Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

Zero-Emission Goals On July 20, 2022, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Minister Andrew Barr released the Zero Emissions Vehicles Strategy. This initiative aims to revolutionize the ACT’s motor vehicle market by heavily promoting the sale and purchase of electric vehicles. It requires an overhaul of incentives, with increased accessibility and availability of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) to gain resident support. However, some are concerned that the ambitious zero-emission goals aren’t mindful of how low-income residents will be affected.

Zero-Emission Goals

As of January 1, 2020, Canberra became the first non-European city to be powered completely by renewable electricity. The ZEV Strategy is the next step toward one of the capital government’s zero-emission goals to be carbon neutral by 2045. The ACT Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2020-21 reported that the transport sector contributed the most emissions, making up to 63.5% of all carbon emissions in the territory.

Last month, Canberra announced its plan to become the first city in the ACT to ban the purchase of new fossil fuel vehicles by 2035. The purchase ban includes motorcycles and small trucks.  Within the next eight years, the goal is to have 80-90% of compact vehicle sales be zero-emission.

Resident Reactions

Despite the initiative’s good intentions, some are concerned about how the zero-emission strategy will affect Canberra’s low-income residents. “[It’s] one of the main concerns for most people,” 22-year-old Alysha Muhamad Khairuldin told The Borgen Project. The part-time technical expert depends heavily on her car to get to work as public transportation is limited in the city’s suburbs. “[I’m] not sure how this will affect me personally but hopefully, when they do decide to proceed with this plan, they will make good changes including making it affordable.”

Another Canberra resident, 21-year-old Callum Stewart-Thomson, divides his time between attending classes and working two jobs. “I’m not super comfortable [with my current financial situation] and would prefer not to have to stress about money so much,” he told The Borgen Project. Like Khairuldin, he also depends on driving as his main mode of transportation. “I chose petrol because it was the cheapest option, I can’t afford any other options,” he said.

The National Roads and Motorists’ Association reports that full battery electric vehicles can start at $47,500 in addition to on-road costs in Australia. Financing concerns include registration, stamp duty and electric vehicle charging rates. Other worries include having a shorter travel range, longer “fueling” time and lack of charging stations.

Following Suit

Australia isn’t the only country aiming to decrease motor vehicle carbon emissions. Within the next 20 years, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark and parts of the U.S. will restrict the sale of new gas-fueled vehicles. Some cities have also begun introducing electric public transportation. It is predicted that by 2025, electric vehicle sales will triple to around 20.6 million.

Canberra’s ZEV Strategy includes expanding the current charging network. At least 180 new charging stations will be accessible within the next three years, with 70 to be completed this fiscal year. The ACT government also announced that all new multi-unit commercial and residential buildings will be required to include charging stations. The government is offering a $2,000 incentive for the installation.

Going Green for Less

There are further incentives to make ZEVs more affordable. The current registration system is weight-based, making heavier electric vehicles more expensive to register. The new registration system will be emissions-based. Until June 30, 2024, all electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles registered in the territory will receive two years of free registration. The same vehicles will also be eligible for an exemption from stamp duty, a document and transaction tax.

The Sustainable Household Scheme, running until 2026, is offering up to $15,000 in zero-interest, 10-year loans. Those who are eligible may use this loan for energy-efficient improvements, including ZEVs, charging infrastructure, installation costs and more. The loan may be used to cover the costs of one or more approved products up to the maximum amount of $15,000.

– Aishah French
Photo: Unsplash

SDG 7 fosters hope for India’s energy sector
India’s alignment with the Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) is something to be applauded. It has facilitated affordable, reliable and modern energy for all through investing in green hydrogen, sustainable energy transitions and a bio-economy. As a pioneer of sustainable economic models for developing economies, India has been taking steps to fight against climate change. With ambitions to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 while meeting 50% of its electricity needs through renewable energy sources by 2030, SDG 7 fosters hope for India’s energy sector.

SDG 7 provides a reliable framework for sustainability, encouraging the expansion of infrastructure and technology improvements. By incorporating renewable energy sources that mitigate global climate change, policymakers have showcased how SDG 7 fosters hope for India’s energy sector.

India’s Current Situation

As the third largest electricity producer, India’s energy sector has always faced scrutiny, with high carbon emissions demanding attention. Its reliance on coal as a primary source and imported oil as a secondary source of electricity create formidable sustainability hurdles. Additionally, with the impact of the pandemic weighing heavily on India, interventions and government policies to align with the SDG 7 have been necessary.

