What Tanzania can learn from Bangladesh on energy access

“I have a dream of empowering 75 million people of Bangladesh through Renewable Energy Technologies”. This is how, back in 1996, Dipal C. Barua, now founder of the Bright Green Energy Foundation, decided to start expanding RE in Bangladesh and make the country the first solar nation of the world by 2020.

By then, the country faced a serious energy crisis. Only 30% of the 162 million people of Bangladesh had access to electricity. Supply was hardly reliable. Overall demand for electricity was rising by about 10 per cent annually. Infrastructure was deficient, poorly managed and could not reach many rural areas (where 75% of the population lives) due to inaccessibility and remoteness. Therefore, most of the energy needs were met by biomass for cooking and kerosene for lighting (Sea4all, 2012).

Today, the country has installed more than 4 million Solar Home Systems (SHS) in off-grid rural areas, benefiting over 25 million people and wiping kerosene for lighting off the map. At present, over 60.000 SHS are being installed per month. The country has gained the capacity and knowledge of assembling all components of SHS in its territory, with more than 100.000 green jobs. Children’s evening study time is reported to have improved, as well as the health of households members. Businesses are rising due to longer hours and more varied options of income-generation activities. And no kerosene is used for lighting. SHS has become affordable at the price of kerosene thanks to innovative financing schemes allowing for 15% down payment to install the 15w-to-85w packages system, and the remaining 85% to be paid in 12/24/36 monthly installments (Bright Green Energy Foundation, 2016).

Bangladesh_Tanzania_study_tour2This is astonishing for Bangladesh, a low-income country in which over 40% of its population lives below the international extreme poverty line of $1.25 per person per day (UKgov, 2014). Nevertheless, Bangladesh successfully managed to grasp the nettle and make a decisive step towards RE deployment as a means to provide widespread energy access and foster socio-economic development. As the Energy Adviser (Minister) to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Mr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury highlights: “Bangladesh used its courage and imagination to break barriers and increase Renewable Energy”.

This was not a smooth journey. As Dipal C. Barua stresses out, there were many challenges, such as limited or no access to finance; lack of skilled manpower; lack of proper financial model design to make SHS affordable; lack of awareness about the clean and environment friendly energy sources; and more important, there was a lack of national energy policy. The fact that Bangladesh was blessed with over 300 days of direct sunlight made him, nonetheless, embrace solar energy as the best solution to (em)power the population of Bangladesh.

“When the Government of Bangladesh saw that Solar Home Systems overpassed the 1 million in rural areas despite the absence of a political framework, they realized how serious the renewable energy pathway was to increase electricity access”, states Barua. Indeed, in 2000, the Government of Bangladesh issued its Vision and Policy Statement to bring the entire country under electricity by the year 2020. And because of its cost-competitive nature, this goal was being implemented in rural areas almost exclusively with the use of SHS.

According to Dr. Khan, professor at North-South University in Bangladesh: “Renewable energy off grid solutions were taking care of the poorest sectors of the population because they do not have the means to live where modern services are”. In response to these developments, 2008, the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources of Bangladesh set a renewable energy policy to create an enabling environment and legal support to encourage the use of renewables. By virtue of this policy, the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) was established as a focal point to support the development and promotion of RE through policies, laws, rules and regulations relating to sustainable energy and through constant multi-stakeholder consultation. For Mr. Alauddin, Joint Secretary, Power Division, Ministry of Power and Mineral Resources “If you want to bring in a new technology, you also need an institution that has the skills, capacities and mandate for this. This is why we established SREDA”.

Bangladesh_Tanzania_study_tour3For the financing, a government-owned financial institution, the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), played a critical role by providing its support through grants and loans to RE private and non-profit implementing organizations. Up to this day, only in SHS, IDCOL has invested more the $600 million and the agency is calculating that another 3.5 million SHS can be installed within next few years. Further, IDCOL is supporting bio-gas based power projects, solar-mini grid projects, solar irrigation pumps, and biogas pumps to move the country faster in RE deployment and have a significant impact on national GDP.

This experience is highly valuable to many countries that find themselves in similar situations. Tanzania is one of these countries, which is why the World Future Council, together with CAN-Tanzania and Bread for the World organized a study tour to Bangladesh on April 17-23, 2016 with a group of 10 members of Parliament, government decision-makers and civil society leaders in the field of renewable energy  looking at strategies to rapidly expand first time access to electricity among its citizens with 100% RE.

