June 4, 2004 (ENS): Pledges of increased funding
for renewable sources of energy have brightened the
four day International Conference for Renewable Energy
which concludes here today. The nearly 2,000 participants
- government ministers and business people, trade unionists,
nongovernmental organizations, consumers, scientists,
farmers, actors in development and poverty alleviation,
and renewable energy manufacturers - heard investment
promises of hundreds of millions of new dollars a year
Renewable energy includes such sources as water, wind,
geothermal and solar thermal power, solar photovoltaics
"Renewables 2004 is something new," German
Environment Minister Juergen Trittin told the conference
on Tuesday in the building that housed the German Parliament
before it moved to Berlin five years ago. "Here
in Bonn, we want to combine voluntary initiatives for
increasing the use of renewable energies with the United
Nations sustainable development structures. This is
the inner link between the Declaration, the Policy Recommendations
and the International Action Programme," he said.
Presenting the case for more investment in renewables,
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated
a market potential of nearly $2 trillion in the next
“It's time to get down to business,” said
UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, a former German
environment minister, stating the theme of the conference.
"Sustainable development needs sustainable energy,
but sustainable energy needs investment," he told
delegates, urging them to develop new products for the
rapidly evolving renewable energy sector.
A report by the Climate Change Working Group of the
UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative says this
potential can be realized only if "real concerns"
by the financial sector are addressed. The report details
case studies illustrating the opportunities and challenges
in renewable energy finance and represents the work
of key financial institutions - ANZ, Aviva, Citigroup,
Dresdner Bank, Garant, HypoVereinsbank, and the Munich
"The world needs more energy, but conventional
sources are unsustainable and finite," said Thomas
Loster, the chairman of the UNEP Finance Climate Change
Working Group, who heads the Weather-Climate Risks Research
department at Munich Re.
The most important step for policymakers is to create
confidence in the long term future of the renewable
energy market by policies that make "the deal on
the table" financially attractive, said Loster.
The World Bank responded by announcing it will increase
lending by about 20 percent a year for renewable energies.
Peter Woicke, managing director of the World Bank Group
and executive vice president of the bank's private sector
arm, the International Finance Corp, told conference
participants Thursday that will amount to about $400
million a year by 2010.
"Our strategy through program and policies will
aim to ensure that renewable energy and energy efficiency
are seen as economically viable and essential ingredients
in the energy choices of our member nations, not marginal
considerations," Woicke said.
The bank has been the largest lender for renewable
energy projects in the developing world since 1990,
with investments totaling about $6 billion.
Woicke said that rich nations could not prescribe sweeping
changes for poor nations while doing little to improve
their own energy efficiency. But poor nations should
not expect power investments without improving governance,
investment climates and commitments to sustainable energy
pricing, he said.
"We believe it will require a market place of
partnerships, public and private, national and local,
corporations and civil society, that is organized around
a few key principles," Woicke said. The Bank is
"convinced more than ever that the transition to
a cleaner energy future will be won project by project,
village by village and nation by nation."
Sustainable bioenergy systems have a place in the pantheon
of renewables. The United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization's Gustavo Best told delegates, "The
production and use of bioenergy also contributes to
poverty alleviation and food security. It can reduce
land degradation and helps to mitigate climate change."
The agency is currently working with the Shenyang Agricultural
University in China in developing new sweet sorghum
varieties and technologies to produce ethanol to substitute
for petroleum. The agency also has energy projects in
Nepal and Brazil.
On Wednesday, UNEP presented the "Day of Geothermal
Power" at a nearby hotel exploring all aspects
of geothermal energy production: resource assessment,
technology, project development and financing of geothermal
As part of its growing climate change portfolio in the
Global Environment Facility, UNEP has launched three
UNEP/GEF geothermal energy project proposals:
In Africa' Rift Valley, the Argeo project is a program
of financial, policy and technical instruments for the
promotion of geothermal energy development. Several
countries of the Rift Valley are being considered for
A Joint Geophysical Imaging project will assess geothermal
reservoirs in Kenya with potential impacts for the African
Rift Valley. The resulting higher resolution and more
accurate assessments will increase the probability of
finding large, productive steam reservoirs. Testing
is planned for this year.
The aim of the Eastern Caribbean Geothermal Development
project is to overcome the barriers to the development
of geothermal power and establish one or more commercially
viable geothermal power plants in the region.
As the financial mechanism for the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change, the Global Environment
Facility has provided about $900 million for more than
110 projects in 50 countries. This support has leveraged
almost $6 billion in additional cofinancing.
In Mexico, for instance, the GEF is supporting the commercial
development of a solar thermal power plant. The project
aims to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of the
solar trough technology as a major source of power.
The GEF is engaging the relevant companies in a dialogue
about risk sharing and the next steps toward achieving
fully commercial development. The GEF is supporting
similar plants in Morocco, the Arab Republic of Egypt,
Tritten, a Green Party member, opened the conference
on Tuesday by presenting the challenge the world must
address. "Together we face the task of ensuring
that the number of people living in absolute poverty
is halved in the next 10 years, and of preventing global
temperature from rising more than 2 ° Celsius compared
to pre-industrial times up to the end of this century."
"Renewable energies hold a vital key to this,"
Trittin said. "We must satisfy the growing need
for energy – without imposing too heavy a burden
on our atmosphere."
Trittin has been the architect of the German phaseout
of nuclear power, which is now mandated by law to take
place over the next 20 years. "It is now less expensive
to build a wind park on the northern German coast than
a new nuclear power plant," Trittin told the conference.
And Trittin is a firm supporter of renewables, which,
he told delegates, provide 120,000 jobs in Germany today
and save Germany 53 million metric tons of the greenhouse
gas carbon dioxide every year.
In Bonn, all activities will be brought together in
a concrete Action Programme, Trittin explained. The
implementation of this Action Programme will be reviewed
in the framework of the United Nations Commission on
Sustainable Development in 2006 and 2007.
The International Action Programme now contains 132
projects. The Action Programme contains significant
new financial commitments – from individual countries
and from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder committed Germany to a
large new investment. "In cooperation with the
Kreditanstalt," he told the conference delegates,
"the Federal Government will set up a special facility
for renewable energies and energy efficiency with a
volume of up to 500 million euros. Starting in 2005,
over a period of five years the facility will be used
to offer low-interest loans for investments in developing
countries to public and parastatal institutions, banks
and also private sector organizations."
In the Action Programme countries have set themselves
new targets for increasing the use of renewables with
Germany has doubled the share of renewable energies
in electricity generation within five years, Trittin
told delegates. "Now we want to cover 20 percent
of our current energy demand with renewables by 2020.
This 20 percent target is part of the Renewable Energy
Sources Act. We have thus made it legally binding."
Costs for renewable technologies are going down, while
demand is increasing. "Nowadays wind power installations
cost 30 percent less than 10 years ago," said Trittin.
"Photovoltaic systems have even become more than
50 percent cheaper."
At the conference, Germany signed a 2.6 million euro
strategic partnership agreement with the Inter-American
Development Bank to promote renewable energies and increase
energy efficiency in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The German Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development,
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, and President of the Inter-American
Development Bank Enrique Iglesias, signed the agreement
But the fact that the "Political Declaration of
the International Conference on Renewable Energies"
did not exclude large hydropower from its definition
of renewable energy, has frustrated some conservation
groups. On opening day, 260 citizens’ groups from
61 countries called for large hydro to be excluded from
renewables initiatives and targets.
Patrick McCully, campaigns director of International
Rivers Network says that lobbying pressure from energy
ministers, in particular from Brazil and Uganda, succeeded
in ensuring that the Political Declaration, approved
by 154 countries, did not set explicit limits on the
inclusion of hydropower within renewables programs.
Brazil and Uganda plan to build large hydro projects
that are opposed by civil society groups within their
countries due to their social and environmental impacts,
high economic costs, and inability to provide affordable
energy to the poor.
"The big hydro lobby is hijacking concern over
poverty and climate change to promote their destructive
technology," said McCully. "If big hydro projects
are included in renewables programs this will crowd
out funds for new renewables, increase vulnerability
to climate change, further degrade rivers, and lead
to more forced evictions of riverine people."
Creating more large reservoirs in the tropics would
also increase emissions of greenhouse gases, McCully
contends. "Critics of large dams will continue
to push the adoption of new renewables and strive to
ensure that the big hydro lobby does not hinder their
implementation," he said.
Participants flying to Bonn for the Renewables 2004
conference enjoyed a carbon neutral flight, as the greenhouse
gases generated by their air travel has been calculated
and will be offset by a solar energy project being developed
in India. Trittin says the German government decided
to make this meeting one of the first climate neutral
conferences of its scale by purchasing Certified Emission
Reductions (CERs) through the German Technical Cooperation
(GTZ) and will retire them afterwards.
To generate the CERs, one of the first bundled small-scale
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects under the
Kyoto Protocol has been selected. Ten to 12 solar community
kitchens will be installed in institutions such as hospitals,
schools and religious ashrams in several Indian states.
The technology uses concentrated sunlight to generate
steam for cooking, and will replace kerosene, diesel
or unsustainably harvested firewood. The project will
provide daily carbon neutral meals for around 30,000
people. The project will meet the strict criteria of
the Gold Standard, a quality label for CDM projects
promoted by environmental NGOs.
The project is under development by the Swiss company
Factor Consulting + Management AG in cooperation with
Gadhia Solar Energy Systems based in India.
"The age of renewables," Trittin said, "has
Visit the conference online at: http://www.renewables2004.de/