In response, the Indian government has initiated programs facilitating sustainable energy transitions. Economic opportunities incentivizing projects have helped India make transitions to clean energy. In August 2022, the Indian cabinet approved a national plan to increase its commitment to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45%. Numerous stakeholders have applauded this move, especially given its adoption of industry-standard recommendations to achieve net zero emissions. Also, the Indian government has mandated a better and more efficient transport system with plans to support its operations with renewable energy.

According to recommendations from General Electric, “The government should ensure that power producers comply with new emission standards by 2022 for India to meet its emission targets.” Such sentiments stem from the opportunities and challenges identified in the Indian energy sector, particularly with the scale of investments in renewable energy. Additionally, national policies within the energy sector are shifting to accommodate the development of an efficient electricity market, creating extensive progress in achieving clean energy.

Focus on the Bio-economy

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that India is achieving significant growth in its bio-economy, as it has grown eight times what it was eight years ago. Because of this, achieving net zero emissions by 2070 is a real possibility. Notably, the government’s continued support of its biotech sector has ushered in a new culture of doing business. Modi stated that “the number of biotech incubators has increased from six in 2014 to 75 now.” Identifying the contributions of diverse sectors in these achievements, he underlined Indian professionals’ growing momentum and reputation in the global market as it tracks sustainability principles.

The focus on the bio-economy has also spurred growth in the transport sector as modernizing this public resource demands strategic alignment. Mobility remains a crucial factor in India’s economy, and responses to sustainable and cheap transport have sought long-term energy solutions. According to Economic Times, “Market forces are acting upon balancing the energy mix in the short run and shifting fossil fuel load to clean energy in the long run.” Thus, such energy transitions forecast a sustainable future for India’s energy sector.

Focus on Green Hydrogen

In February 2022, India established a framework for producing and exporting green hydrogen. In its ventures, India has even sought help from global funders to facilitate low-rate loans for green hydrogen projects. The focus on green hydrogen reflects the country’s efforts in diversifying energy sources. According to the Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, R K Singh, “We achieved universal access to electricity by electrifying more than 18,000 villages in under 1,000 days and more than 28 million households in just 18 months in what was the largest expansion of access in such a short time anywhere in the world.”

Overall, these decisions affect billions of Indians reliant on electricity and forge a better framework to reduce their reliance on coal and oil. In this context, the contribution of the public and private sectors sustains the growing prominence of India’s clean energy. They contribute to its vision to facilitate 50% of its electricity needs through renewable energy sources by 2030, indicating that SDG 7 fosters hope for India’s energy sector.

– Hanying Wang
Photo: Unsplash

Electrification and Energy Expansion
Laos, which many know as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, sharing borders with Thailand, China, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. While Laos is one of the most impoverished countries in the region, its economy has significantly increased in the last 20 years, so much so that, in 2011, the World Bank upgraded the Lao PDR to lower-middle-income status. However, in terms of energy, not all citizens have access to electricity. The country has had difficulty expanding the energy sector due to factors such as “inaccessible terrain,” unexploded ordinances spread throughout the country, especially throughout rural areas, with some of those areas being more difficult to reach and some provinces having low economic growth compared to others. While expansion in the energy sector proves difficult, the Lao PDR has made a commitment to electrification and energy expansion in Laos to allow all its citizens to have access to electricity, especially as various organizations offer suggestions and plans for Laos to reach its energy goals.

The Current Situation

While the use of hydropower has helped Laos electrify the nation, increasing electrification rates from 15% in 1995 to 90% in 2019, around 5% of citizens still do not have access due to remote terrain locations that makes grid expansion difficult. Around 80.3% of rural areas and 97.4% of urban areas have access to electricity as of 2018. In response, the Lao PDR has an overall goal of enabling electricity access for a minimum of 98% of the overall population by 2030.

Observations and Recommendations by Organizations

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “in 2019, 80% of all [Laos’] electricity generation came from hydropower.” The CSIS recommends that the nation diversify its energy mix “beyond hydropower,” suggesting that Laos expands into non-hydro renewable energy due to its geographic advantage “for solar photovoltaic, wind and biomass energy” and especially as prices in the sector have diminished over the years.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recognizes that Laos has the potential to develop solar power, especially when many parts of the country are exposed to direct sunlight during the dry season. This would potentially “increase the share of non-hydro renewable energies to 30% of total consumption by 2025.” More than 18,657 households have access to small solar power systems as of 2017 and the Lao PDR has started several larger projects to expand access to solar power systems.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in partnership with USAID suggests that electrification and energy expansion in Laos through alternative renewable energies can help the country reach its import demands, which would allow Laos to rely less on other countries for electricity. By expanding in renewable energy sources, Laos can “increase electricity exports to regional neighbors to become the ‘battery’ of Southeast Asia” while also meeting domestic demands.

