Renewable energy as cheap as fossil fuel in three years, claims IRENA chief

Decentralized solar systems, including mini-grids and home systems, are expected to serve up to 100 million households around the world by 2020
Updated 26 January 2018
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Renewable energy as cheap as fossil fuel in three years, claims IRENA chief

ABU DHABI: With the costs of creating electricity from solar power and wind continuing to fall, electricity from renewable energy will soon be “consistently cheaper” than electricity from fossil fuels, according to the head of the world’s renewable energy agency.
By 2020, most wind and solar power technology now being commercially used will be priced in the same range as fossil fuels, “with most at the lower end or even undercutting fossil fuels,” said Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
That is particularly good news for communities in parts of Africa, Asia and other parts of the world that remain unconnected to power grids and without access to modern energy, experts said.
Cheaper prices for improved technology, combined with new financial arrangements to help put it in place, should lead to more unconnected communities getting access to clean power, according to energy access body Power for All.
“The falling cost of solar and an expected decline in (costs of renewable energy) storage are providing a major boost to delivering electricity and related services to communities without access to energy,” William Brent, a spokesman for the organization, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But it’s not just a question of solar technology, which has achieved full commercial viability and is now cheaper than coal in many countries. Many companies are also pioneering delivery methods using innovative business and financial models, as well as through advances in super-efficient appliances,” he said.
Decentralized solar systems, including mini-grids and home systems, are expected to serve up to 100 million households by the year 2020, he said.
Rwanda, for example, is taking advantage of falling costs to outfit 500,000 homes with solar systems, which should enable almost 2 million people to access clean electricity before the end of 2019, said James Musoni, Rwanda’s minister for infrastructure, including electricity.
“With renewable power alternatives becoming consistently affordable each day, it is up to us to take advantage of this and ensure that we move even closer to achieving universal access to electricity,” the minister said.
The program will cost $15 million — money received as a concessional loan from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, he said.
The cost of producing renewable energy has fallen consistently since 2010, with wind and solar panels leading the way — and in some cases falling in price by as much as 73 percent over that period, according to a new report by IRENA.
The biggest price drops have come in the cost of generating utility-scale power from solar panels, which means that such energy can now be added at a much more competitive cost, Amin said.
In 2016 alone, he said, more than 160 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added to the world energy mix, an increase of almost 9 percent.
Around 70 percent of that increase came in developing countries, with Asia accounting for 58 percent and Africa 12 percent, he said.
Technological advances, competitive procurement and a large base of experienced, internationally active project developers were the main drivers of the lower costs, Amin said.
The agency said its 2017 review of the industry showed the renewable energy sector supported 9.8 million jobs globally, with solar voltaic systems the largest employer with 3 million jobs worldwide. That was a 12 percent increase from the agency’s 2016 review, it said.


Funds managing $2 trillion urge cement makers to act on climate impact

A general view of Gulf Cement Company in Ghalilah, Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates July 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 min 59 sec ago
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Funds managing $2 trillion urge cement makers to act on climate impact

  • The cement industry produces 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning that if it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter, behind the US and China

LONDON: European funds managing $2 trillion in assets called on cement companies to slash their greenhouse gas emissions on Monday, warning that a failure to do so could put their business models at risk.
Some asset managers are ramping up engagement with heavy polluters to demand a faster transition to a cleaner economy.
“The cement sector needs to dramatically reduce the contribution it makes to climate change,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which has more than 170 members, mainly European pension funds and asset managers. “This is ultimately a business-critical issue for the sector,” Pfeifer said in a statement.
The group said investors had written to cement or construction materials companies including Ireland’s CRH, Franco-Swiss group LafargeHolcim and France’s St. Gobain to demand they achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
They also noted that Germany’s HeidelbergCement had already adopted the target. The funds urged all cement companies to align themselves with the 2015 Paris agreement to combat global warming, engage with policymakers to ensure an orderly transition to a low carbon economy, and increase their reporting of climate risk.
“Construction materials companies may ultimately risk divestment and lack of access to capital as an increasing number of investors seek to exclude highly carbon-intensive sectors from their portfolios,” said Vincent Kaufmann, CEO of the Ethos Foundation.

FASTFACT

The cement industry produces 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Signatories collectively manage assets worth $2 trillion and include Aberdeen Standard Investments, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Sarasin & Partners and Hermes EOS.
Although funds are increasingly engaging with companies from airlines to carmakers on emissions, few are calling for the systemic transformation of the global economic system that scientists increasingly argue is needed to prevent runaway climate breakdown.
The cement industry produces 7 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning that if it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter, behind the US and China.
With climate campaigners traditionally focused on fossil fuel companies, the European cement sector has received comparatively little scrutiny until recently.
On Tuesday, police arrested six climate activists from civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion at a protest aimed at disrupting a site in east London belonging to London Concrete, a unit of LafargeHolcim.
In June last year, a report from think-tank Chatham House concluded that although there was no “silver bullet” to reduce emissions from cement, it should be possible to deploy a range of policies and technologies to achieve deep decarbonization.