In November of 2011 a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy project began construction on the roof of the “National Energy Commission” (CNE) headquarters in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  CNE is the institution responsible for overseeing the energy sector in the Dominican Republic.  The solar PV energy project was completed in January 2012 with a total installed capacity of 22 kilowatts (kW) and an estimated annual generation of 35,358 kWh, around 20 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption.  The solar PV energy system is connected to the utility grid Edesur under a net metering contract. CNE is using the solar panels to help mitigate its use of electricity from traditional fossil fuel sources, such as coal, fuel oil, and diesel.  The project’s main goals are to lower the headquarters’ greenhouse gas emissions and to demonstrate for others the feasibility of installing solar PV energy systems on roofs.

The solar PV system at CNE's headquarters (Source: CNE).

This project was made possible by the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americans (ECPA), which was created in 2009 in order to fund energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Caribbean governments to join the ECPA Caribbean Partnership, which is administered by the Organization of American States (OAS) and is supported financially by the Department of State.  In addition, Secretary Clinton announced that members will receive grants to improve renewable energy development.  In 2010, Caribbean governments submitted over 20 proposals to the OAS for renewable energy development projects.  The OAS awarded technical assistance to six projects in six countries.  One of the six projects was for the construction of a solar PV energy system at the CNE headquarters. In addition to receiving assistance from the OAS, CNE received assistance from the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme (CREDP), which is administered by the “German Society for International Cooperation” (GIZ) and is supported financially by the Austrian Development Agency. The total cost of the project was around US$ 130,000 with ECPA contributing US$ 65,000, CREDP contributing US$ 35,000, and CNE contributing US$ 30,000.

Read the rest of this entry

Caribbean, Dominican Republic, emissions reductions, renewable energy, solar power

Central America is an economically and ecologically diverse region with growing energy needs and unique vulnerabilities to climate change. Boosting investment in renewable energy is a key way that the region can protect its ecologically sensitive areas while achieving reliable access to clean energy for its population. In Central America, the top four renewable energy sources are geothermal, hydroelectricity, biomass, and wind. The relative importance of each renewable resource is different for each country depending on the geographical and geological situation. The Worldwatch Institute has recently begun work aimed at creating a favorable policy and investment environment for renewable energy in Central America.

Globally, the electricity sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing consumers of energy.  It is therefore important

The BELCOGEN bagasse plant in Orange Walk, Belize.

The BELCOGEN bagasse plant in Orange Walk, Belize. Photo Credit: Belize News

to consider the role of state and private utility companies in transitioning Central America to renewable energy sources. One of these companies, BELCOGEN, a subsidiary of state owned Belize Electricity Ltd (BEL), has received enormous amounts of attention and praise due to its recent investment in a 31.5 megawatt (MW) biomass power plant fueled by bagasse. BEL invested US$63 million to create BELCOGEN and the bagasse project. The price tag has officially made the deal the largest private investment ever made in Belize. Originally, the project was scheduled to be completed in 2007 and the investment was much lower; however, the necessary investment grew as the scheduled date of completion was postponed, and the project was finally completed in 2009. The plant runs on a combination of 92 percent bagasse and 8 percent heavy fuel oil. BELCOGEN is contractually obligated to sell at least 106 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to BEL for the first year of operation, making the company the source of at least 20 percent of Belize’s national energy demand. The rest of the energy produced (up to 44GWh) will be sold to Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI).

Read the rest of this entry

bagasse, BELCOGEN, Belize, biomass, Central America, developing countries, development, electricity, emissions reductions, energy security, renewable energy, sustainable development

Worldwide, the total square footage of green buildings (defined here as LEED certified buildings) is doubling every year, and 85 countries now have their own green building standards. But are we doing enough to harness the overwhelming benefits that come from boosting energy efficiency in buildings?

On January 25, Greg Kats, President of Capital E and the author of Greening Our Built World, presented on “Sustainable Solutions for the Planet’s Energy Challenge” as part of a new series from the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program. In his talk, he discussed the many ways we can move sustainability forward in three target areas: transportation, industry, and building efficiency, which account for 28 percent, 26 percent, and 40 percent of U.S. energy use, respectively.

Among the obvious solutions to promoting a more sustainable economy, Kats noted, are increasing the production tax credit for renewable energy, pumping more money into energy efficiency financing, and incorporating more renewable energy into building and city designs. He pointed to positive patterns already emerging in the field of low-carbon technology: solar photovoltaic technology, for example, has seen an 80 percent price reduction in just four to five years. Similarly, the price of a plug-in hybrid vehicle is now near that of a non-hybrid in a similar class.