Plans for Electrification and Energy Expansion in Laos

In Laos, around 50 dams underwent construction as of 2020, a process that will allow more access to electricity for citizens. However, while hydropower from dams will provide more access to electricity, this strategy proves controversial, especially with environmental concerns and communities relying on rivers such as the Mekong to live.

In the search for alternative solutions, Laos is in negotiation with the Thai company Impact Energy Asia to build a 600-megawatt wind farm and have it complete by 2023. By developing the energy sector to become “affordable, inclusive and sustainable” while focusing on socio-economic development, the country can move toward achieving its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

USAID programs such as the LUNA II Project, implemented from March 2014 through September 2018, help to “promote more sustainable economic policies and a more balanced energy sector” in Laos. The project largely focuses on establishing “trade liberalization” for Lao and “trade capacity building” in both public and private sectors, which will allow improvement of trade and investment. This should allow Laos to expand into alternative, sustainable and renewable energy sources.

Looking Forward

While Laos has made improvements in access to electricity and other resources for the citizenry, this work has not yet reached completion. Fortunately, through suggestions from various organizations and their data collection, Laos is able to offer plans to reach more Laotians. The country stepping up to reach its goals for electrification and energy expansion in Laos will allow the nation to achieve its 2030 energy goals.

– Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Greece
Greece has significant potential when it comes to sustainable energy, with plenty of wind, water and sun to go around. The Greek government is implementing creative solutions to rapidly propel the advancement of renewable energy in Greece.

Green Energy in Greece

For years, Greece has lagged behind other European countries in terms of renewable energy, sticking with coal as a primary source of power. While other nations installed wind and solar farms, Greece’s primary energy producer, the Public Power Corporation (PPC) insisted on burning coal for decades, causing carbon emissions to skyrocket past what they otherwise could have been. Fortunately, in the past few years, Greece and the PPC are taking steps toward renewable energy.

Overcoming Socioeconomic Obstacles

When switching to renewable energy, many nations struggle to balance the tightrope that is the free market, as dramatic sanctions on companies can have very serious economic consequences that personally affect citizens. Generally speaking, the people of Greece have supported the switch to renewable energy, but the issue is not without nuance. There is often a battle between what is affordable and what is environmentally friendly and the stakes are high for low-income families who cannot afford a higher cost of living.

As such, there are obstacles to the implementation of renewable energy in Greece. The coal industry is an enormous employer and shutting down coal energy means thousands of job losses and bankrupt businesses. Residents of the Mesohora village opposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the area as the dam would inevitably cause the area to flood, requiring residents to move elsewhere.

Combating Aftereffects

These foreseeable issues are not impossible to overcome and Greece is prepared to deal with them in creative ways that ensure the best outcomes for the citizens, the economy and the climate, giving hope to other nations struggling to strike a similar balance.

Perhaps the best example of this is the auction program that the European Union approved in November 2021. Greece is allotting roughly €2.27 billion to offer as incentives to help renewable energy producers. This idea is not new and often faces criticism because of the way it disrupts market competition.

However, this program solves that issue by awarding money through an auction system. Companies must compete against each other to receive this subsidy and receive judgment based on how efficient and affordable their results are. Therefore, the only companies that receive aid will be the companies that present the best and most well-balanced ideas regarding renewable energy.

At the beginning of the partnerships, the winning companies receive a set “reference price” that is a rough reflection of what the country can afford to pay. If the newly selected companies can keep their costs below that reference price, the government will pay them the difference. If their prices rise above the reference price, the company must compensate the government with the difference between prices.

This way, the government always pays the same price for renewable energy, but the companies have the motivation to keep costs as low as possible, while simultaneously having a stable market to work with.

Additionally, the Greek government has introduced subsidies for low-income families that allow them to receive free electricity from solar power plants. It is also investing money toward minimizing the effects that energy switching will have on citizens’ livelihoods.

Current Energy Situation

The transition to renewable energy in Greece is seeing success. In early April 2022, Greece opened the “largest double-sided solar farm” in all of Europe.

Interestingly, the farm construction stems from the company Hellenic Petroleum, the largest oil refinery corporation in the country, now headed for greener pastures. The solar farm will provide power to about 75,000 households, representing a significant move toward renewable energy.

For years, the PPC was adamant about using coal, but this is no longer the case. The PPC is well on its way toward clean energy. Important to note is the fact that fossil fuels are unequal — different fuels produce different amounts of carbon dioxide. For every megajoule of energy produced, high-caliber coal generates roughly 2.6 times more carbon dioxide than natural gas generates.

