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Energy Watch Group (EWG) is an international network of scientists and parliamentarians. We support research projects and publish our own studies about the global energy transition. Our mission is to provide policy makers - and you, via this newsletter - with objective information on climate and energy developments.
Newsletter January 2021
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Dear Colleagues and Friends,

First of all, we're sorry, this newsletter comes seven days late. But we're still at the beginning o the year and this newsletter is still worth reading! Let' start: 2021 marks the beginning not only of a new year and new decade but hopefully also the beginning of humanity winning the fight against COVID-19. But even though there is still a pandemic going on, along with activists worldwide we cannot stop raising awareness for the other big emergency that is threatening our survival - climate change. We hope this year will be one of bold and ambitious climate action ending successfully with COP26 in Glasgow.
 
Sadly this first month has already provided an example of the opposite: Gazprom presented the company’s energy strategy to the Russian president and it’s full of fossil fuel expansion projects for gas. These are bad news, or as our President, Hans-Josef Fell put it: “From a climate protection perspective, one gets sick of it.” Nevertheless, we have to work on a better, an increasingly renewable future.
 
But now let’s get into the newsletter. This month it’s going to cover a broad bouquet of topics from climate adaptation, to gender inequality and role models from the far East and much more. Their connections to the energy transition might not always be obvious to you, but trust us, once you read through the articles, they will become clear. 

Enjoy the reading!

Your EWG Team
 
The Last Month in Words
What Caught Our Attention
#ClimateAdaptation is part of Climate Protection
#Gender and the Energy Transition
#Vietnam Role Model for the Energy Transition
How We've Been Active 

#IRENA-GA Energy Transition in times of a Pandemic
#Austria The Case for a Wider Energy Policy Mix
If You've Got Time for a Closer Look
#CarbonPricing Does it reduce Emissions?
#Powerfuels in a Renewable Energy World
What Caught Our Attention
Climate Adaptation is Part of Climate Protection


#ClimateAdaptation On 14 January the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published its yearly Adaptation Gap Report. Climate adaptation – reducing vulnerability to climate change – is part of the 2015 Paris Agreement and thus should be on most countries’ agenda. In light of last year’s extreme number of climate disasters the importance of building climate resilience has become especially obvious. And yet, the UNEP report reveals that adaptation is lagging far behind where it should be, with the pace of implementation of projects as well as public and private finance.
 
The lack of funding can be divided into two categories. Not only do developed nations not spend enough on climate-proofing their own economies, but they also do not effectively enable developing countries to do the same. On that matter: A new report by the Climate Change and Resilience Information Center (care) finds that the already low flow of climate adaptation finance going to developing countries is over-reported by 42% on average. The slow pace of investments leaves many regions vulnerable to ever worsening climate disasters and will only end up costing governments more in the long-run. Both, climate disaster and global warming, cost less to prevent now than to deal with the consequences of forgone prevention later.
 
Back to the UNEP report, it further identifies natural climate solutions as underutilized so far. Hardly any national adaptation plans include them despite being the most cost-effective options. They also offer an opportunity to connect climate adaptation and protection through measures such as planting trees as flood barriers, halting the destruction of coral reefs as a buffer for coastal regions, and allowing degraded land to regenerate, all of which also help reduce emissions by storing carbon.
 
Lastly, a topic that is especially important to us, the energy transition can also be used to increase climate resilience. As the EWG’s president Hans-Josef Fell brought up many times over the years and as recently featured in our November Newsletter, decentralised renewable energy can prevent electricity blackouts. Electricity outages often go hand in hand with climate catastrophes and are very dangerous in their own right. Renewables are particularly suitable to prevent blackouts by making regions less dependent on others for their energy needs because they can easily be deployed locally in every region of the world (see our study Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewable Energy). 
Gender and the Energy Transition
#Gender While we support energy transitions overall, it is very important to us that this immense change in energy technology and infrastructure is seen as an opportunity to assure equal sharing of the maximized benefits and minimized burdens of the energy transition. This concept of linking social justice to the energy transition is well known as a just transition, which can refer to energy justice in multiple contexts. Here we will focus on the importance of gender, an often-overlooked aspect of energy justice that still lacks research. The SEI report assessing the gender and social equity dimensions of energy transitions and ENERGIA’s five year research project on energy, access and gender both individually found that existing power asymmetries related to access and resource distribution need to be addressed early on, otherwise the new regime will simply copy those asymmetries.

