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Developing Countries

US lagging far behind China in exports of clean fossil technology to energy poor countries

US lagging far behind China in exports of clean fossil technology to energy poor countries

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

Last year the US Government announced plans to set up a Clean Fossil Alliance, with the aim of helping poorer countries that need fossil fuels to develop to use those resources in the cleanest possible way. But the US is late to the party. The Chinese government has long been exporting clean coal to the world’s energy poor, as part of its flagship One Belt One Road policy.

One Belt One Road is a massive programme of infrastructure investment spanning 65 countries that China regards as key strategic partners. While Beijing says it merely wants to improve trading links with these countries, many analysts say the real aim of the policy is to create a zone of Chinese economic and political influence to rival that of the US.

Sherry Madera, a former Director at the British embassy in Beijing, is advising China on how it can “green” these Belt and Road projects, which include telecoms, road, rail, and crucially energy. She says the Chinese government views clean coal as a legitimate form of power generation for countries that struggle to provide energy to all their people, a context that richer countries need to understand: “Western countries can get quite worried about the use of coal in any shape or form”, Madera says, “that comes from the right place; renewable energy is now tumbling in price, pulling any of the black stuff out of the ground will end up with some level of pollution. But we need to be alive and harmonised to the fact that these countries along the Belt and Road are in a very different place economically to where we are. Actually having access to energy at all is the primary objective.”

Clean coal in this context means modern, “ultra-supercritical” coal plants that produce lower levels of pollution by operating at higher efficiencies. In a bid to tackle their own air pollution problem, the Chinese have become experts in the technology, with strict emissions standards forcing the closure of older, dirtier models. China’s coal fleet is regarded as significantly cleaner than its US counterpart, which has only one ultra-supercritical plant in the whole country.

It’s estimated that China has invested $44bn in coal projects overseas since 2000. Despite the fact that the fuel is out of fashion (though still widely used) in the West, energy poor countries like Pakistan, Kenya, and Malawi, where millions still lack electricity, have welcomed this investment and the jobs and growth it brings.

This all means that when it comes to delivering cheap, reliable energy to the world’s poorest Washington has a lot of catching up to do with Beijing.

Global CCS Institute calls for the transfer of CCS tech to developing nations

Global CCS Institute calls for the transfer of CCS tech to developing nations

By | Developing Countries | One Comment

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) garners less attention than renewable energy, but experts say it’s just as vital for a zero-emissions future. And a growing chorus is calling for it to shared with developing countries that have no alternatives to coal and gas.

The technology works by stripping out the carbon dioxide from factories and power stations and injecting it deep beneath ground in special rock formations where it cannot contribute to global warming.

It’s the only technology that can decarbonise industries like the steel, cement, fertiliser and petrochemicals, which all rely on the high temperatures produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

And in a world where forty percent of the world’s electricity needs are met by burning coal, CCS is considered essential for cleaning up the power sector, especially in developing countries that are relying on coal to join the global middle class.

The Global CCS Institute, which represents the industry, recently wrote to the UNFCCC (the UN body responsible for implementing the Paris Agreement) to make exactly this point.

In their letter, they ask for “recognition of the importance in transferring technology to developing countries” and say that CCS should be “seriously” considered as an option when and where appropriate.

China, Japan and the US, which have all invested heavily in CCS research for their own domestic markets, are likely to find favour with this argument, not least because it would give them a chance to export their technology to the developing world.

It’s vital that developing countries can generate the power they need to grow and escape poverty. In many cases that will involve the use of fossil fuels. By ensuring they have access to the latest energy technology like CCS, we can help them make full use of their natural resources while moving closer towards a prosperous low-carbon future.

UK bank takes pragmatic stance on coal power for development

UK bank takes pragmatic stance on coal power for development

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, Indonesia | No Comments

Despite coming under pressure from Western environmental activists, British bank HSBC has said it will continue to fund coal power in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam

HSBC has also promised to stop lending to coal power projects in developed markets by the end of 2019.

Daniel Klier, head of strategy and sustainable finance at HSBC, said coal power was still the only realistic way to sufficiently increase the power supply in coal-rich developing countries such as Bangladesh, where 62 million people still lack no access to electricity.

“We are trying to balance two different sustainable development goals of getting power to the people and limiting the environmental impact,” Mr Klier told the FT.

Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam have all made huge strides on poverty reduction in recent years, thanks in part to a mass-expansion of the coal-powered grid.

All three Asian countries favour coal because it’s available locally in the region and unlike solar, it can provide “baseload” electricity that can operate day and night.

Game-changing US aid reforms could become law by the end of the year

Game-changing US aid reforms could become law by the end of the year

By | Developing Countries | One Comment

Landmark legislation to reform the way the United States gives development aid could become law by the end of the year, according to the Senator behind the bill.

