achieving this goal, as the power sector accounts for two-thirds of global emissions, but progress must accelerate. In 2020, renewable energy generated 28 percent of global power, while coal was responsible for 30 percent. Reducing GHG emissions in the energy sector will require innovation, decarbonization, deployment of renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, and electrification of end-use. With the Biden administration’s focus on climate at home and abroad, USAID Missions have a key role to play in climate change mitigation in the power sector.

New executive priorities on climate change will potentially impact USAID programming and Mission activities in many ways. Missions will need to understand their country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), review their country’s alignment with global climate change priorities, engage with private sector companies reducing their GHG emissions footprint, and actively incorporate climate change into their program planning. Programming solutions will span revising regulations and policy, integrating private sector participation in climate change and de-carbonization solutions, and promoting climate diplomacy through technical and private sector engagement to help countries meet their emission reduction targets.

Working with power sector entities will be integral to effective climate change mitigation strategies. Achieving climate change mitigation in the power sector will require large investments, comprehensive regulatory reforms, integration of more renewables, and an advancement of energy supply chain infrastructure. Focus areas along the energy supply chain include: 

  • making generation cleaner, less fossil-fuel based, and more localized; 

  • bringing online flexible and resilient transmission infrastructure to incorporate and store renewables; and 

  • improving distribution efficiency. 

Strong progress in these areas is already underway. Since 2016, many countries have proposed innovative ways to reduce GHG emissions by decarbonizing their power sectors, and the next several years will be critical to putting those plans into action. For example, with the support of USAID’s global Energy Efficiency for Development (EE4D) initiative, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab helped South Africa’s Department of Energy avoid 1.8 million metric tons of CO2 through revising mandatory energy performance standards for seven appliances. Despite awareness, the global decarbonization rate will need to increase – and do so quickly. Deployment of new technologies and innovative financing mechanisms can open up new paths to decarbonization, and alignment of power sector stakeholders like utilities, ministries, and financial institutions toward the same goals can help drive progress.

The Strengthening Utilities and Promoting Energy Reform (SUPER) Task Order can help interested USAID Missions and counterparts tackle power sector reform relating to climate change. SUPER aims to promote utility commercialization and equitable, effective reforms that will enhance the financial viability and long-term sustainability of developing countries’ electricity systems. Managed through the USAID/Washington Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI), SUPER is positioned to help Missions address climate change priorities in the power sector quickly and strategically. Examples of potential assistance include: 

  • identifying opportunities to modify and update NDCs; 

  • updating power sector plans to integrate new/updated targets; 

  • channeling corporate commitments to climate change to support power sector growth;

  • exploring electrification of end-use sectors; and,

  • mobilizing new sources of finance for climate change mitigation. 

This spring, DDI will be offering a training focused on the impact of administration climate change priorities on USAID missions and power sector programming. Tune in to learn more about what SUPER can do for your Mission!

Strategic Objective
Carbon, Emissions, Climate Change Integration, Climate Policy, Clean Energy

Sophia Peters

Sophia Peters is a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP in the Public Sector Practice. She is currently serving as the USAID Chief of Party for the Strengthening Utilities and Promoting Energy Reform Task Order. She has a background in clean energy and energy efficiency policy, electricity markets and supply chain, and power utility operations, with a specific interest to how consumers make decisions. She has worked in a number of emerging markets, on U.N. and UNFCCC policy as a Conference of the Parties participant, and as well as on federal-level U.S. domestic policy for the EPA and DOE

Michaela Palmer

Michaela Palmer is an Analyst at Deloitte Consulting LLP supporting the Strengthening Utilities and Promoting Energy Reform USAID Task Order. She has a background in environmental science, international development, and policy analysis. She has worked with various international development organizations supporting technical field team activity implementation, program operations and monitoring and evaluation reporting.  

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