Let us examine the gender gap following an example. When a coal mine closes many men in the community will lose their employment. If the company and government failed to prepare for the closure, the woman in the household will typically have to look for (additional) work in order to make up for the loss of household income. This can lead to a very high work burden considering the bigger share of household work traditionally falls on the woman. Additionally, it may be hard for the woman to find well paid or full-time labour if the region’s infrastructure and economic prosperity is linked to mining. This is especially the case in developing countries where mines are usually located in isolated regions.
 
When it comes to the other side of the energy transition, installing renewable energy, women don’t necessarily fare better. When a renewable plant is built, women are less likely to benefit from the new job opportunities created by this as women are underrepresented in the energy labour market as employees and entrepreneurs. Therefore, any new deployment of renewable energy must make sure to help women overcome the prevalent social and cultural barriers like lower access to energy related education.
 
Research in West Sumatra has shown that renewable-energy projects that reach out to the local community and start public participation and awareness raising processes early on are the most likely to not accidentally reinforce existing inequalities. Governments and firms have a responsibility to not overlook these problems and involve the entire population in the energy transition, not just the male half.
Vietnam - Role Model for the Global Energy Transition?


#Vietnam In 2020, Vietnam’s rooftop solar sector wrote an energy transition success story like no other. The country increased its installed capacity more than 25-fold compared to a year earlier with over 9 GW of rooftop solar capacity being installed that year. To add a comparison: Germany’s rooftop solar capacity only grew by 2,6 GW in 2019.
 
While the sector had been on the rise all throughout 2020, the numbers of installations truly exploded in December. And it’s surprisingly easy to pin point the reason for rooftop PV’s timely growth: Good renewable energy policy. In April 2020, the government released a feed-in tariff policy FIT2 paying USD $0.0838 per kWh over a period of 20 years for systems that started operating before 31 December 2020.
 
This wasn’t the country’s first feed-in tariff. The previous FIT remunerated each kWh rooftop solar with USD $0.0935 which created a first solar boom but for ground mounted systems with about 5.317GWp of 2019 installations. Today, at 16.5GW total, solar power makes up over a quarter of Vietnam’s electricity according to the state utility Electricity of Vietnam (EVN).
 
Our study “The Case for a Wider Energy Policy Mix in Line with the Objectives of the Paris Agreement” proves that leaving feed-in tariffs behind in favour of auctions harmed the overall growth of renewables and especially small and medium sized projects, e.g. rooftop solar projects. Hopefully policy makers take note of Vietnam’s success story and re-write it via reintroducing feed-in tariffs or premiums to (re-)accelerate their own energy transition.
Quote of the Month

"The impact of a changing climate is already upon us, hitting vulnerable countries and vulnerable people most severely. These are countries that are often already experiencing economic and social problems."

Kristalina Georgieva
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
How We've Been Active
The IRENA General Assembly – Energy Transition in times of a Pandemic


#IRENA-GA Like every January since the organisation’s foundation, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) held its general assembly, as well as related stakeholder meetings, such as the strategy meeting of the IRENA Coalition for Action (CfA), of which EWG is a member.
 
Despite meeting at IRENA’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi, the assembly and surrounding meetings took place online from 18 to 21 January, due to the pandemic. During his opening remarks, Francesco La Camera, the Agency’s Director-General, reminded the world that “2020 made it crystal clear that we can no longer continue with business as usual if we are to live in a world that is safe, resilient and prosperous for all. […] And energy transitions will play a vital role in our common ability to overcome the health crisis and leave the path to the deeper climate crisis."
 
Over the next days, minister, ambassadors, state representatives met to discuss the future of global energy transition governance with a special focus on a sustainable Post-COVID recovery, financing renewables, a pathway to carbon neutrality and energising healthcare. During the IRENA’s Public-Private Dialogue – a key platform for policy makers, legislators and civil society representatives to exchange views on the latest renewable energy trends – our president, Hans-Josef Fell, highlighted the necessity to accelerate investments in renewable energy “much more than we did in the last decade”.
 