Low-quality coal, such as the lignite coal Greece uses, produces at least four times more carbon dioxide than natural gas does. Even though switching from one fossil fuel to another may not sound like an exceptional solution, for Greece, it could significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Therefore, the PPC is using gas as a stepping stone on its path to neutralizing emissions — the corporation plans to primarily use gas by 2025 and completely eliminate its use of coal by 2028.

Looking Ahead

Greece met its 2020 goal of renewable energy use with renewables accounting for around 22% of its total energy use. According to the country’s National Energy and Climate Plan, the nation expects to generate 61% of its energy through renewable sources by 2030. By 2050, Europe has a plan to be carbon-neutral with net-zero emissions. Renewable energy in Greece is certainly on its way to success. Despite the seemingly insurmountable economic challenges that are commonly tangled up in the renewable energy issue, the message is clear: it is possible to implement renewable energy so that everyone can have access to it.

– Mia Sharpe
Photo: Piqsels

Renewable Energy in South Korea
In 2020, the South Korean
 Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) introduced the 9th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Demand and Supply 2020-2034. In this plan, MOTIE sets a goal for renewable energy in South Korea to account for around 40% of the energy mix by 2034. Impressively, 100% of all South Koreans have access to electricity, however, most of the nation’s energy comes from non-renewable sources, which are not only expensive but are also unsustainable. 

Statistics on Energy in South Korea

In 2021, South Korea’s price of electricity increased “for the first time in around eight years” due to global fuel spikes. In June 2021, South Korea’s cost for energy for its citizens stood at $0.103 ( KRW123.02) per kWh (kilowatt-hour). On September 23, 2021, MOTIE announced that the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) intends to raise the rate per kWh to KRW3 by October 2021, meaning citizens can expect to pay another $0.88 (KRW1,050) monthly per household.

In comparison, in the United States, energy rates for households in November 2021 stood at $0.1412 per kWh. While South Korea’s energy rates per hour are cheaper, taking into account the vast number of people in Korea and the proportion of the population earning low wages, these rates are still costly. Energy rates could become more affordable with the use of renewable energy.

In 2020, crude oil was responsible for most of South Korea’s energy requirements, covering 35% of the country’s energy demands while coal covered 25% of energy requirements. Renewable energy in South Korea made up 1% of energy in 2020, with gas and nuclear covering the remaining energy needs at 17% and 16% respectively.

South Korea’s Poverty Rates

Between 2018 and 2019, South Korea’s poverty rate stood as the “fourth-highest” across 39 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states. This 16.7% poverty rate equates to one in every six Koreans living in relative poverty,  according to the Korean Herald. Korea’s unemployment rates are low, however, many employed citizens do not earn adequate incomes. This, combined with an aging society, contributes to the impoverished circumstances of many households and individuals.

How Renewable Energy Can Reduce Poverty

In 2015, South Korea’s capital city of Seoul implemented the Energy Welfare Public-Private Partnership Program to address issues of energy poverty among impoverished city dwellers. The project constructed a virtual power plant “through which 17 municipal buildings and 16 universities save electricity consumption during peak hours and donate profits from saved power back to the program to finance energy welfare.” The virtual power plant has led to “annual profits of more than $180,000,” which goes to the Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund. With this funding, more than 2,000 low-income households received retrofitting of “LED light bulbs, energy-efficient windows and solar panels” to reduce energy costs and harmful greenhouse emissions. The Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund also prioritized training the unemployed as community energy consultants, which led to 180 new employment opportunities.

Why Renewable Energy is Important

Renewable energy could increase access to energy for those living in poverty and reduce production costs and the selling price of electricity.

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020, renewable energy stood as the most affordable energy source and the costs of renewable energy technology continue to reduce each year. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “emerging economies will save up to $156 billion over the lifespan of the renewable projects added in 2020 alone,” which would help to significantly reduce global poverty.

With South Korea as the “ninth-largest energy consumer in 2019,” the use of renewable energy can reduce the price of energy for citizens living in poverty.

Future of Renewable Energy in South Korea

Renewable energy can make electricity more affordable for all citizens, allowing them to focus finances on other basic necessities, investments and welfare programs. With the future increase of renewable energy, a decrease in air pollution and carbon emissions is also a significant positive benefit.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in PortugalThe last remaining coal plant in Portugal closed in November 2021, making Portugal the fourth country in the EU to end coal-sourced energy. This move marks progress in environmental protection, sustainability and poverty reduction. As coal use declines and awareness of renewable energy increases, experts hope to help those in poverty obtain better energy sources. The development of renewable energy in Portugal and the country’s movement away from coal holds many benefits for the nation.