“Let’s work together not to reinvent the wheel, but to see the different nature of the wheel”, as Mr. Malik, Executive Director and CEO of IDCOL highlighted when addressing the Tanzanian delegation. In Tanzania, 67.87% of the population lives below $1.25 a day.

This situation is compounded by the low level of electrification, where only 7% of rural population and 39% of urban population have access to electricity. In turn, lack of access to modern energy services exacerbates poverty due to persistent limited production opportunities and social facilities. But Tanzania, as Bangladesh, is endowed with abundant, high-quality renewable resources, which could play a significant role in meeting the county’s energy needs through off-grid solutions.

Bangladesh_Tanzania_study_tour1Today the African country is already ripping the socio-economic benefits of pilot projects being implemented by actors such as Tanzania Traditional Energy Development Organization (TaTEDO), and there are companies such as Mobisol which have installed more than 40.000 pre-paid SHS in Tanzania and Rwanda. But Tanzania can perform much better and at larger scale. “This study tour changed my mind about the potential of Renewable Energy as an effective tool to provide energy access to all people”, said one of the members of the Tanzania parliament after exploring the RE projects in rural off-grid areas of Faridpur, Madhukhali and Kustia, in Bangladesh.

When exchanging thoughts and experiences with Bangladeshi RE stakeholders, such as the Bangladesh Ministry of Energy, SREDA’s Chairman or the Director of Renewable Energy Limited, all participants concluded that this trip has just opened doors and is the start of a long journey of collaborations and working together. “In fact, we need to bring the experience from Bangladesh to Tanzania, especially on developing a comprehensive finance model for individual households and communities.”


Irene Garcia, Policy Officer, Climate, Energy and Cities, WFC
Anna Leidreiter, Senior Program Manager, Climate, Energy and Cities, WFC

Cities must be Regenerative. But what kind of Regeneration are we actually talking about?

It is not just about the regeneration of natural resources but it is also not just about what is commonly reffered as urban regeneration. As the term regenerative appears more and more within the international discourse on cities, clarity over its actual meaning is paramount.

The term ‘regenerative´ is becoming increasingly popular in the discussion around sustainable urban development and especially relevant now as it gets frequently mentioned within the UN discourse leading up to Habitat III. For example, the term has recently been re-adopted in the official document of the UN World Urban Campaign as one of the 10 final Principles of The City We Need 2.0.  The 6th principle explicitly states that “The City We Need is Regenerative and resilient”. The terms is also mentioned several times throughout this document as well as in other UN preparatory documents towards Habitat III such as the final Policy Paper 8 Urban Ecology and Resilience.

But what does Regenerative actually mean?

While the ultimate aim of a regenerative city is to be able to regenerate the natural resources that it absorbs, it is important to highlight that the concept is in fact much broader and comprehensive. It is therefore important to clarify the types of Regeneration that we would  see in the Regenerative City. In summary, we can say that the concept embraces 4 key types of regenerations, all extremely important for the effective implementation of the Regenerative City.

4 Fundamental Regenerations

  1. Regeneration of Resources (from Linear to Circular Flows)

Regenerative urban development seeks to mimic the circular metabolic systems found in nature. This will require a switch in paradigm away from the old linear metabolism (which allows cities to operate within an isolated segment of the resource cycle) to a new circular metabolism. This will mean closing the urban resource cycle by finding value in outputs that are conventionally regarded as waste and using them as resource inputs in local and regional production systems. For example, all the energy the city consumes needs to be able to be naturally regenerated by natural processes. For this reason, renewable energy is considered the only viable energy sources for regenerative cities, as it is continuously available and does not involve the consumption of a finite stock such as fossil fuels. Similarly all the material goods the city needs are not discarded into landfills but are kept in the resource loops by being upcycled, recycled, reused or by becoming a useful input in another processes such as energy production processes.

