Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bright sun, bright future: Can Africa unlock its solar potential?

Bright sun, bright future: Can Africa unlock its solar potential?
By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
August 29, 2013 -- Updated 0942 GMT (1742 HKT)

(CNN) -- Which country boasts the world's fastest growing clean energy investment? Germany? No. United States? Think again.
Jumping from a few hundred million dollars to $5.7 billion, South Africa recorded last year the world's highest growth in renewable energy investment, according to the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).

The spectacular surge, led largely by investments in solar power projects, comes as South Africa moves to reduce its dependency on coal, which accounts for around 86% of its energy. To achieve that, the country has set the ambitious target of generating 18 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy by 2030.

As a result, a series of investments have trickled into the country, including Google's first foray into Africa's solar power market. The internet giant, which has spent more than $1 billion in renewable energy projects in the United States and Europe in recent years, announced in late May its decision to back the Jasper Power Project, a 96 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in Northern Cape, with a $12 million investment.

Solar power facilitates learning Solar school is a shining example
"We only pursue investments that we believe make financial sense," said Rick Needham, Google's director of energy and sustainability. "South Africa's strong resources and supportive policies for renewable energy make it an attractive place to invest."

Abundance of sun
Once completed, Jasper is expected to be one of the biggest solar installations in the continent, capable of generating enough power for some 30,000 homes.

It's no secret that Africa has plentiful sunshine, with many parts of the continent enjoying daily solar radiation of between 4 kWh and 6 kWh per square meter. But it's no secret, either, that Africa has the world's lowest electricity access rates, with more than half of its countries experiencing daily -- and costly -- power outages.

Amid such conditions, experts say investments in large-scale solar power projects could transform a continent faced with fast-rising populations and increasing demand for energy to support its economic growth.
"Six out of the 10 fastest economies in the world (over the past decade) were in Africa, and that requires much more energy, at a faster-growing pace than we've seen before," says Frank Wouters, deputy director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The governments in Africa should change their attitude of thinking that solar is too expensive.
Dickens Kamughisa, AFIEGO chief executive

Ambitious projects
And some countries have already taken notice. While South Africa is clearly setting the pace, projects are being announced across the continent as more countries look to unlock their massive solar potential.

In late April, Mauritania launched what's described as Africa's biggest solar PV plant so far, a 15 MW facility that is designed to account for 10% of the country's energy capacity, according to its developers. In early May, Morocco began the first phase of the construction of a 160 MW concentrated solar power technology plant near Ouarzazate as part of the country's efforts to produce 2,000 MW of solar energy by 2020.

And late last year, British company Blue Energy announced plans to build the Nzema Project in Ghana, a 155 MW facility. Construction at the $400 million project is expected to begin in the first quarter of next year, while the plant should become fully operational by the end of 2015.

Yet, despite such ambitious schemes, experts say the continent is far from exploiting its massive solar energy potential. According to the International Energy Agency, coal, oil and gas together accounted for 81% of Africa's total power generation in 2009, with nuclear power making up 2%, hydropower 16% and all other renewable sources accounting for just 1%.
Read this: Harnessing pedal power to light up Africa
Wouters says that a lack of awareness about the current price competitiveness of solar technology, coupled with wider inefficiencies in the performance of most power utilities across the continent, is preventing African countries from scaling up their solar energy production.

Another problem is financing, as higher up-front capital costs, longer payback periods and a lack of solar-project experience in the banking sector make access to funds more challenging.

"You need to involve banks and for many banks in Africa this is also new, so again you have to raise awareness," says Wouters. "Money typically comes with a risk premium which makes it more expensive than necessary."
Solar needs to be at the table, with all of the other technologies.

Mark Hankins, African Solar Designs
Others say, however, that it's inadequate policies and a lack of political commitment that prevent solar from taking off.
"The governments in Africa should change their attitude of thinking that solar is too expensive," says Dickens Kamughisa, chief executive of Uganda-based NGO Africa Institute for Energy Governance. "Every decision should be based on research that can help in allocating the energy budgets."

Last year, a UNEP report said that Africa's power sector needs to install an estimated 7,000 MW of new generation capacity each year. It warned that "unless stronger commitments and effective policy measures are taken to reverse current trends," half the population of sub-Saharan Africa will be without electricity in 2030.

Mark Hankins, director of Kenya-based African Solar Designs, says that in order for Africa to tap its clean energy potential, solar must take center stage in the continent's energy discussions.

"There needs to be a serious reassessment of how to do policy and finance to help solar meet its potential in Africa," says Hankins. "This means not just addressing the needs of poor people -- it means using solar to address the energy sector needs for on and off grid and ... using it to help business," he adds. "Solar needs to be at the table, with all of the other technologies."

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Friday, August 23, 2013

China-led Consortium Wins Argentina Dam Contract

China-led Consortium Wins Argentina Dam Contract
By Dow Jones Business News, August 21, 2013

BUENOS AIRES--Argentina's government on Wednesday awarded a contract
worth billions of dollars for the construction of two hydroelectric dams
to a consortium led by China Gezhouba (Group) Co. Ltd. (600068.SH).

The group, which also includes Argentine firms Electroingenieria SA and
Hidrocuyo SA, will construct a $4 billion hydroelectric project capable
of generating 1,740 megawatts of electricity in the sparsely populated
province of Santa Cruz in southern Argentina.