The benefits of building green

Read the rest of this entry

Climate Change, development, emissions reductions, Green Technology, Innovation, renewable energy, sustainable development, United States

On December 29th, the Jamaican government called for a general election which resulted in a changing of the guard from the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) to the People’s National Party (PNP). The PNP, led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, assumes control of the government after having lost it to the JLP in the summer of 2007. With this change, many questions arise regarding current initiatives, especially those concerning energy. Despite many signals that the country is moving toward a more sustainable energy future, including a renegotiated contract to help make Wigton Wind Farm profitable, official legislation for net billing, and the rehabilitation of hydroelectric facilities, energy prices continue to burden most consumers and the country’s energy future still remains unclear.

election map, courtesy of Jamaica Observer

A map of Jamaica showing the election results from December 2011. Source: The Jamaica Observer

While both the PNP and JLP support renewable energy initiatives in their rhetoric, actual energy performance has been mixed. Until 2007, the PNP led the country for 18 years, and in that time the country’s first utility-scale wind farm was installed at Rose Hill. Its initial phase brought 18 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity to the island to complement the 21 MW of already-installed hydro power. The PNP also established the Office of Utility Regulation (OUR), which oversees, among other things, the island’s electricity sector.

Read the rest of this entry

Caribbean, electricity, emissions reductions, energy efficiency, Jamaica

The president of COP 17, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaks at the final plenary session of the climate change meetings in Durban, South Africa (Source: Worldwatch).

As the new year begins, climate negotiators have begun to move on from their engagement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. After two weeks of intense negotiations on the future of the international regime to combat climate change, they bring home pieces of an ambiguous mandate—but also some critical steps forward. Below, we discuss some of the outcomes of those exhilarating talks in early December.

Symbolic survival of the Kyoto Protocol

Under European Union leadership, signatories of the Kyoto Protocol agreed to enter a second commitment period for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, extending the treaty terms through 2017 or 2020. This symbolically salvaged the agreement—the only existing climate treaty with internationally binding reduction targets. However, the 27 EU countries, together with Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland, are the only countries to take on these targets, and they agreed to do so only under the condition that all major countries agree to a new, truly global and comprehensive climate treaty, if necessary outside the Kyoto structure.

Read the rest of this entry

China, Climate Change, developing countries, emissions reductions, European Union, Green Climate Fund, India, negotiations, UNFCCC, United States

In Part 1 of this blog, we analyzed the global CO2 emission trends published recently by the International Energy Agency (IEA), as well as the high divergence of emission trends among countries. In this follow-up, we discuss how these trends can inform negotiations at the UN climate summit that began this week in Durban, South Africa.

Industrialized countries as a group have achieved significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Although national efforts vary greatly and a rebound in emissions is expected with economic recovery, the IEA estimates that “developed countries” (as defined in Annex I of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) are on track to reach their target of reducing emissions 5.2 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, as agreed to under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The numbers look somewhat different at the country level, however. The United States, the only major developed country that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, has seen a 6.7 percent increase in CO₂ emissions since 1990, according to the IEA. The U.S. is the world’s second highest CO2emitter after China, which has more than three times as many inhabitants.

Certain signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, including Canada and Japan, have not stuck with their reduction commitments, clearly a sign of weakness of the treaty. But the agreement is functioning well for those who strive to abide by it. There is no doubt that Kyoto has prompted regional, national, and sub-federal action on climate protection and sustainable agriculture, energy, and transportation in many parts of the world.

Read the rest of this entry

China, Climate Change, coal, developing countries, emissions reductions, India, negotiations, UNFCCC, United States

The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change begins today in Durban, South Africa (Source: UNFCCC).

This week the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) begins. In Durban, South Africa, delegations from countries around the world will continue negotiating greenhouse gas reductions in order to prevent global warming from spinning out of control. So it is just in time that the International Energy Agency (IEA) releases its latest statistics on global CO2 emissions.

The provided figures contain CO₂ emission source breakdowns by fuel, sector and region over the period 1971 to 2009. According to the data, nearly two thirds of worldwide emissions come from two sectors – electricity and heat generation (41 percent) as well as transport (23 percent). Remaining emissions come from industrial processes (20 percent), residential (6 percent), and a multitude of additional sources (10 percent). Regarding energy, coal is the leading CO₂ emission source, accounting for 43 percent of those emissions, followed by oil at 37 percent and natural gas at 20 percent.