Portugal’s Coal Plants

The Pego plant’s shutdown came nine years earlier than planned since Portugal’s target year to eliminate coal use is 2030. Countries around the world are agreeing to implement renewable energy sources, with Portugal doing exactly that. While Portugal was not the first to go coal-free, it is inspiring other nations to do the same. Austria, Belgium and Sweden all ditched coal-sourced energy with more European countries following their examples. However, the nations prefer different plans and estimates for their energy trajectory. For example, Germany plans to end coal energy by 2038 and France by 2022.

The Pego coal plant was the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter in Portugal. Environmental groups applaud the elimination of coal energy as a large step toward improving the quality of life in the nation. However, while the Pego closure resulted in an obviously positive impact on energy, coal’s impact on poverty constitutes a very different relationship.

Poverty and Coal

It is a worldwide goal to implement renewable energy sources. However, some areas feel the loss of coal energy more than others. It is not always easy to replace coal, especially for those who have no other option. The Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) explains that “As much of the world lacks access to modern, clean energy, coal is still essential to alleviating worldwide energy poverty.” For example, rural communities that lack access to electricity often depend on coal for cooking, heating and lighting. Coal fuels more of the world’s electricity than any other energy source. However, impoverished and rural populations that depend on coal for energy also risk the negative impacts of coal-sourced energy.

The issue with coal-dependent energy is not with its usefulness but with its aftermath and effects. Coal energy impacts air and water supplies, making it a less than ideal method of energy production. Coal plants compete for water with local farmers, which ultimately leads to tension and societal backlash. With these consequences of coal energy, people in poverty struggle to better their lives. The chances of escaping poverty decrease when people’s health becomes deficient and water and food supplies diminish.

Reasons to Transition to Renewable Energy

Mining displacement affects many communities around the world due to coal consumption. In the 40 years between 1950 and 1990, 2.55 million people suffered displacement in India alone as a result of coal mining. Mining threatens to displace hundreds of thousands more people, with the brunt of difficulty falling on citizens of developing nations that lack strong laws regarding involuntary displacement.

Coal energy and mining directly impact impoverished communities while wealthier communities do not fully see the effects. Debates arise concerning the use of coal energy versus renewable energy, particularly since those in poverty require cheap and effective energy sources. While a switch from coal energy to renewable energy seems far-fetched, this change contains major benefits. In a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), experts foresaw significant positive benefits to doubling worldwide renewable energy use by 2030. The benefits include a 1.1% increase in global GDP, a 3.7% increase in welfare and the creation of more than 24 million jobs. With the possible environmental and economic benefits that renewable energy provides, coal seems to be an unfavorable option.

An Optimistic Future for Renewable Energy in Portugal

New forms of energy production are not always available in developing countries. In these regions, coal use is vital to the lives of citizens. Yet, coal energy has a short future ahead of it. Major nations are pledging to stop coal energy use completely and utilize new forms of renewable energy. Replacing inefficient energy sources and production methods will greatly improve clean energy and reduce poverty. As Greenpeace explains, “The rapid expansion of clean and sustainable energy offers a win-win for the [impoverished] and the environment. For the [impoverished], particularly the rural [impoverished], without basic energy services, renewable energy is often the cheapest option.” Energy is instrumental in improving the lives of those in poverty. The European Union sets a remarkable example in the sustainable energy movement and developing countries will soon follow suit.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Zambia
Zambia has enjoyed significant economic growth in the past few decades. With prosperity, Zambia’s demand for electricity has increased. However, the current energy supply has struggled to meet this demand. Zambia relies on hydroelectric power for more than 85% of its electricity and frequent droughts prevent these plants from operating at full capacity. Further, the average nationwide rate of access to electricity is 30%. Worse yet, only 5% of the rural population has electricity access. The Zambian government has set a target of 50% electricity access across the nation by 2030. As electricity demands continue to grow, the expansion of renewable energy in Zambia is critical for the country’s social and economic development.

Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project

To aid in the sustainable development of Zambia’s energy resources, renewable energy projects are underway. One such initiative is the European Union (EU)-funded Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project. The project is a collaboration between the EU and the Zambian government to provide technical assistance to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Zambia. The project’s assistance will help fund the REA’s development of energy infrastructure. The project began in 2017 and should have reached completion in 2021.

Specifically, the Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project is striving to establish a collection of solar-powered mini-grids to provide electricity to rural Zambian communities. Mini-grids are small electricity generators interconnected to an energy distribution network. These are useful in Zambia because the grids do not require the construction of long stretches of electrical lines. The mini-grids will provide electricity to an estimated 10,000 people living in rural communities in Zambia.

Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant

Another initiative to develop renewable energy in Zambia is the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Zambia project. Created by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, this initiative seeks to bring readily available and local renewable energy sources. One of the initiative’s projects is the construction of the Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant, which the Zambian government commissioned in 2012. The Shiwang’andu plant supplies a solar mini-grid that will provide electricity to more than 25,000 people in the Mpanta region.

Hydropower plants generate power using the energy that the flow of water creates. This energy generation requires the water to flow across an elevation difference, from a higher point to a lower point. Usually, dams are built in running bodies of water, such as rivers, to construct this elevation difference.

Because constructing hydropower plants involves building dams in bodies of water, the developers of the Shiwang’andu plant had to consider the plant’s impact on wildlife. Developers installed a second dam during construction to divert water, which maintained normal downstream water flow. They also included a 1.5-meter gate within the dam to help fish, crabs, shrimp and other migrating animals.

Renewable Energy Key to Expand Sustainable Access to Electricity

As Zambia continues to see economic growth, and as it aims to provide electricity access to a greater percentage of its population, the nation’s energy demands will continue to increase. The development of renewable energy in Zambia is an efficient and eco-friendly way to expand the country’s energy resources, which should provide sustainable access to electricity for more Zambians in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in PortugalPortugal is taking advantage of its Atlantic coast by investing in offshore wind farms. These developments occur in an effort to reverse the negative economic effects of COVID-19 and downsize energy poverty in the country. The expansion of renewable energy in Portugal has the potential to reduce the country’s expensive dependency on imports while simultaneously creating new local jobs and domestic industries.

The Issue of Energy Poverty

The United Nations defines energy poverty as a lack of “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.” Compared to other countries in the European Union, Portugal endures some of the highest rates of energy poverty, with nearly 20% of the country’s population reporting that they were unable to properly heat and cool their homes in 2018. Compared to the EU’s average of 6.9%, Portugal has a notably high rate. Energy-inefficient homes result in extremely high energy bills for citizens when temperatures fluctuate, especially in the winter. Recent studies show that 75% of the buildings in Portugal fail to meet the required guidelines for heating. This is an issue that has devastating impacts on the overall health of residents.

The Portuguese government does provide discounts on gas and electricity for households that meet certain socioeconomic criteria, and in 2020, nearly 753,000 households in Portugal received the electricity social tariff. Additionally, approximately 35,000 received the natural gas social tariff. However, the development of renewable energy and the subsequent reduction of overall energy costs could eliminate the need for these social tariffs altogether.

The Economic Effects of COVID-19

Like many countries, Portugal’s economy has faced huge setbacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its GDP decreased by 8.4% in 2020, “the largest annual decline since 1936.” In order to combat this decline, the country is making strides to expand its renewable energy sector.

The hope is that it can transition from the expensive task of importing fossil fuels to finding innovative ways to generate its own clean energy. Renewable energy in Portugal has expanded greatly in recent years, providing more than 50% of the country’s electricity needs in 2019, with hopes to reach 80% by 2030.

Innovations in Wind Energy

One area of renewable energy in which Portugal has become a leading European country is the development of wind energy. In 2019, Portugal’s Atlantic coast became home to the second floating wind farm in Europe, an alternative to onshore turbines which can disrupt tourism and generate noise complaints. Previously, offshore wind farms were limited to shallow waters, preventing countries like Portugal from taking advantage of the industry due to its deep Atlantic waters.

However, incredible innovation by the WindFloat Atlantic project produced three wind turbines located 20 km offshore from the port city Viana Do Castelo, minimizing disruption to the local fishing industry and taking advantage of more powerful winds and deep water storms. These three turbines alone possess an installed capacity of 25 megawatts. This is “roughly equivalent to the energy consumed by 60,000 homes in one year.” The cutting-edge feat of the Windfloat Atlantic Project has captured the attention of many other coastal countries who hope to develop similar technology and presents great potential for a resurgence in Portugal’s economy.

Renewable Energy and Economic Growth

COVID-19 caused unemployment in Portugal to skyrocket by 36.2% between May 2019 and May 2020. Throughout the pandemic, workers without a higher education degree were most affected, with an average increase in registered unemployment of 38.3% between the same dates. However, the expansion of offshore wind energy is creating new job opportunities for this demographic which do not require higher education.

