Developing Countries

DFID pledges to spend aid budget more effectively

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

The UK’s Department of International Development (DfID) is planning to spend the aid budget more effectively.

DfID’s Penny Mordaunt reiterated the government’s commitment to the 0.7 percent of GDP target, but stressed that the UK taxpayer expected better value for money on foreign aid.

Speaking at Chatham House’s London Conference, the Secretary of State told the crowd that: “we need to ensure that how we are meeting the 0.7 percent is sensible and works for the British public in the long-term, so we are focused on ensuring there is nothing that hinders the most effective use of these funds.”

It comes after DfID faced widespread condemnation for frivolous spending on Western consultants with some receiving the equivalent of £600 a day rather than on frontline assistance, or spending £9 million on an an Ethiopian ‘Spice Girls‘.

For Mordaunt, Britain’s role should be to fund projects which developing countries are unable to do themselves. It is essential to “build capacity” in these countries, such as energy, to ensure that these countries can create their own economic growth. That is why the construction of large-scale power plants are vital for development, with experts asserting that just one would create up to 800,000 jobs. That is why Japan, China and South Korea are all building fossil fuel power stations in some of the world’s poorest countries.

If the UK Government is serious about improving how it spends public money, it must be prepared to use the aid budget on large-scale infrastructure projects. Investing in energy capacity is one of the easiest ways to ensure that developing countries can stand on their two feet without assistance from the UK taxpayer.



Kenyan paper slams the West’s fossil fuel hypocrisy

Kenyan paper slams the West’s fossil fuel hypocrisy

By | Developing Countries, Kenya | No Comments

The Kenya Standard has harsh words for Western environmentalists seeking to block Kenya’s plans for a new clean coal power station.

As previously reported, the new coal plant at Lamu on the eastern coast would supply Kenya with 30 percent of its power, and is seen as critical to the country’s plans to modernise and achieve universal electricity coverage. Both the EU and Western environmental groups have condemned the proposal, with the latter accused of hiring local activists to stir up opposition to the plant.

But the Standard has hit back, pointing out the hypocrisy of this stance:

“The lobby groups opposed to the exploitation of the vast deposits of coal with an estimated value of over Sh3.4 trillion [US$34 billion] are largely funded by interest groups in countries that were industrialised using coal power.”

The paper also says that high cost of electricity is a major hurdle for Kenya’s plans to industrialise, with energy costs accounting for a third of manufacturing expenses. And as we and others have repeatedly explained, renewables cannot deliver a manufacturing industry. The blast furnace powered by wind has yet to be invented.

For Western environmentalists sitting in air conditioned offices, the central moral question is this: why should Kenya have to forgo development because the West has spent a century and a half pumping pollution into the air?

Laos backs clean coal partnership with neighbours

Laos backs clean coal partnership with neighbours

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

The small southeast nation of Laos has announced it wants to team up with its neighbours to develop clean coal technology.

The announcement came from Dr Daovong Phoneko, the most senior official in the Ministry of Energy, speaking at the 16th ASEAN Forum on Coal Council Meeting in the Lao capital Vientiane.

ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, represents a combined population of 640 million people across 10 member states, and is the third biggest investor in coal worldwide after China and India.

The ASEAN countries have been strong advocates for continued use of the fuel, which has helped poorer member states leapfrog up the energy access table in recent years. Indonesia, for example, drove up the rate of energy access from 53 percent of its population in 2000 to 91 percent today, while over the same period Vietnam rose from 76 percent to 98 percent. Almost all of this expansion came from coal plants, which is cheap, locally available, and can provide reliable 24/7 power.

Laos, one of the least developed members of the bloc, still relies largely on hydropower for its energy needs, which has meant a shortfall of electricity during the dry season. At the conference Dr Daovong said that developing the energy sector in Laos would generate much-needed funding for other key development sectors like healthcare and education.

ASEAN’s Clean Coal Action Plan, launched in 2015, is focused on sharing technology and expertise in the fields of clean coal and carbon capture and storage. Like other ASEAN members, Laos views this technology as the only way to power its economy and meet global climate targets.

Coming after Kenya’s announcement of a new clean coal power plant, and news that clean coal is a central part of China’s Belt and Road ambitions, it’s clear that developing countries with large populations to feed are increasingly prepared to defy Western attempts to prohibit the fuel.

Energy access in 2018 – here’s what you need to know

Energy access in 2018 – here’s what you need to know

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries | No Comments

Do you have access to reliable electricity in your home? Over a billion people are still living in the dark, forced to make do with dim and dirty fuels for lighting and cooking, placing an intolerable burden on their health, prosperity and quality of life. It’s why the UN has earmarked universal electricity access as one its key Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

So how is the world getting on?

A new report tracking progress has just been published by a host of global institutions, including the International Energy Agency, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation. It provides an extremely useful statistical overview of what’s working and where the world is falling short.

Here are the key findings:

1. The world is not on track to meet the 2030 target

On current trends, 8 percent of the global population will not have access to electricity by 2030. That means yet another generation growing up in the dark, overwhelmingly in sub-Saharan Africa.

2. Good news in Latin America and India

Three quarters of Latin American countries are on track to achieve universal access by 2020. The region will have achieved near universal access by 2030, with the exception of Haiti which will have 90 percent access rate.

Coal-powered India is the star of the show on energy access, providing electricity to 30 million people a year between 2010 and 2016 – more than any other country in the world.

3. A mixed picture in sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania have made significant progress, increasing access rates by over 3 percent a year between 2010 and 2016. However other African countries languish far behind, with South Sudan at the bottom of the table on just 9 percent with access to power.

4. But grounds for optimism – we know what works

“The experience of countries that have substantially increased the number of people with electricity in a short space of time holds out real hope that we can reach the billion people who still live without power,” says Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank and one of the authors of the report.

He adds, “We know that with the right policies, a commitment to both grid electrification and off-grid solutions like solar home systems, well-tailored financing structures, and mobilization of the private sector, huge gains can be made in only a few years.”

Investment in Africa’s energy sector is essential to unlock the continent's potential

Investment in Africa’s energy sector is essential to unlock the continent’s potential

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

Investment in energy supplies and infrastructure is essential for the development of Africa, which is set to see its population grow to 2 billion by 2050 – over half of the global population.

Africa has incredible economic prospects but a lack of access to electricity is preventing it from reaching its potential.

According to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, there are close to 600 million people on the continent living without access to electricity and a huge amount living on the edge of poverty.

Secure supplies and infrastructure would provide a significant step in reducing this number, but current levels of investment are too low and are far from the estimated $1.5 trillion needed between now and 2050 to enhance Africa’s power sector.

Funding for power stations and electricity grids are essential in lifting the most vulnerable out of poverty and providing opportunities for African economies to grow.

In an opinion piece for The Financial Times, Nick Butler a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, said: “Access to energy provides the first step in the ladder of development — without heat, light or mobility there is little chance of an escape from poverty.”

If the World Bank and the western world want to regain credibility they must listen to developing countries and lift restrictions on the one thing that we know for sure delivers economic growth: affordable, reliable baseload electricity.

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.