  1. Regeneration of Natural Capital and Urban Ecosystems (From Consuming to “Prosuming”)

The Regenerative city is not only conceived as a consuming entity, but actively contributes to the production of the resources it needs and to the restoration of the natural capital and ecosystems from which it depends. For example, food supplies are complemented through urban agriculture (including vertical agriculture), energy through solar rooftops, geothermal and bio-waste, and water through storm water collection at the block level and by allowing urban aquifers to be replenished through water percolation across the extensive green and permeable areas in and around the city. This enhanced ecosystem service infrastructure within the urban area improves the city’s self-sufficiency as well as its resilience. For example, increasingly relying on urban agriculture and on food from the immediate hinterland improves self-sufficiency while extensive greener areas provide benefits in terms of pollution mitigation, CO2 sequestration, water retention, natural filtering for cleaner urban aquifers, flood resilience etc. Similarly, relying on renewable energy sources from within the city or from the immediate surroundings increases the city’s resilience to energy prices fluctuation and dependency on imports. In addition, the regeneration of the productive capacity of the city and its ecosystems will lead to a renewed, enhanced relationship between cities and their hinterland and between urban and rural areas.

  1. Regeneration of Urban Spaces (from Sprawled to Dense)

Rather than sprawling and expanding on virgin land, regenerative urban development is about creating denser cities by redeveloping and regenerating the existing urban fabric and existing neighbourhoods (instead of simply developing new sites from scratch). Increasing density has in fact huge benefits in terms of efficient use of energy, resources, infrastructures and transport. At the same time, the focus of urban regeneration projects should be on making cities more people-centred, increasingly functional for the community, more accessible and inclusive and at the same time able to positively enhance the natural systems of the city and of the surrounding areas. Retrofitting and renovation projects are prioritized while at the same time historical and cultural heritage is also conserved and revalued. Enhancement of urban ecosystems is prioritized and it is achieved by making sure the city is rich of green areas and vegetation that, for example, help to block shortwave radiation, cool the ambient and create more comfortable urban microclimates. The latter can be highly beneficial, particularly given the risks of increase in temperature due to global warming. Improving urban ecology, promoting bioremediation of degraded areas and flora regeneration are also essential and have benefits beyond the environmental ones as they also increase the liveability and aesthetic value of the city.

  1. Regeneration of Communities (from Passive to Active Engagement)

Local communities and local businesses are themselves regenerated,revitalized and strengthened by becoming the actual leaders and drivers of all the regeneration projects taking place in the city. Citizens are constantly engaged and are encouraged to take part in the decision-making processes and community-based activities within the city. The informal sector, local youth and marginalized groups are also involved. For this purpose, it is crucial to establish a policy framework that promotes greater citizen participation, facilitates the processes of collaboration among stakeholders and of coordination across levels of governance and actively supports innovation and formation of new activities, locally based projects, start-ups and community initiatives. All of these processes contribute to the creation of a more dynamic, lively, people-centred and inclusive urban reality.

By Filippo Boselli, Policy Officer – Climate, Energy and Cities.

Cities, don’t just minimise energy use. Challenge it!

Between 1900 and 2000, global population increased 4 times, but resource demand increased 16 times.

Even worse, last year, the collective resource consumption by humanity overshot the earth’s ability to regenerate in August already. This means that we used all the resources the planet produces in 12 months in the first 8 months, and for the rest of the year we were literally in debt to nature. And cities, with a modus operandi fuelling and fuelled by fossil resources like coal, oil and gas, are largely responsible for it, accounting today for 70% of GHG emissions.

But often too, cities feel more severely the risks of the climate change they themselves create. Even in a place like New York City, one of the most advanced and wealthiest cities in the world, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy shut down the city, caused power outages and blocked roads and transport for days. It is clear that we need to revert this path marked by unsustainable development, which is growing disaster risks and whose main crystallisation is taking place in cities.

So how do we get back on track? And what’s the role of cities?

We can’t just do less damage; we have to repair the damage and ensure that cities operate in a system in which they do not only consume resources, but they also contribute to producing and restoring the resources they consume. In this system, materials and goods from the region are prioritised by cities. Waste is re-defined as a by-product that can always be recycled or reused in another processes. Water is also recycled or treated before discharged into natural water bodies. Organic waste is treated and used as soil fertilizer. And energy comes from local renewable energy sources. In a nutshell, we leave behind the city organised around petrol to give way to the Regenerative City.

Fortunately, there are encouraging signs on that front, as I could witness at the Smart City Expo Puebla, celebrated in Mexico from February 16-18, in which the World Future Council participated. Interventions made by mayors and experts working at the local level revealed that cities are aware of the profound and urgent shift they need to make in the way they produce and use energy. And, as managers of energy infrastructures and services, they are uniquely positioned to do it.

