UAE leads region in renewable energy: APICORP report says

UAE leads region in renewable energy: APICORP

By WAM
DAMMAM, May 15 2018 (WAM)

The UAE has done impressive work to stay on track with the renewable energy targets and with phases 3 and 4 of the Dubai Solar Park to begin commissioning by the end of 2020, and is placed at the forefront of renewable energy development in the region, according to a research published by the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation, APICORP, on the regional renewable energy sector.

”Other Emirates have also set up projects in effort to boost renewable energy targets like the Shams CSP in Abu Dhabi,” said the report titled ‘MENA Renewables Maintaining Momentum’.

The report forecasts that the MENA region power capacity requirements are expected to increase at an annual rate of 6.4 percent until 2022.

To support their renewable sectors, the main energy-importing countries have introduced several supporting mechanisms including competitive bidding, the introduction of feed in tariffs, FiTs, tax exemptions, and power-purchase agreements, PPA. On the other hand, energy-exporting countries – excluding the UAE – have done little to incorporate renewables, as they continue to rely on cheap-to-extract conventional resources to meet rising electricity demand.

“The declining cost of renewable energy is a good sign, it shows that there is an appetite in the market for investors to support the initiatives in the region. Countries should leverage this opportunity to begin implementing policies to boost investment in the renewable energy sector.”
Mustafa Ansari, Senior Economist
APICORP’s report also finds that the renewable energy drive in the region is led by the UAE, Morocco, and Jordan, as each of these countries have put measures in place to ensure the diversification of their energy sources are on track, with the help of European and international development organisations.

The Moroccan government is on track with the plan as they put a target of 2GW of solar and wind power each by 2020. The country has made further impressive developments in its wind sector: five wind projects totalling 850MW have already been awarded, with record bids ranging from $25-30/MWh. As for solar, phase 1 of the Noor Concentrated Solar Power, CSP, project was commissioned in 2016, while Noor-2 and Noor-3 are expected to add a combined 350MW in 2018, which upon completion will become the largest CSP project in the world.

Similarly, in Jordan we also see a surge in investment, with support from the international community. These include the Japanese led Kepco project, Korean led Fujeij wind project as well as the Al Rejef project by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and finally the Quweira project led jointly by firms from the UAE and Spain. With these projects the government is increasing the country’s energy target from 600MW to 1GW by 2020.

Saudi Arabia has also kick started an ambitious renewable energy plan with the newly formed Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources taking charge of the country’s promising renewable energy programme. With proper infrastructures put in place, it demonstrates the government’s commitment to achieving the renewable energy targets, and in turn attracting foreign investors. The first utility-scale solar project was recently awarded to ACWA Power. The 300MW Sakaka PV project – located in the Al-Jawf region – achieved a world-record price of US$0.02342/kWh and will operate under a long term PPA. As for wind, progress is also apparent, albeit at a slower pace than solar. The government has received four bids for the first wind project, expected to hold a capacity of 400MW in Al-Jawf region.

APICORP also predicts a more positive outlook for Egypt as the country steps up to increase the solar and wind power production. Egypt’s main challenge is their low foreign reserves and an uncertain outlook for the pound. Although the research predicts that the outlook will improve especially as disputes no longer have to be settled in Egyptian courts. Financing remains the government’s biggest obstacle, but the growing commitment of international lenders such as the IFC and EBRD is helping attract much needed funds into the sector.

Taking a broader look at the region, the falling cost of competitiveness will support the success of renewable energy plans; however, several other MENA countries are still struggling to make progress. Large oil and gas reserves and cheap extraction costs mean that hydrocarbons continue to meet rising demand in countries like Kuwait, Qatar and Algeria, and policy uncertainty and lack of an efficient and supportive regulatory framework are also contributing to slow progress.

Ghassan Al-Akwaa, Energy Sector Specialist at Dammam-based APICORP, said, “The key drivers for countries that are performing really well with their renewable energy policies are government initiatives. Morocco, Jordan and the UAE are a testament to that, their governments have put in measures to ensure the success of these policies. Saudi and Egyptian governments have also started to put policies in place and we expect to see their renewable energy sectors expand within the next few years because of this.”

Mustafa Ansari, Senior Economist, added, “The declining cost of renewable energy is a good sign, it shows that there is an appetite in the market for investors to support the initiatives in the region. Countries should leverage this opportunity to begin implementing policies to boost investment in the renewable energy sector.”

WAM/Tariq alfaham/Nour Salman

Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement’s “Lifeblood”

UN Climate chief Patricia Espinosa making a point during a media roundtable. Credit: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
BONN, May 15 2018 (IPS)

As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless.

The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference to be held in Katowice, Poland in December.

The guidelines are essential for determining whether total world emissions are declining fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which include boosting adaptation and limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

Climate finance dialoge

However, the catch is that all this requires financing to achieve. For instance, the conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from developing countries in implementing the Paris Agreement are pegged at the cost of 4.3 trillion dollars to be achieved.

“Finance is a very critical component for us,” said Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, Zambian Delegation leader and UNFCCC focal point person. “Agriculture, general adaptation and the APA agenda for implementation modalities form the core issues we are following keenly but we believe all these are meaningless without finance.”