As previously reported, the legislation would double the amount that America can lend to projects in the developing world from $29 billion to $60 billion, while also setting up a new institution: the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC). The IDFC would also support US companies that want to export to low and middle-income countries.

Significantly, the new IDFC would have the power to make investments as well as lend, meaning it could take on bigger projects in riskier environments. This opens the door to more US investment in large-scale power generation, which the White House has earmarked as a top development priority.

The aid reforms are seen as an essential counterweight to Chinese influence in Africa and developing Asia. Remarkably, given America’s bitterly divided political environment, the new legislation has received bi-partisan support in both houses of Congress, meaning it stands a good chance of becoming law.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who co-sponsored the bill with Republican Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, said that the reforms would support the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include achieving universal electricity access by 2030.
“I believe the United States should and can play a leadership role in marshaling the world’s efforts toward achieving these goals by 2030,” said Coons.

UK aid budget could help exports of British energy tech

UK aid budget could help exports of British energy tech

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, Nigeria | No Comments

The UK’s £14 billion aid budget is set for its biggest overhaul in years, with plans to use aid spending to help British exporters to invest in Africa and developing Asia.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has promised her department will experience a “big shift”, following years of controversy about the UK’s 0.7 percent of GDP

The new strategy would see UK companies given support to invest in poorer markets, on the principle that the aid budget should only grow if a part of that spending benefits the UK economy too. Ministers are said to be “frustrated” that French and German businesses have been more successful at exporting to the developing world, including to Commonwealth countries.

In the energy access space this could mean UK manufacturers being supported to deliver large-scale power projects in energy poor Commonwealth partners like Nigeria and Bangladesh.

With our huge expertise in clean coal, renewables and carbon capture, this could be a chance to bring energy to millions, unlock new markets AND boost UK plc.

The UK Government should only agree to the World Bank’s demand for more money under certain conditions

The UK Government should only agree to the World Bank’s demand for more money under certain conditions

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, India, Nigeria | No Comments

At its annual meeting in Washington this month, the World Bank will be demanding more money from British taxpayers, as a part of planned increase to its capital budget. The US is already highly sceptical, and we believe the UK Government should only agree if certain conditions are met.

First, we have to be sure that our money will be spent wisely.

World Bank rules which privilege renewable energy at the expense of conventional energy projects do little to help with poverty. Developing countries can only build up their industry, create jobs and improve healthcare if they have a foundation of reliable power. As Indian Railways Minister Piyush Goyal put it last year “Every country needs a baseload. I cannot tell my country. ‘guys, it’s 6pm in the evening, shut everything down because the solar has gone off.”

Second, we should insist that World Bank spending supports British trade as well as aid

Key Commonwealth partners like India, Nigeria and Bangladesh have populations in the tens of millions without access to reliable power. They are desperate to use their coal and gas resources to bring electricity to their people, and they want to do so in the cleanest possible way. Technology like high efficiency low-emissions coal plants, which British manufacturers specialise in, can help them, providing a crucial transitional bridge as we move towards a low-carbon economy. Yet under current World Bank rules it is not eligible for funding. We should insist on an end to these restrictions, helping millions access lifesaving electricity while supporting British exports.

The world’s poorest countries did not create the problem of climate change. They should not be made to pay for the mistakes of developed countries by forgoing access to the low-cost, reliable power that we used to industrialise. When the UK delegation travels to Washington this month, this is the case we need them to make.

The US is moving on plans to support clean coal in developing countries – who will join them?

The US is moving on plans to support coal power in developing countries – who will join them?

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

Last year, in a major policy shift, the US announced it would be opposing the World Bank’s current ban on funding for coal power in developing countries.

The White House argues that it is “immoral” to deny the poorest countries the chance to industrialise using their abundant fossil fuel reserves, a view shared by many governments in the developing world, including India, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Now the US appears to be turning rhetoric into reality, with a series of new appointments designed to drive the new policy through.

America’s World Bank Executive Director Karen Mathiasen, an Obama-era appointee is out, to be replaced with Heath Tarbert, who served on the Trump transition team.

As Washington’s representative on the World Bank’s board, Mr Tarbert is expected to issue vocal calls for an end to the coal restrictions. According to Barry Worthington, who heads up the UN’s “Cleaner Electricity from Fossil Fuels Working Group” and is thought to be close to the White House, Mr Tarbert may even start using the US veto to strike down funding for renewable energy projects if the World Bank doesn’t agree to lift the restrictions.

In another key personnel change, the White House has also appointed Wells Griffith to serve as its top energy advisor. The Administration says that Mr Griffith will be tasked with supporting US plans to export clean coal technology around the world, as part of its strategy of asserting “energy dominance”.