Read the rest of this entry

China, Climate Change, coal, developing countries, emissions reductions, India, negotiations, UNFCCC, United States

This September, the US Army established the Energy Initiatives Office Task Force in conjunction with announcing the ambitious goal of meeting over 25 percent of its energy demand through renewable sources by 2025.


The US Army is promoting renewable energy as a practical solution to pressing security, economic, and environmental challenges. Source: US Army

This initiative is part of a larger agenda within the Department of Defense to promote renewable energy as a cost-effective security measure. Over the last decade, rising energy costs have increasingly strained military budgets and concerns over fuel convoy and supply security have risen to the fore. As an organization, the US Army currently spends over US $4 billion per year on energy to power bases, installations, transport vehicles, and equipment around the world. The projected costs of the status quo, that is, maintaining a fossil fuel-based energy mix, have proven unsustainable to top military leaders. For example, with every US $1 increase in global oil prices, the US Army’s energy budget can fluctuate by over US $30 million. The Army has indicated that in addition to its environmental benefits, ramping up renewable energy makes sense from both an economic and national security perspective. Secretary of the US Army John M. McHugh recently stated that “The Energy Initiatives Office Task Force will help the Army build resilience through renewable energy while streamlining our business practices so developers can invest in and build an economically viable, large-scale renewable energy infrastructure”.

As one of the largest energy consumers in the world, the US Army’s adoption of such aggressive renewable energy policies will be a major boon to the US and global renewable energy industries. The Energy Initiatives Office (EIO) Task Force estimates that the US Army will need an additional 2.5 million megawatt-hours (MWh) per year of additional renewable energy supply over the next 10 years to meet its 25 percent goal.  A recent Pike Research report on US military energy initiatives finds that the renewable energy investments from the Army and other branches of the military will top US $10 billion annually by 2030 and continue to grow. Some analysts estimate that the US Army alone may attract over US $7 billion in private financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects over the next five years. This increase in demand can provide manufacturers and generators the long-term financial security they need to make significant structural investments in renewable energy production and innovation.

Read the rest of this entry

Army, Climate Change, emissions reductions, energy, energy efficiency, energy security, green economy, investment, low-carbon, renewable energy, solar power, United States

Global Energy Portfolio Shares by Energy Resource (Source: Renewable Revolution: Low-Carbon Energy by 2030)

On September 20, in remarks at the United Nations (UN) Private Sector Forum in New York, UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro announced the launch of a High-Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All, a body whose aim is to catalyze actions at all levels to achieve three goals by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Migiro, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, emphasized the critical role that energy must play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The High-Level Group, consisting of leaders from business, government, and civil society, will work to design a sustainable energy action agenda in time for the Rio+20 conference in 2012, a year which the UN General Assembly has designated the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The Sustainable Energy for All Initiative’s goals were first articulated in a summary report of the Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) last year titled Energy for a Sustainable Future.

Read the rest of this entry

Caribbean, Climate Change, developing countries, emissions reductions, energy efficiency, energy security, low-carbon, renewable energy

On January 14th, at the National Palace in Santo Domingo, the National Council for Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanism of the Dominican Republic (CNCCMDL) released its long-awaited DR ClimateCompatibleDevPlan-Sep-2011 (CCDP). The plan outlines policies the Dominican Republic can enact to achieve great economic growth as well as substantive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030. The project was started after the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 and has moved forward with support from the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) and the McKinsey Company.

The Dominican Republic's Climate-Compatible Development Plan

The development plan is an important document that allows the government to set the tone regarding the future of sustainability in the Dominican Republic. The CCDP details the emissions reductions that can be made in four areas of the economy by pursuing low-emissions strategies rather than a business as usual (BAU) scenario through 2030. Its long time horizon and its intent to achieve strong economic growth while simultaneously curbing emissions make it an ambitious plan that other island countries in the Caribbean can emulate. But it won’t be easy. The development plan states that success will require successful coordination of five key factors: commitments and leadership, stakeholder engagement and mobilization, effective institutions and systems, comprehensive strengthening of government capacity, and smart financing.

The CNCCMDL took pains to ensure that the development plan avoided partiality toward any one sector or political group. In order to be comprehensive and maintain the current momentum of the renewable energy sector, the council sought input from the country’s government, private sector, local and international NGOs and academia. According to Zugeilly Coss, a member of the CNCCMDL who worked closely on this project, “This plan addresses both practical and political elements with a serious perspective of sustainable development.

Read the rest of this entry

Caribbean, Clean Development Mechanism, Climate Change, Dominican Republic, emissions reductions, low-carbon, renewable energy