USAID's Climate Strategy in Action: Using Digital Data to Catalyze Clean Energy Transitions

By Sarah Bumbarger

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Solar panels sit atop the RC Cola bottling factory in Gijilan, Kosovo
RC Cola’s bottling factory in Gijilan, Kosovo, was able to install a 720kW solar PV system due to a private sector partnership and market linkages.

This blog is part of the USAID’s Climate Strategy in Action series. It expands on a winning photo from the 2023 Climatelinks Photo Contest to highlight how USAID is confronting climate change across sectors. It is also an update to Using Digital Data to Build Systems for Clean Energy Transitions published in June 2022, providing new information from the end of the USAID Kosovo Energy Security of Supply Activity.

As energy costs rise and global climate change impacts intensify, finding new ways to invest in clean, renewable energy is critical. However, assessing solar potential using traditional methods, and then financing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems (the solar panel systems used to generate electricity), can be slow and expensive. These factors dissuade both the businesses that would use these systems and investors who would fund them. 

The USAID Kosovo Energy Security of Supply (KESS) Activity, implemented by DT Global, pioneered a new approach to expand renewable energy access: using drones and Geospatial Information System (GIS) technology to improve market and investment information on PV solar power potential. By using drones, municipal data, and GIS technology, USAID KESS demonstrated how it is possible to quickly map and analyze rooftops for solar potential–thereby reducing barriers to encouraging the expansion of PV systems to support the changes needed to combat climate change in Kosovo.

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Map of Suhareke Industrial Zone from above
Map of Suhareke Industrial Zone showing solar potential, generated from GIS spatial analysis and showing solar radiation and potential solar PV output for each rooftop.

Beginning in October 2021, KESS provided technical assistance to 217 beneficiaries across seven regions of Kosovo, including 108 private households, 54 businesses, and 55 public enterprises or government agencies. From this support, which included surveys and feasibility studies, KESS identified a pipeline of 20.4 MW of viable self-consumption projects that would bring an expected reduction of 23,039.86 tCO2/year when implemented. These emissions reductions could contribute to the overall emissions reduction target in USAID’s Climate Strategy.

To promote solar uptake, KESS created an ArcGIS site, Kosovo Solar Assessment: Estimating Solar Potential in Kosovo, to share information on rooftop solar potential publicly and free of charge for government and individual households as well as for private sector businesses and energy investors who could help finance new PV systems. The KESS team also provided guidance and support on project preparation and financing for anyone interested in solar installations. These efforts for Kosovo’s energy and climate actions to be locally led, owned, and implemented align with the locally led development principle on which USAID’s Climate Strategy was built.

“By utilizing drone survey, photogrammetry, and GIS spatial analysis, we can survey hundreds of hectares and calculate solar potential for each rooftop in the surveyed area within a couple of days,” said Lorik Haxhiu, KESS’s Local Project Coordinator. “With the tools and workflow in place and our strong track record, we are in a position to replicate the process.”

In December 2022, powered by KESS’s digital assessments and using solar panels made in Kosovo, the Royal Beverage Company, a subsidiary of RC Cola in Kosovo, installed a solar PV system that has 720 kWp of solar capacity. This means that 15 percent of the company’s energy needs will now come from renewables, generating a carbon offset of 733.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year—the equivalent of removing 146 cars from the road for a year. At the end of the project, all the businesses and households KESS assessed were able to install over 16 MW of small-scale solar capacity, reducing greenhouse gases by an estimated 19,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide—equal to powering 4,000 Kosovo households for a year. 

KESS also improved the overall enabling environment for this type of renewable energy by supplying neutral information on solar potential. Providing this information—part of the essential due diligence process investors must make—helped to de-risk the Kosovar renewables market for investors. By showing how drones, software, and analysis can pay dividends in bringing renewables to market, KESS ushered in a new tool in the fight against climate change.

Country
Kosovo
Sectors
Climate Finance
Strategic Objective
Mitigation
Topics
Climate Finance, Climate Finance and Economic Growth, Clean or Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, Emissions, Energy, Systems Change, Urban
Region
Europe & Eurasia

Sarah Bumbarger

Sarah Bumbarger is the Director for Communications at DT Global. She writes and edits stories on topics such as energy, water and sanitation, climate change, digital solutions, economic growth, governance, diversity and inclusion, and peacebuilding for DT Global’s blog.

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