It has always been the cry of developing countries to receive support through predictable and sustainable finance for it is the lifeblood of implementation of mitigation and/or adaptation activities. And Least Developed Countries (LDC) Chair Gebru Jember Endalew agrees with Zambia’s Shitima on the importance of finance.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support,” he said.

The civil society movement was particularly unhappy with the lukewarm finance dialogue outcome. “The radio silence on money has sown fears among poor countries that their wealthier counterparts are not serious about honouring their promises,” said Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid.

He said funding is not just a bargaining chip, but an essential tool for delivering the national plans that make up the Paris Agreement. And adding his voice to the debate, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Justice Allaince (PACJA) expressed dismay at the lack of concrete commitments from developed country parties.

“We are dismayed with the shifting of goal posts by our partners who intend to delay the realization of actual financing of full costs of adaptation in Africa,” said Mwenda.

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

But for Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the final analysis of the talks revealed a more hopeful outlook.

“I am satisfied that some progress was made here in Bonn,” said Espinosa at the close of the ten-day talks. “But many voices are underlining the urgency of advancing more rapidly on finalizing the operational guidelines. The package being negotiated is highly technical and complex. We need to put it in place so that the world can monitor progress on climate action.”

According to Espinosa, the presiding officers of the three working bodies coordinated discussions on a wide range of items under the Paris Agreement Work Programme, and delegations tasked them to publish a “reflection note” to help governments prepare for the next round of talks.

She said the preparatory talks would continue at a supplementary meeting in Bangkok from September 3-8, at which the reflection note and the views and inputs by governments captured in various texts in Bonn would be considered.

The Bangkok meeting would then forward texts and draft decisions for adoption to the annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Poland.

“We have made progress here in Bonn, but we need now to accelerate the negotiations. Continuing intersessional streamlining of the text-based output from Bonn will greatly assist all governments, who will meet in Bangkok to work towards clear options for the final set of implementation guidelines,” she explained.

The Talanoa Dialogue

In parallel to the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue.

Following the tradition in the Pacific region, the goal of a ‘talanoa’ is to share stories to find solutions for the common good. In this spirit, the dialogue witnessed some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas and renewed determination to raise ambition.

“Now is the time for action,” said Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23. “Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make. We must complete the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement on time. And we must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans.”

The dialogue wrote history when countries and non-Party stakeholders including cities, businesses, investors and regions engaged in interactive story-telling for the first time.

“The Talanoa Dialogue has provided a broad and real picture of where we are and has set a new standard of conversation,” said the President-designate of COP24, Michał Kurtyka of Poland. “Now it is time to move from this preparatory phase of the dialogue to prepare for its political phase, which will take place at COP24,” he added.

All input received to date and up to October 29, 2018 will feed into the Talanoa Dialogue’s second, more political phase at COP24.

The Koronovia work Programme on Agriculture  

Farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as prolonged droughts and shifting rainfall patterns, and agriculture is an important source of emissions.

Despite this importance however, agriculture had been missing and was only discussed as an appendage at the UN climate negotiating table, until November 2017 when it was included as a work programme.

Recognising the urgency of addressing this sector, the Bonn conference made a significant advance on the “Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture” by adopting a roadmap for the next two-and-a-half years.

“From our perspective as Zambia, our interest is in line with the expectations of the African group which is seeking to protect our smallholders who are the majority producers from the negative impacts of climate change,” said Morton Mwanza, Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture focal point person on Climate Smart Agriculture.

And according to the outcome at the Bonn talks, the roadmap responds to the world’s farming community of more than 1 billion people and to the 800 million people who live in food-insecure circumstances, mainly in developing countries. It addresses a range of issues including the socio-economic and food-security dimensions of climate change, assessments of adaptation in agriculture, co-benefits and resilience, and livestock management.

Nevertheless, key to this roadmap is undoubtedly means of implementation—finance and technology. Developed countries pledged, since 2009, to deliver to developing countries 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 for climate action.

However, the withdrawal of 2 billion dollars’ worth of support by the Trump administration because of its decision to leave the Paris Agreement, leaves the climate finance debate unsettled, and a major sticking point in the talks.

Big polluters influence

And some campaigners now accuse some fossil fuel lobbyists allegedly sitting on the negotiating table to be behind delayed climate action.

According to a study, titled “Revolving doors and the fossil fuel industry,” carried out in 13 European countries, failure to deal with conflict of interest by the EU is due to cosy relationships built up with the fossil fuel sector over the years. It calls for the adoption of a strong conflict of interest policy that would avoid the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry on the international climate change negotiations.

“There is a revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby all across Europe,” said Max Andersson, Member of the European Parliament, at the Bonn Climate Talks. “It’s not just a handful of cases—it is systematic. The fossil fuel industry has an enormous economic interest in delaying climate action and the revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby is a serious cause for alarm.”

According to Andersson, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to as close as 1.5 degrees as possible, there is need to clamp down on conflicts of interest to stop coal, gas and oil from leaving “their dirty fingerprints over our climate policy.”

Interestingly, there was good news for the ‘big polluters out’ campaigners at the close of the talks. “No amount of obstruction from the US and its big polluter allies will ultimately prevent this movement from advancing,” Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability told IPS. “Global South leaders prevailed in securing a clear path forward for the conflict of interest movement, ensuring the issue will be front and center next year.”

And so, it seems, climate finance holds all the cards. Until it is sorted, the implementation of the Paris Agreement in two years’ time hangs in the balance.