This strategic approach has led cities to innovate with new kinds of recycling programs. For example, the city of Buenos Aires has seen a 50% reduction in waste sent to landfills compared with 2012 and it has committed to reducing it further by 83% by 2017. And something that would be unthinkable decades ago, cities are starting to give priority to green areas over highways, as clearly exemplified by the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, which for more than three decades buried beneath a four-lane, elevated freeway built as part of an industrialisation and modernisation process. The building sector, too, is subject to new policies in this direction, as it was highlighted during the conference. For example, NYCis undertaking a 10-year plan to improve the energy efficiency of NYC’s one million buildings to reduce building-based emissions 30% by 2025. Mexico City is developing norms for building energy performance to double the energy efficiency rate of buildings by 2030. And Portland is working with residents, businesses and community partners to advance ecoroofs in the city as a means to save energy consumption, reduce pollution and decrease stormwater volume.

Most important, cities are starting to realise something fundamental: they need to go beyond minimising energy use to actually challenge it. Energy efficiency is not only about simply reducing energy demand to offer the same service, but about a fundamental change in the structure, nature and role of the energy system. And nothing epitomises best this than Vancouver orFrankfurt, which are taking strong action on energy efficiency as a core component of their strategy to go 100% RE by 2050.

Thus, Vancouver intends to reduce city-wide building energy demand by about one-third over 2014 levels by 2050, and meet the rest of the energy demand through renewable electricity. Similar in the transport sector, where the goal is to shape the transport system in a way that most of the journeys will be made on foot or by bike, and the remaining trips by transit will be made using electric vehicles of various types. All together, these two sectors accounted for over 90% of the city’s emissions in 2014. In the case of Frankfurt, energy efficiency measures have led to a 37 per cent reduction in electricity consumption by private households by 2015. As with Vancouver, the rest of the energy consumption and production demand will be met through local and regional renewable sources.

This does not only make sense in terms of climate and environmental protection, but also in terms of economic development. By focusing on regenerative urban development, the city of Vancouver has created more than 3.000 new green local jobs in the last 5 years. And the city’s brand is currently valued at US$31bn when measured by investment, reputation and performance as “green, clean and sustainable”. In Frankfurt, energy efficiency measures have already helped the city to save €100m in energy costs, a number that is projected to rise. And its 100% RE strategy is gradually bringing down its current energy import costs from €2bn a year to zero.

Locally determined contributions of cities like these ones show us that challenging the traditional energy system upon which cities have been built is actually possible, and indeed beneficial from a social, environmental and economic point of view. Just imagine what world would be possible if we start replicating these successful champions and make the transition to regenerative cities on our own terms, in ways that maximise the benefits to us today and to future generations. Surely a very different kind of city story to tell.

By Irene García, Project and Event Manager – Climate, Energy and Cities.

Sponge Cities: What is it all about?

The 34 hectares urban storm water park in the city of Harbin in northern China is an example of successful Sponge City intervention. The storm water park provides multiple ecosystems services: it collects, cleanses and stores storm water and lets it infiltrate it into the aquifers. At the same time it protects and recovers the native natural habitats and provides an aesthetically appealing public space for recreational use.


Sponge City. Yet another term on the growing list next to regenerative, sustainable, green, eco, resilient, low-impact, future proofing, zero-carbon, and the list goes on.

Strange as it may sound, this term has actually gained a huge amount of support, especially in China. In fact, the Chinese government has already chosen 16 pilot cities and allocated to each of them between 400 and 600 million yuan for the implementation of innovative water management strategies that would gradually transform these cities into “Sponge Cities”.

What are the key issues the Sponge City wants to solve?

Before explaining in more detail what a Sponge City actually is, it is important to appreciate the main issues that the Sponge City intends to tackle. These are mainly four:

  • Less water available in urban and peri-urban areas. First of all, a key question we need to answer to explain this issue is: Where do we get the water that comes out of our taps? Many times it is actually coming from aquifers underneath our feet. As it rain, water is absorbed by the ground and naturally filtered by the soil. We can then extract this water by drilling wells into the ground and pumping water out of it. The water is then collected and treated before is distributed across the city and can reach every tap in each of our houses and offices. The problem is that extensive urbanization and urban sprawling led to the formation of thousands of square kilometres of impermeable areas made up of impervious roads, pavements, roofs and parking lots that do not allow water to be absorbed into the ground but that simply collect the rainwater through the urban drainage infrastructure and channel it into rivers, lakes or into the sea. This traditional type of design led to the creation of cities which are increasingly impermeable and have an increasingly greater impact on the natural water cycle. In practise this means that since less rain water is allowed to filter through the urban soil, less water is available to be extracted from aquifers in urban and peri-urban areas.
  • Polluted water discharged into rivers or the sea. Another key issues is related to the fact that rain water and wastewater (namely water from our sinks and toilets) is collected by one single drainage system. This drainage system (imagine one big pipe) collects all the rain water (when it rains) and the wastewater from our houses and directs it to a wastewater treatment plant where it gets treated before it is discharged again into rivers or the sea. When it rains, many times the wastewater treatment plant cannot accommodate all the water that the drainage systems carries. Therefore much of the rain water mixed with the wastewater is discharged untreated into rivers. The more impermeable the city is, the more water will be mixed with wastewater and will not be able to be treated but discharged directly into rivers.  This increases the level of pollution of local water bodies.
  • Degradation of urban ecosystems and green areas due to sprawling. This led to a considerable loss of urban biodiversity, a drop in available green areas for natural ground filtration of storm water, a decrease in CO2 capture by plants, fewer spaces for natural cooling through urban green microclimates and generally less liveable, healthy, comfortable and attractive public spaces.
  • Increase in the intensity and frequency of urban flooding particularly considering predicted increase in extreme weather events due to climate change. As the absorbing capacity of the urban surface is decreased, storm flooding risk is increased. Flooding leads to increased groundwater pollution and has considerable impact in terms of damage to properties and health related issues.

What is a Sponge City?

The Sponge City indicates a particular type of city that does not act like an impermeable system not allowing any water to filter through the ground, but, more like a sponge, actually absorbs the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach into the urban aquifers. This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells. This water can be easily treated and used for the city water supply.

What does a Sponge City need in practise? 

A sponge cities needs to be abundant with spaces that allow water to seep through them. Instead of only impermeable concrete and asphalt, the city needs more:

  • Contiguous open green spaces, interconnected waterways, channels and ponds across neighbourhoods that can naturally detain and filter water as well as foster urban ecosystems, boost bio-diversity and create cultural and recreational opportunities.
  • Green roofs that can retain rainwater and naturally filters it before it is recycled or released into the ground.
  • Porous design interventions across the city, including construction of bio-swales and bio-retention systems to detain run-off and allow for groundwater infiltration; porous roads and pavements that can safely accommodate car and pedestrian traffic while allowing water to be absorbed, permeate and recharge groundwater; drainage systems that allow trickling of water into the ground or that direct storm water run-off into green spaces for natural absorption
  • Water savings and recycling, including extending water recycling particularly of grey water at the building block level, incentivizing consumers to save water through increased tariffs for increase in consumption, raising awareness campaigns, and improved smart monitoring systems to identify leakages and inefficient use of water.

What are the benefits of a Sponge City? 

There is wide range of benefits associated with the implementation of sponge cities. These include:

  • More clean water for the city. Replenished groundwater and thus greater accessibility to water resources for cities. This also entails greater water self-sufficiency which allows cities to increasingly rely on water sources from within their boundaries
  • Cleaner groundwater due to the increase volume of naturally filtered storm water. This means lower environmental and health costs due to considerable decrease in water pollution
  • Reduction in flood risk as the city offers more permeable spaces for the natural retention and percolation of water. This leads to better resilience and in particular greater ability to deal with higher flood risks resulting from climate change
  • Lower burdens on drainage systems, water treatment plant, artificial channels and natural streams. This also entails lower costs for drainage and treatment infrastructure
  • Greener, healthier, more enjoyable urban spaces. Greener urban spaces improve quality of life, create more pleasant landscape aesthetics and recreational areas that are enjoyable and attract people. This also means increase in land value due to aesthetically more pleasing, cleaner and healthier open spaces close to private properties
  • Enriched biodiversity around green open spaces, wetlands, urban gardens and green rooftops

Study Trip to El Hierro

Blown way by the success oh 100% Renewable Energy in El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain

The World Future Council in cooperation with the Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC) hosted a study tour to El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain for European Parliamentarians in order to provide hands-on capacity building on 100% Renewable Energy (RE). It provided an opportunity for Parliamentarians to meet practitioners and experts from the field to learn about potential policy outcomes and effects. The study tour did not only provide education and practical experiences but also an interactive and informal platform for knowledge exchange and discussions among policy makers.