Wind energy in Portugal currently gives employment to approximately 22,000 people, and the WindFloat Atlantic project, which Ocean Winds implemented in 2011, has created 1,500 jobs for local citizens. Increased dependence on renewable energy in Portugal will also decrease electricity bills for residents and become a pivotal agent in combating energy poverty. Many expect that the pioneer project will grow in the coming years. Portugal is in the perfect position to capitalize on that growth, improving the lives of its citizens and revitalizing its economy in an earth-friendly way.

Like many countries, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were detrimental to Portugal’s economy. However, the success of the WindFloat Atlantic project has resulted in more job opportunities for those who became unemployed during the pandemic, a decreased dependence on energy imports and the downsizing of energy poverty due to the more affordable prices that renewable energy sources are able to offer. The cutting-edge technology of Portugal’s offshore wind farm has sparked excitement in many other European nations who hope to develop similar projects along their coastlines. As a new leader in the development of renewable wind energy, Portugal will continue to innovate and pave the way for cleaner, more affordable energy for all.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

EU Energy Poverty
Rising prices for gas and electricity have prompted the EU to appeal to its member countries to subsidize customers and businesses as it deals with the negative impact of its decisions regarding climate. Seeking to deter energy poverty, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simon spoke of measures that target select customers at most significant risk of energy poverty with direct payments, cutting energy taxes and shifting energy taxes to general taxation. Simon said to the EU lawmakers that mitigating the social consequences and protecting households most at risk is of 
“immediate priority.” He also suggested that businesses engage in longer-term power purchase agreements while not ruling out the possibility for relief through state aid. Here is some information about energy poverty in Europe as well as programs to alleviate energy poverty.

Energy Poverty in Europe

Energy poverty is prevalent across Europe, where anywhere between 50 and 125 million people cannot afford proper indoor heat, according to a 2009 publication by the EU. Member states have acknowledged the gravity of the issue and its ramifications in health issues and social isolation. Energy poverty marks low household income, high energy costs and inefficient energy houses, where an increase in revenue, management of energy costs and more energy-efficient infrastructure are solutions. Energy poverty affects Sub-Saharan Africa significantly, particularly in the medical sector, with limited time for health care activities and thus increasing risk for patients. Europe is not immune to these issues and should not overlook them, even if the potential scale is not as significant.

EU Plans Backfire and Exacerbates

According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, behind the rising energy prices afflicting Europe today are the EU’s “Green Deal” policies. President Vladimir Putin of Russia shares the same opinion. The Green Deal initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to levels seen in 1990, on the way of eliminating emissions by 2050. One of its strategies involved discouraging the usage of long-term purchase agreements for gas, coal and nuclear energy in favor of short-term pricing to deter its use. LTPAs are not sensitive to market prices and are therefore a more cost-effective option than purchasing gas if one is doing it for the long run. This discouragement has left EU member countries scrambling for alternative gas options amid the energy shortage, exacerbating the already low levels of energy poverty.

Programs to Alleviate Energy Poverty

Various projects have developed across Europe with the common aim of ending energy poverty. Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency voiced themselves in 2018 and granted around 6 million euros to three projects responding to energy poverty: STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty), EmpowerMed and Social Watt. STEP, for example, has created a model that includes a call to organizations and consumer groups that specialize in issues affecting those who are energy-poor. It wants to educate energy-poor consumers in nine European countries they have identified as the most energy-poor and share their methods and policies with other EU countries.

STEP

In Lithuania, for example, the Alliance of Lithuanian Consumer Organizations partnered with STEP following inquiries by ALCO into organizations that revealed concerns by consumers regarding energy poverty issues. The Association of Social Workers, an amalgamation of social workers across many organizations, which also happens to be ALCO’s principal partner, received an introduction to the STEP project. This led to several social workers’ interest in receiving the required training to become efficient energy advisors.

EmpowerMed

EmpowerMed, a slightly more nuanced project than STEP, is also addressing energy poverty in Mediterranean coastal areas with a focus on women, gender and health. Its name has an association with numerous publications on energy poverty training, policy and reports. This is part of a constitution of other efforts such as energy workshops, advocacy campaigns that gender-neutral stress policies and energy visits to select households.

Social Watt

Social Watt tasks itself with providing parties exhorted under Article 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive in Europe to engage with strategies to alleviate energy poverty. Integral and endemic to the function of Social Watts are its features. The Analyzer feature of Social Watts is a downloadable tool that facilitates consumer data observation to identify risk houses. The Plan function identifies optimal solutions that accommodate any nuances in the energy conservation dynamic. The Check tool serves as a verification function to ensure the endeavors of Social Watts are without errors or negative ramifications. 