Additional to the official IRENA gathering, the Coalition for Action held working group meetings as well as its annual strategy meeting. The EWG, currently involved in two of the four working groups, “Towards 100% RE” and “Community Energy”, reinstated its high interest in the groups’ activities and participated at the strategy meeting. 
 
While this assembly was forced to take place online and was therefore less personal than previous assemblies, it was nevertheless crucial to highlight the importance of an accelerated energy transition. The EWG will continue to stay actively involved in order to press for more ambitious climate and energy policies as well as cooperate within the unique international setting of the CfA. Together we can lay the groundwork for a fastened and decentralised energy transition to 100% renewable energy.
The Case for a Wider Energy Policy Mix in Austria
#Austria As you might have read in our December Newsletter, together with the Global Renewables Congress and others, we have commissioned a study on the “Shortcomings of Renewable Energy Auctions Based on World-wide Empirical Observations”. This study was now presented by the leading author Dr. David Jacobs and our President, Hans-Josef Fell at an online event together with the Austrian Wind Energy Association IG Windkraft. 
 
In the associated press release Fell was quoted: “Renewable energies must be installed at an unprecedented pace in order to achieve the objective of the Paris Climate Agreement. This is only possible if we fundamentally rethink current policy instruments.” After presenting the key takeaways of the study, Jacobs and Fell had an online discussion with IG Windkraft’s Director General, Stefan Moidl, the Director of the European Environmental Bureau, Bernhard Zlanabitnig, and the European Commission’s deputy representative to Austria, Wolfgang Bogensberger. All participants agreed that the current EU renewable energy policy framework needed to be rethought in order to reach the goals set out by the Paris Agreement.
 
We hope that these discussions will not be the last questioning the EU’s current state of energy policy. Within the upcoming weeks and months, we will keep on pushing for a wider energy policy mix throughout the EU and beyond in order to realise a fastened energy transition to 100% renewables.
If You've Got Time for a Closer Look...
Does carbon pricing reduce emissions?
#CarbonPricing Jessica F. Green from the University of Toronto has looked into the effectiveness of one of the main elements of climate policy: Carbon pricing. At the moment, 40 national and 25 sub-national jurisdictions make use of this tool and the V20 group of developing countries plans to adopt a carbon pricing system by 2025. Green’s paper “Does carbon pricing reduce emissions? A review of ex-post analyses” therefore considers ex-post analysis of carbon pricing performance from 1990 till today. Surprisingly, this only adds up to 37 studies with the vast majority of them being based in Europe and focusing on the European Union. Her first conclusion: More research following up on carbon pricing policies is needed, especially in regions other than Europe. 
 
Green also finds that aggregate emissions reductions from carbon pricing are minimal ranging between 0 and 2% per year with carbon taxes performing slightly better than emissions trading schemes. 2% per year is obviously far slower than is necessary to remain under 1.5°C global warming, meaning governments should not rely on carbon pricing as their main tool of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and instead employ carbon taxes as one part of a bigger puzzle which, as a whole, forms a coherent climate and energy policy to significantly reduce emissions and- in the best case – limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Powerfuels in a Renewable Energy World
#Powerfuels While our mission is to work towards a sustainable future via electricity generated by renewables, not all sectors can be easily electrified. For example, aviation and some industrial processes will instead need carbon-neutral powerfuels to replace fossil fuels. The study “Powerfuels in a Renewable Energy World - Global volumes, costs, and trading 2030 to 2050”, published by German Energy Agency dena, is the first of its kind to quantify the presence of powerfuels across the global energy mix in 2030, 2040, and 2050 in an energy system reaching carbon neutrality in 2050. The team of authors from the LUT University including the EWG’s head of the scientific board, Prof. Christian Breyer, and dena further explore the costs and potentials of producing powerfuels in all regions of the world and project the development of powerfuel trade. Using the LUT Energy System Transition model, which was also used for our pioneering study “Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy”, they find that powerfuels will be able to cover more than a quarter of global energy demand in a cost-optimized carbon-neutral system. Powerfuels thereby make a major contribution to the energy transition and are needed to achieve a fully decarbonised energy system.
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