Facts about El Hierro’s 100% RE strategy

How is the island supplied by 100% RE?

El Hierro’s 100% renewable energy strategy is anchored to its climate and geology. It benefits from stable and relatively strong winds throughout the year, and has appropriate island topography for the development of a pumped hydro storage system. As such, the majority of its 100% target is now being met by an 11.5MW wind farm, whose output is coupled with the functioning of a pumped hydro facility situated in a volcanic crater. When the winds are strong and the output from the farm exceeds the island’s demand (whose peak is approximately 7.5MW), the excess electricity is used to pump water into the upper reservoir constructed in empty crater for storage. When the winds are weak, or absent, the water stored in the upper reservoir is released and runs through hydro turbines (four units with a combined capacity of 11.3 MW) to produce electricity and storage in the lower reservoir. In this way, the pumped hydro system acts as a battery bank for the whole island. Another component of the system are the desalination plants that produce water for the islands’ residents – the plants are operated in an integrated manner with the wind farm, ensuring that the water supply for the island is also generated in a clean and sustainable way. Another component of the long term strategy is to replace the island’s 4,500 cars with electric vehicles, in order to further reduce reliance on imported fuels and promote sustainable development on the island. Finally, a focus has also emerged on encouraging the island’s agricultural industry to make greater use of bio-digesters in order to make use of local resources more efficiently.

What policy and governance framework enabled the success?

The Canary Islands’ policy framework integrated four political goals in a coherent and integrated vision, including 1) strengthening and diversifying the local economy, 2) energy security, 3) water security and finally 4) climate and environmental protection. El Hierro`s 100% RE strategy was enabled by the strong political will and commitment by the island`s government. Whereas the Regional Energy Plan for the Canary Islands foresaw a RE target of 36 % by 2020 for the region, El Hierro`s government officials achieved the implementation of 100% RE for their island. On the
regulatory side, Orden IET 1711, which sets the specific regulatory regime for the Wind-Pumped Hydro Power System of El Hierro, was key to realize the vision.

By proving its success, El Hierro inspired policy change for the Canary Islands as well. The regional parliament strongly supports the 100% RE target and has started to develop a robust policy framework to replicate the success on other islands. For example it just recently adopted the “decreto eólico 6” that simplifies the procedure for the authorisation of wind farms in the Canary Islands. Until now, wind farms were authorised through a tender process, which has delayed the installation of many of them. Now, the projects are authorised by the Regional Government, if all permissions are provided by the promoter (i.e. the promoter is not obliged to “wait” for the resolution of a tender process).

The initiative on El Hierro is a product of the close cooperation between the island government of the Canaries (which owns a 60% stake in the project), the Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (which owns 10%), and a private Spanish energy and utility group (which owns the remaining 30%). Finally, there are several interconnected factors that have helped turn El Hierro into a leading example of a 100% renewable energy island. These include:

  • a long tradition of environmental leadership,
  • a sustained political vision among the local and regional governmental leaders
  • a high level of environmental awareness among the population, including the potential
    consequences of climate change
  • a desire for greater self-sufficiency

What does 100% RE in El Hierro cost and how does it impact the economy?

The current electricity generation cost on El Hierro provides significant opportunity for lower cost alternatives and to displace the diesel generation on the island. The island’s oil use is currently approximately 40,000 barrels per year totalling approximately USD $4 Million in annual fuel import costs. Estimates suggest that the project will save the island approximately $2.5 Million in diesel costs every year. The remainder is currently used in the island’s transportation system. However, once the vehicle fleet is transitioned to rely on domestically produced electricity, this will effectively eliminate the island’s reliance on diesel power. This will not only save the island millions of dollars per year in imported fuels: it will also reduce its exposure to fossil fuel price volatility, making it more resilient to external shocks and strengthening the local economy by keeping more of its income in the region.

The Canary Islands are relatively isolated, approximately 300 kilometers from the coast of West Africa. This remoteness makes it more costly to import power system components such as generators, turbine towers, and distribution system infrastructure; it also makes it more expensive to fly in technical experts, such as engineers and project developers. This was partly overcome by partnering with, and building on the existing capacities of a local institute based in the main island Gran Canaría (ITC) that provided significant technical and strategic support over the course of the project. Drawing on the capacity of the ITC made it possible to develop a cluster of expertise in the Canary Islands. Hereby, the island has become a hub for knowledge sharing and for providing advisory services to other island governments as well as to stakeholders in countries with off-grid regions. This has had direct positive impact on the local economy and created jobs as well as new business models. Finally, the support of both local, national and international institutes, of business partners, as well as funding bodies such as the European Union played an important, if not invaluable role.