The ramifications of energy poverty constitute adverse health effects, educational delay, medical impedance and economic disruption. While COVID-19’s economic consequences have exacerbated Europe’s energy poverty, programs to alleviate energy poverty have been able to offer hope to the most vulnerable and, at a minimum, prevent social unrest.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: PublicDomainPictures

Renewable Energy in Vietnam
On February 22, 2021, Vietnam released the national power development plan (PDP 8) for the 2021-2030 draft for public comment. This plan highlighted the commitment of Vietnam in the transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy. Until 2020, Vietnam’s effort to continuously divest its energy sources and focus on renewable energy projects has put it in a good position to become Asia’s next clean energy powerhouse. This article will provide an understanding of renewable energy in Vietnam as well as lessons for other countries transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Vietnam’s Economic Growth and Renewable Energy Investments

Researchers and experts have pointed out that one of the critical factors in Vietnam’s explosive renewable energy growth is its economic growth. According to the Asian Development Bank, the country has seen its economy grow by 6% annually since 2014, and 7% since 2018. Coupled with the country’s population increase, Vietnam’s swift economic growth drives up energy consumption at an extraordinary rate. Consumption of electricity has increased by more than 11% a year, growing faster than the GDP of Vietnam. According to the International Energy Agency report, Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s second-largest electricity consumer. The statistics affirm that if Vietnam wants to continue growing its economy and attracting foreign investors, it needs to move away from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.

Vietnam’s Green Energy Potential

Another important reason why Vietnam has gradually moved away from fossil fuels is its green energy potential capacity. A report from the World Bank pointed out that Vietnam has one of the highest numbers of installed solar panels in Southeast Asia. Recently, renewable energy in Vietnam has seen massive solar outputs of electricity and energy, with the country producing 16,500 MW at the end of 2020. According to the statistics from a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Vietnam is among the top 10 countries with the highest capacity of solar energy panels as of 2020. Vietnam has an estimated 311 GWs of wind energy, one of the best resources in the region. Accompanied by the government’s commitment to investing in renewable energy, Vietnam is in a strong position to become a leader in the world in renewable energy development and innovative energy solutions.

The Need for Green Energy Projects

The second most important element of Vietnam’s recent renewable growth is its public commitment. A by-product of Vietnam’s economic boom was its massive carbon footprint and environmental pollution. Recent severe air and water pollution incidents in major cities have created public pressure that opposes any new development of coal power plants. Vietnamese people living in urban areas have been wearing their protective facemasks long before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the increasing number of cars and motorbikes on public streets has created a hazardous environment.

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have seen pollution levels four times higher than what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers acceptable. Recent Vietnamese governmental reports said that local governments refuse new power projects because of their environmental implications. As a result, urban planners and the Vietnamese government are reshaping their energy market to incorporate more solar and wind energy in order to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. Experts believe that Vietnam can become a study case for renewable energy financiers and investors, thanks to its vast solar and wind energy potential.

Vietnam’s Accomplishments in Renewable Energy

From the beginning of 2014 through 2015, the country only produced 4 MW of installed solar energy for power generation. Renewable energy in Vietnam is only 0.32% of the total electricity that the country generates. Yet, as the statistics have pointed out, in just over five years, Vietnam has produced over 7.4 GW of rooftop solar power. Its renewable energy share boasts 10% of the country’s total electricity generated.

Researchers have estimated that Vietnam would produce more than 16.5 GW of solar energy, and 11.8 GW of wind energy. The government has already prepared for more onshore and offshore wind projects by 2025, which should produce 12 GW of energy capacity. These projects include wind farms in Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, which projections have determined will produce about 170 million kilowatt-hours of green energy per year, along with Bac Lieu offshore wind projects. Along with these projects, the government’s effort and policies show precisely why Vietnam is on track to become Asia’s next renewable energy powerhouse.

The Impact of Vietnam’s Growth in Renewable Energy

Vietnam’s recent accomplishments in renewable energy have contributed to combating extreme poverty both nationally and globally. With the help of a booming green energy market, the country’s yearly poverty rate has been declining gradually. Vietnam has gone from a country with a rural electrification rate of 2.5%to being able to connect millions of rural families to the national grid, and the country is on track to provide more green energy to rural areas. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, these transitions will experience enhancement, thanks to renewable energy. In urban areas, renewable energy can help combat economic inequalities by providing a cleaner environment and stable energy prices. As the country has a commitment to transforming its energy, its economy will likely benefit and reduce extreme poverty.

These factors have contributed to the fast and efficient transformation of renewable energy in Vietnam. From a country that heavily relied on fossil fuels, Vietnam has become one of the leading countries in green energy. This transition helps the country combat weather changes while also uplifting the nation’s economy and providing solutions for eradicating poverty.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr