By Bernhard Schell | IDN-InDepth NewsReport
DUBAI (IDN) – More than one billion people live without electricity mainly in poor and rural communities. Providing universal access to energy will therefore be a key discussion point at the sixth World Future Energy Summit (WEES) from January15 to17 in Abu Dhabi, an eminent emirate of the federation of United Aran Emirates (UAE).
Building on the high profile successes of WFES 2012, the Summit will bring together global leaders in policy, technology and business to discuss the state of the art, develop new ways of thinking and shape the future of renewable energy. A Project and Finance Village at WFES 2013 will display 40 projects worth over $8 billion for investment opportunities to provide electricity through renewable sources
According to the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook, in 2011, nearly half of the 1.3 billion energy-poor populations live in Africa. Additionally, there are 2.7 billion people living without clean cooking facilities; more than 25% of them in Africa.
Against this backdrop, providing universal access to energy has been in the forefront of sustainability discussions, and in January 2012, the United Nations launched the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All program at WFES. WFES 2013 will continue to focus on global access for energy by including a program and an innovative exhibition initiatives that focus on finding solutions for universal energy access.
Technological advancements in renewable energy and the rising cost of fuel have made rural electrification projects a financially viable option, according to Ernesto Macias Galan, President of the Alliance of Rural Electrification (ARE), the only international, non-profit business association dedicated to the promotion and the development of off-grid renewable energy solutions for rural electrification in developing countries.
Galan, who will be a featured speaker during the 'Rural Renewable Energy' session at the International Renewable Energy Conference (IREC) hosted by WFES 2013, highlights that, with 84% of the world’s energy poor residing in rural and remote areas, the need to find quick and sustainable solutions is imperative for the survival of these communities. "Off- grid renewable projects are an innovative method to tackle energy poverty that is so prevalent in remote and rural communities," continues Galan.
Galan cites the example of the Monte Trigo solar village in Cape Verde as a successful step in overcoming the obstacles posed by energy poverty. In February 2012, the Monte Trigo solar energy plant provided 60 of the 80 households in the village uninterrupted electricity supply for the very first time.
Situated on the western most tip of Africa, this village depends on fish for food and more importantly, as a source of income through trade with neighbouring island villages. "Until early this year, producing ice for storing fish was impossible, as Monte Trigo remains unconnected to any main electricity grid. Fishermen would often have to make ten hour round trips to the nearest main island of Sao Vicente to buy ice. Their need for an energy source to sustain their village was critical," said Galan.
According to Galan, a Multiuser Solar micro-Grid (MSG) was installed in this village, which is capable of producing approximately 90 kWhr per day – enough to power 60 households.
The Monte Trigo project is one example of how solar energy can bring small but significant changes to rural communities. However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that a $48 billion investment is required for electrification – 49% of this investment is required for Africa, for communities like Monte Trigo.
The Project and Finance Village, first introduced to WFES in 2011, is making a significant contribution to sourcing finance for renewable energy projects such as the one in Monte Trigo. During WFES2012, up to 27 projects worth over US$5 billion were showcased to investors; however, the number of projects is set to increase significantly at WFES 2013.
"The Project and Finance Village at WFES2013 is responding to the challenges of rural electrification. This year, it has expanded to include 40 projects valued at over US$8 billion. Considering that the investment for the Monte Trigo project was just 290,000 euros, the Project and Finance Village has the ability to make powerful strides in overcoming energy poverty, said WFES 2013 Show Director, Naji El Haddad.
The World Future Energy Summit, hosted by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted renewable energy company will also be the host venue for the prestigious biennial International Renewable Energy Conference in Abu Dhabi (ADIREC).
The conference history goes back to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa. WSSD underlined the recognition that renewable energy is a critical component of sustainable development, energy security, climate change, and air quality.
Two years after the WSSD, 154 countries attended international Renewable Energy Conference in Bonn, Germany. It produced 3 outcomes:
A Political Declaration containing shared political goals for an increased role of renewable energies and reflecting a joint vision of a sustainable energy future that provides better and more equitable access to energy as well as increased energy efficiency.
An International Action Program of voluntary commitments to goals, targets, and actions within their own spheres of responsibility from governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders.
Policy Recommendations for Renewable Energies that can be of benefit to governments, international organizations, and stakeholders as they develop new approaches and political strategies and address the roles and responsibilities of key actors.
The second global renewable energy conference was hosted by the Chinese government in 2005. The Beijing event drew senior representatives from more than 80 countries to review the status of the Action Plan and present new ideas for promoting and advancing renewable energy worldwide.
Washington IREC (WIREC) 2008 was the third global ministerial meeting on renewable energy, hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the American Council on Renewable Energy. The Trade Show at WIREC 2008 was the largest business-to-business and business-to-government conference and exhibition ever held on all-renewable energy in the U.S. It was global in scope, hosting exhibitors, speakers and delegates from 126 countries.
India hosted the next International Renewable Energy Conference (DIREC, 2010) during October 27-29, 2010 in New Delhi. [IDN-InDepthNews – January 13, 2013]
Image credit: WEES