USAID Clean Energy Projects Reduce Emissions While Growing Economies

By Bill Breed, Jennifer Leisch

Around the world, countries are developing and implementing clean energy strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate their contribution to climate change.

USAID works with partner countries on low emission development strategies, policies and frameworks to scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Clean Energy programs improve energy security, lower energy costs and advance economic growth, all while lowering GHG emissions. USAID’s clean energy efforts are part of the larger U.S. Government’s flagship program, Enhancing Capacity for Low Emissions Development Strategies.
USAID has decades of experience helping countries reform their energy sectors, achieve greater energy efficiency and deploy small-scale clean energy. Since the launch of the U.S. Global Climate Change Initiative in 2010, USAID has taken a more ambitious, economy-wide approach to help countries dramatically increase their use of clean energy.

The Agency’s clean energy programs have focused on helping countries create and implement policies and regulations that level the playing field and allow clean energy to compete with traditional energy sources, as well as improving countries’ access to emissions and energy data, economic analysis, and information about best practices for cost-effective, low-emission development options.

The programs have also helped countries implement grid and energy efficiency improvements and install renewable energy systems.


Solar PV and Wind Energy Generation Capacity versus Cost of Electricity. Significant decreases in the costs of solar PV and wind energy globally since 2010 have coincided with a large increase in renewable energy installations across EC-LEDS partner countries. [Includes all EC-LEDS partner countries except India. The adoption of RE in India dwarfs the adoption of RE in other developing countries. The start of significant RE adoption also started several years prior to the rest of the EC-LEDS partner countries]. Source:

Some key insights and lessons learned that are informing USAID’s ambitious approach to clean energy programs include:

  • Policymakers and investors are not fully aware of the business opportunity created by falling clean energy prices.
  • Competition among power generators can bring down the price of clean energy and stimulate greater demand.
  • Clean energy zones can concentrate energy production in the most cost-effective areas and optimize investment in new transmission infrastructure.
  • Electricity grid enhancements and grid integration are critical to including more renewable energy into the power system.
  • Clean energy plays an important role in stable, high quality power supply.
  • Clean energy provides energy security, reducing dependence on imported fuels and technologies, and diversifying a country’s energy portfolio.
  • Clean energy provides opportunities for economic growth and development of local industry and jobs.

These lessons can also be helpful for USAID’s implementing partners and other organizations that are supporting clean energy projects in developing countries.

The recently released USAID Climate Action Review: 2010-2016 highlights USAID’s most significant clean energy achievements including:

1. Developing guidance on emerging topics and best practices. USAID’s Greening the Grid program gives India, the Philippines and other countries the tools they need to improve the integration of clean energy into power grids, a prerequisite for large-scale deployment of wind and solar power.

2. Supporting laws, regulations and policies to promote transparency and foster competition in the energy sector. Highlights include work in Vietnam, where USAID helped the government establish laws and policies to support energy efficiency, including the Vietnam Energy Efficiency Building Code. Another important policy milestone was reached in Georgia, where USAID helped the Energy Regulatory Commission develop clear rules for connecting small clean energy resources to the grid and compensating for any electricity these sources generate.

3. Providing technical assistance to support market-based approaches such as reverse auctions. In Afghanistan, Mexico and El Salvador, USAID technical assistance supported reverse auctions, which reward the lowest price that investors can offer for energy production. USAID support has enabled more than 300 prospective clean energy investments worldwide with a projected value of more than $12.5 billion.

4. Promoting micro grid and off-grid solar technologies. USAID helps countries bring electricity to isolated and rural communities, including in Colombia and the Philippines,  and in particular in Africa through the Power Africa program.

5. Leveraging partnerships to increase access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. USAID’s Power Africa program works at all scales to promote clean energy. For example, USAID helped the Kenyan government determine the national grid’s capacity to integrate renewable energy which led to the signing of a power purchase agreement for the Lake Turkana wind project.

See additional examples of related achievements detailed in the report.
USAID will continue to work with governments, utilities and investors to help its partner countries take part in the global clean energy transition underway.

The USAID Climate Action Review: 2010-2016 highlights the achievements of USAID and its partners since the launch of the US Global Climate Change Initiative in 2010. The report describes the evolution of USAID’s approaches, summarizes major achievements, distills lessons learned and shares examples from adaptation, clean energy, sustainable landscapes, and climate change integration activities in over 40 countries.

Energy, Adaptation
Strategic Objective
Private Sector Engagement, Partnership, Mitigation, Emissions, Climate Policy, Clean Energy

Bill Breed

Bill Breed is Chief of the Analysis, Innovation and Demonstration Division in E3’s Global Climate Change Office, with a staff of 14; he transferred to USAID in 2004. Bill was highlighted as the ClimateLinks Climate Champion for November.  He was recognized by the IPCC for contributing to its receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Bill has over 31 years of federal service, including at the Department of Energy and the Naval Oceanographic Office.

Jennifer Leisch

Jennifer Leisch is a Climate Change Mitigation Specialist in USAID’s Global Climate Change Office, supporting the U.S. Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) initiative. Jennifer leads USAID’s Greening the Grid program, providing tools and best practices, and pilots approaches to bringing grid-connected renewable energy to scale. Jennifer works with USAID field staff to desig, implement, and evaluate clean energy projects, and supports reporting emissions reductions as a result of USAID clean energy projects.

More on the Blog

When women are able to fully participate and lead in the workforce, we know that businesses prosper. Research shows that gender and ethnically diverse companies outperform industry standards by 25 percent.
This blog series features interviews with the winners of the 2020 Climatelinks Photo Contest. This photo, submitted on behalf of Peru’s USAID Pro-Bosques Activity, is available on the Climatelinks Photo Gallery.
This blog series features interviews with the winners of the 2020 Climatelinks Photo Contest. This photo, submitted on behalf of SERVIR West Africa, is available on the Climatelinks Photo Gallery.