BONN, Germany, 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 for renewables.
Renewable energy includes such sources as water, wind, geothermal
and solar thermal power, solar photovoltaics and bioenergy.
"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 15 years.
“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 Reinsurance Company.
"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,
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
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 projects.
As part of its growing climate change portfolio in the Global Environment
Facility, UNEP has launched three UNEP/GEF geothermal energy project
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 geothermal investments.
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, and India.
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 specific timeframes.
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
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 begun."
Visit the conference online at: http://www.renewables2004.de/