Lessons learnt from El Hierro’s 100% RE approach

As an island, El Hierro provides valuable lessons for other constituencies implementing 100% RE. This is particularly true for other islands as well as for countries with off-grid regions. Here, technology transfer and advice can facilitate the replication of El Hierro`s success model – particularly the provision of clean water through renewable energy powered desalination plants – which can stimulate rural development and improve the quality of life of the poor. Similarly, jurisdictions with an interconnected system and national grids can draw on the experiences of the island with a small population of about 10.000 inhabitants. Whereas the technological approach is probably not directly transferable to industrialized, grid-connected countries, the policy framework provides valuable lessons and experiences. 10 elements of a 100% RE policy framework, which the EL Hierro example proofs right:

  • 100% RE is technically and economically feasible and is a matter of political will to achieve it.
  • A stable, reliable and robust regulatory framework is the determining factor for the long-term success. The perceived risk of RE resulting from political uncertainty is hence the biggest barrier.
  • Energy in many parts of the world is closely related to freshwater: 100% RE can be achieved by adopting an integrated policy approach for the energy and water sector (incl. desalination and wastewater treatment).
  • 100% RE is a tool for energy and water security: It reduces the jurisdiction`s exposure to fossil fuel price volatility and energy imports, making it more resilient to external shocks and strengthening the local economy by keeping more of its income in the region.
  • 100% Renewable Energy can generate new economic activity, create jobs and is a tool to create socio-economic value in a society as well as diversify the local economy.
  • A 100% renewable energy strategy must be anchored in the existing climate, socio-economic context and geology. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy and local feasibility studies should inform the implementation plan.
  • 100% RE can generate significant cost savings.
  • El Hierro suggests that a significant expansion of RE in the transport as well as in other sectors (water, heating/ cooling etc.) will need to become a strategic priority for governments to achieve 100% RE.
  • By developing more efficient energy infrastructure, it becomes easier to develop, finance, and integrate the remaining infrastructure required to meet a jurisdiction’s energy needs with locally
    available renewable resources.
  • By providing market access to a wide range of stakeholders (incl. public and private ones), policy makers can help build positive synergies across the region and leverage investments.

Policy recommendations deriving from El Hierro’s 100% RE approach

For National Legislators

  • Set a political 100% RE target to provide leadership and streamline actions and hence resources.
  • Provide a robust, reliable and coherent policy framework that reflects long-term investment security.
  • Develop an evidence-based and comprehensive narrative to communicate benefits and opportunities of RE to the public.
  • Simplify administrative procedures to reduce costs and enable investments.
  • Electrify the heating/cooling and transport sector
  • Adopt an integrated approach to fiscal, education, infrastructure, economic and energy policy.
  • Develop efficient energy infrastructure which include the reduction of energy demand as well as the establishment of integrated systems to enhance energy efficiency.
  • Implement inclusive policy frameworks that allow a broad range of public and private stakeholders to participate and new business models to emerge.
  • Foster sustained citizen engagement to ensure acceptance and maximize the benefits for the people.
  • Strengthen and empower regional governments to develop regulatory frameworks based on local and regional conditions (e.g. distinguish between islands and main land)

For European Legislators

  • Phase-out all direct and indirect subsidies for a fossil fuel-based energy system.
  • Develop a fiscal policy framework for RE.
  • Develop binding RE targets and a robust frameworks beyond 2020 for RE with ambition and leadership.
  • Provide funding for RE related infrastructure development as RE leads to profound changes in the way energy system.
  • Establish an Energy Union that builds on 100% RE to achieve energy security, sustainability and economic competitiveness.
  • Strengthen local and regional governments to adopt and develop adequate energy solutions for the respected area.
  • Ensure full and active participation of regions, communities/cities, and local authorities in the Energy Union.
  • Include the narrative of a feasible and viable 100% RE target in the Paris process by referring to examples.

Next steps

  • MEPs host a Lunch Debate in the European Parliament to enhance the debate on 100% RE with other MEPs and members of the commission.
  • MEPs explore opportunities to highlight the need for a national binding RE targets in the EU and putting RE at the heart of the Energy Union.
  • The group contributes to fostering the positive communication around RE as a solution to Climate Change and a tool to spur economic and social development.
  • Peter Liese reaches out to EU Commissioner Arias Cañete.
  • Eva Kaili and Marijana Petir present the El Hierro as a case study for the feasibility of 100% RE in the STOA Panel.
  • Boleslaw Piecha explores opportunities to engage Polish communities and policy makers in the debate on 100% RE.
  • Marijana Petir explores opportunities to present El Hierro as a case study for the feasibility of 100% RE in Croatia.
  • Eva Kaili and Marijana Petir explore opportunities for follow-up study tours to Croatia and Greece.

Flickr album

Carbon labelling policies


Carbon Labelling is supported in the framework of the Intelligent Energy Europe programme

It has been shown that the carbon footprint of food products (‘foodprint’) can vary substantially. Depending on its production method (organic versus chemical), its content (meat versus vegetarian or vegan), transport routes (air freight, sea freight or local), processing method (fresh versus deep-frozen) and disposal of residues (use as organic fertilizer versus waste), each food item is responsible for a certain amount of GHG emissions during its life-cycle.

Making this information available to the consumer increases transparency in the food market, raises awareness of the consumer, creates incentives for the industry to lower its carbon footprint, and rewards climate friendly products. Consumers should know whether the organic kiwi from New Zealand or the home grown chemically fertilized apple does more harm to the climate. In general, environmental labelling has been a success story since the 1980s. Labels, such as the Energy Star, energy efficiency ratings or the Nordic Swan label have changed the behaviour of consumers and manufacturers. An Eurobarometer survey showed that for an overwhelming majority of Europeans (83 percent) the impact of a product on the environment plays an important aspect in their purchasing decisions.

An evaluation of the specific circumstances of the political and regulatory environment will determine the best choice in each case. Whereas a mandatory label ensures a broad participation, voluntary schemes might have a better acceptance in the industry. A food label should be based on total lifecycle emissions, as opposed to considering only the use-phase. Possible are both, comparative labels which provide consumers with product information through use of a specific number (e. g. ‘1 kg CO2’) or rating (e. g. A–F or 1–5 stars), or endorsement labels which prove that the product meets certain criteria (e. g. below average carbon footprint).

Implementing new labelling schemes necessitates conformity assessment procedures involving testing, inspection, certification, accreditation and metrology. These processes are essential for the effective implementation and acceptance of the scheme.

The EU Commission has taken a first look at this issue but, not surprisingly, has received opposition from the food industry. However, the example of the UK Carbon Label and the Swedish climate labelling initiative show that the concept can be implemented and, with the assistance of governments and industry, can be established on a larger scale.

Case study: Sweden’s Klimatmärkning

In Sweden, the two major certification bodies, KRAV and Swedish Seal, have developed a climate label for food. As the project has been joined by several major food and agriculture companies, the Swedish climate labelling initiative has become the first comprehensive and country wide policy of its kind in Europe.

The climate label covers the food chain from farming to the sale of the produce. So far, criteria for meat, fish, milk, greenhouse vegetables and agricultural crops have been set. Food produced and distributed with at least 25 percent less GHG than comparable products can be labelled with a respective note. In this way the label focuses on the climate friendliest products within a group, but does not help the consumer to choose between meat and beans.

The climate label is accompanied by an information and education campaign, which resulted in recommendations for climate compatible nourishment. In addition, the initiative works with the industry to implement measures to reduce the GHG emissions of food production.

According to press reports (Spiegel-online of 7th Nov. 2009) the climate label increased the sale of Max burgers by 20 percent. Experts are cited to expect a 50 percent reduction of GHG emissions in the Swedish food industry, if the population would switch to climate friendly alimentation. The labelling initiative maintains that 60 percent of consumers would like to see a climate label on products.

Anna Richert, climate expert of the label initiative, says: “The strength of the label is that reductions in climate impact have been made wherever possible. The producer participates in making the food chain more sustainable.”

Click here to access Klimatmärkning homepage.

World Future Council mourns death of Hans-Peter Dürr

Hamburg, 19.05.2014 – The World Future Council mourns its founding member Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Dürr. The nuclear physicist and philosopher passed away on May 18 at the age of 84 in Munich.

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