America’s proposed Clean Fossil Alliance is intended to support the construction of high-efficiency plants that produce less greenhouse gas emissions than older designs as well as construct cutting-edge “clean coal” plants that employ carbon-capture technology to trap up to 90 percent of emissions.

As well as the moral case for bringing power to the world’s poorest, the White House believes that by sharing US technology and expertise, it can help curb Russian and Chinese energy influence in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The new policy will be welcome news in DelhiAbujaDhaka and Kiev, which have long argued that coal is critical to both their prosperity and energy security.

Earth hour ignores the hundreds of millions who live without power

Earth hour ignores the hundreds of millions who live without power

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

At 8:30 pm on Saturday March 24 people around the world will celebrate “Earth Hour”, switching off their lights for one hour in a symbolic stand against fossil fuel-powered energy.

What this exercise ignores is that 1.2 billion people around the world desperately need the lights turned on. These people don’t get a choice about whether take part in Earth Hour because they don’t have access to electricity in the first place.

While Western environmentalists will shut off their lights, TVs and air conditioning units, comfortable in the knowledge that they can switch them back on at 9:30pm, 1.2 billion will go to bed in the dark. And they will wake up in the dark, walking long hours to fetch water and firewood to heat and their light homes.

Despite the reality of energy poverty, those same Western environmentalists want to deny the world’s poorest the reliable, grid-based power which they all take for granted.

As the US development expert Dr Moss has argued, trying to deny fossil fuels to the developing world because of climate change is like sending salads to a famine zone in a bid to cure global obesity. The developing world is poor because it does not consume enough energy, trying to restrict that consumption further will ensure it stays poor. Renewables are of course part of the solution, but no country in the world has escaped poverty and delivered universal electricity access using wind and solar alone.

Rather than indulging in feelgood gesture politics, we should be providing the world’s poorest with the low-cost, round the clock power that we expect in our own lives.

How the electricity deficit is causing deforestation

How the electricity deficit is causing deforestation

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries | No Comments

According to the WHO, around 3 billion people still cook and heat their homes using fires or basic stoves. The resulting indoor pollution has a devastating impact on human health, equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes an hour.

What’s less often appreciated is the ruinous environmental cost of burning fuel indoors.

In many parts of the developing world, charcoal is the main fuel source for fires and stoves, and the charcoal trade has become a major driver of deforestation.

Take Zambia, a country in which 78 percent of the population still don’t have access to electricity.

Zambia relies almost exclusively on hydro-power, but because of droughts, 8 to 14 hour power cuts have become a part of everyday life. Late last year virtually the whole country was plunged into darkness, not once but twice.

All of this means that charcoal is big business, as even households in electrified urban areas need it to see them through the blackouts. Forestry NGO Forest Trends says that each year Zambia loses 250,000-300,000 hectares of forested land, mainly to charcoal production.

Yet unchecked deforestation has serious environmental consequences, including soil erosion, declining water quality and loss of biodiversity.

No-one should be forced to destroy their health or their local environment, just so they can cook for their families. It’s time that countries like Zambia had an electricity supply that’s reliable, affordable and universal.

New US development agency could be a game-changer in the fight against energy poverty

New US development agency could be a game-changer in the fight against energy poverty

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries | No Comments

A new bill before the US Congress could lead to a dramatic improvement in America’s ability to fund large-scale power projects overseas, helping to counter growing Chinese influence in Africa and Asia.

The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act) is intended to put US development finance on a par with China, which is making massive infrastructure investments in the developing world through its development finance institutions.

The BUILD Act would double the amount that America can lend to projects in the developing world from $29 billion to $60 billion, while also bringing a host of US development agencies under roof as part of a new turbo-charged development finance corporation (DFC). It will also support US companies that want to export to low and middle-income countries.

Significantly, the new DFC would have the power to make investments as well as lend, meaning it could take on bigger projects in riskier environments. This opens the door to more US investment in large-scale power generation, which the current Administration has earmarked as a top development priority.

The White House is keen to ensure that American and not Chinese energy technology is used to bring electricity to the 1.2 billion people who currently live without it. At a recent infrastructure conference, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said: “sharing more of our energy abundance has tremendous implications here and abroad. Geopolitically, it frees our allies from reliance on unstable or unfriendly sources, and it reduces our trade deficit. Domestically, it will be a catalyst for further job creation and spur economic growth up, down, and beyond the supply chain.”

The US is also clear that a serious plan to achieve universal access has to include fossil fuels as well as renewables. As Perry says: “the world, especially developing economies, will continue to need fossil fuels, as over a billion people on the planet live without access to electricity,” he said. “Look those people in the eyes that are starving and tell them you can’t have electricity because as a society we decided fossil fuels were bad.”