Saturday, May 19, 2012

Connecting The Dots: The Clean Energy Solutions Center Is Making A Difference For Policymakers

Connecting The Dots: The Clean Energy Solutions Center Is Making A Difference For Policymakers: by Adam James Ever hear the one about the Icelandic geothermal systems engineer and the Kenyan project developer who walk into a bar? As interesting this meeting might be, it’s unlikely to happen anywhere but in a bad renewable energy joke. Or at a geothermal conference. Enter the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a new website designed to make it easier for these kind of encounters to happen — helping spread valuable experience to emerging clean energy markets around the world. Serving as a clearinghouse for clean energy information, the Solutions Center offers stakeholders a wide range of tools, including over 1,300 resources (reports, presentations, and models), webinars and online training, and sharing experiences. The Solutions Center one of the eleven initiatives launched by the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and the UN Energy Mechanism. Boasting 10,000 users in over 150 countries, the clearinghouse seems to have corrected the mistakes of many of its predecessors by maintaining regularly updated files and offering interactive experiences with experts. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. With the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative and the 21st Century Power Partnership, there is a serious need for a platform to connect interested parties and offer interdisciplinary solutions to problems with complex regional and geographic variables. Playing Matchmaker to Reduce Emissions A report, prepared by the Energy Information Agency for the most recent CEM meeting, shows that members represent 80 percent of global energy consumption, and two-thirds of the growth in demand in the next ten years. These countries could cut 29 Gt of CO2 by 2050 — equaling a 50 percent reduction from 2010 levels — by crafting national clean energy goals and engaging in international collaboration. The Solutions Center addresses both of these objectives in a pragmatic way. By sharing information on various national policies and supporting data, policymakers can develop strategies for their countries or regions to reflect the newest developments and network with experts. This lays the foundation for increased collaboration at the international level as stakeholders have a forum to make connections and participate in larger efforts. Three Ways the Solutions Center Can Make a Difference The IEA report urges ministers to commit to “national actions that aim to appropriately reflect the true cost of energy production and consumption,” follow through on the 2009 G20 commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, step up energy efficiency, and invest much more in research and development. While the report concludes that we are not currently on track to achieve needed emissions reductions, there are some encouraging takeaways:
  • Renewable power has had a 13 percent annual growth over the last ten years — with 2011 showing global investment in new renewable power plants ($240 billion) outpacing fossil fuel plants ($219 billion) for the first time.
  • Over 80 countries have renewable energy policies in place; including feed-in-tariffs, tradeable green certificates, tenders, tax incentives, and grants.
If the Clean Energy Solutions Center works as planned, it could help spread that success further. For example, solar PV has grown tremendously — 40 percent between 2000 and 2011 alone. However, this has been focused in Germany, Italy, the U.S., and Japan. Regions with high solar potential like Africa and Asia need to scale up their use of this technology as well. The Solutions Center can help bridge informational gaps by offering cost-free resources to policymakers in these regions to encourage technology transfer and best practices. Additionally, those 80 countries with renewable energy policies need to be able to adapt to changing market conditions. As the IEA report notes: “These policies must… be designed to effectively keep pace with technology cost reductions, to keep policy costs to governments moderate and maintain investor confidence, all while helping renewables compete.” The Solutions Center can help policymakers keep a pulse on what other governments and regions are doing, while tracking changes in the economics of different technologies. The Clean Energy Solutions Center is the right idea at the right time — and has the potential to be a very powerful tool for policymakers. Adam James is a Special Assistant for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.

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