The government says the dams will help curb Argentina's need to import
diesel and liquefied natural gas and save some $1.1 billion a year.
Argentina's rising energy deficit has become so significant that trouble
paying for energy imports has led the government to implement a host of
unpopular economic policies, including a ban on the purchase of foreign
currencies, principally U.S. dollars. The government needs those dollars
itself to pay for energy imports and to make payments on its foreign debt.

The project's critics, however, argue the river doesn't have enough
water flow to generate the full 1,740MW of power. The project's isolated
location will make it expensive to transport the electricity from them
to other parts of Argentina, critics say.

"This project will be a huge headache for Argentina," said Gerardo
Rabinovich, an energy industry consultant. "It doesn't make any sense
from a technical standpoint or in terms of an investment. The country
doesn't have the money to pay for this, especially when there are
simpler, less expensive options available."

Mr. Rabinovich said it would make much more sense to build smaller
hydroelectric projects along the borders of Brazil and Paraguay.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner praised the project Wednesday,
however, saying it would lead to greater economic development. She also
said the winning consortium initially would finance the entire project.

Argentina's government first announced plans to build the dams about
five years ago but repeatedly delayed the project among questions about
financing. More recently, opposition politicians and critics of the
government have raised questions about the transparency of the bidding
process, and some have announced plans to challenge the construction
contract in court.

More than 20 companies, including other firms from Brazil, China,
France, Korea and Spain, had participated in bidding for the hydropower

The dams, which will be named after two former Santa Cruz governors,
including Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's late husband and
predecessor in office, Nestor Kirchner, will provide power to residents
and companies in Santa Cruz.

Provincial officials say they hope the availability of more electricity
will help attract industry to the region, though they aim to export any
unused electricity to other provinces and potentially even to
neighboring countries.

Infrastructure Minister Julio De Vido, who has overseen the planning of
the dams, said earlier this year that it will take more than five years
to build them. Mr. De Vido said the dams will generate about 10% of
total national demand for electricity.

An important component of the plan is a related project to connect Santa
Cruz and other areas to the national power grid. In an interview earlier
this year, Santa Cruz Lieutenant Governor Fernando Cotillo said the dams
wouldn't make any sense if they weren't connected to the rest of the
country's electric grid.

A group of former Argentine energy secretaries has estimated that the
government will have to pay around $13 billion in energy imports this
year to ensure the domestic market is adequately supplied.

Despite recent efforts to increase oil and gas production, production of
both goods has declined sharply over the past decade. At the same time,
demand for energy surged during the country's economic boom, raising the
need for imported energy. But new investment in energy production has
been relatively scarce. Industry executives say price caps and
unpredictable government policies have discouraged investment in the sector.

Last year, President Kirchner said the energy import bill was so onerous
she decided to expropriate oil and gas company YPF SA (YPFD.BA, YPF)
from Spain's Repsol SA in hopes of increasing energy output.

Earlier this year, Mr. De Vido said international bidders would have to
ensure that at least 30% of the construction components are made in

Hydroelectric dams currently account for about 30% of the power
generated in Argentina.

--Shane Romig contributed to this article.

Read more:

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Monday, August 19, 2013

China Becomes 'Key Investor' in Southeast Asia's Hydropower

China Becomes 'Key Investor' in Southeast Asia's Hydropower
August 19, 2013, Daily Fusion


China has emerged as a key player in both financing and building the
hydroelectric power infrastructure in Southeast Asia. China invested
more than $6.1 billion between 2006 and 2011 in financing 2,729
megawatts (MW) of capacity additions. Between 2006 and 2011, Chinese
investors�such as the state-owned enterprises Export Import Bank of
China and China Development Bank�financed 46% of all hydroelectricity
capacity additions in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar and developed
previously untapped hydroelectric resources in countries bordering the
Mekong and Irrawaddy river basins. This investment represented 6% of the
total global hydroelectric power capacity currently under construction
and 10% of the planned capacity additions outside of Brazil, Russia,
India, and China.

Southeast Asia has one of the world's fastest-growing regional economies
and is also home to some of the world's largest untapped hydroelectric
resources. Through 2018, the International Monetary Fund expects the
relatively small economies of Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar will see rapid
economic growth within the region and will meet the increased energy
demand with electricity from the new hydroelectric capacity. The
combined percentage of hydroelectric generation relative to total
generation in these three countries is expected to rise to 96% in 2030
from 80% currently, according to data from the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Much of the future electricity generated from the Chinese-financed and
-constructed hydroelectric facilities in neighboring Myanmar and Laos is
expected to be exported to China's rapidly growing southern regions.
Cambodia does not share a border with China.

Details on hydroelectric projects and funding in each of the three
countries follow:

According to ASEAN, hydroelectric power is expected to account for 77%
of Cambodia's total electric generating capacity by 2030. By contrast,
hydroelectric power accounted for less than 4% of Cambodia's 386 MW of
electric generating capacity in 2007. Much of Cambodia's hydroelectric
power expansion to date was financed by China. In December 2010,
Sinohydro�a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction
firm�completed the construction of the 184 MW Kamchay Dam project at a
cost of $280 million with financing from the Export Import Bank of
China. Separately, at a cost of $1 billion, China is sponsoring
construction of Cambodia's Stung Tatay and Stung Russey dams, which upon
completion will be among Cambodia's largest hydroelectric power
projects. Cambodia plans to build 10 dams between 2010 and 2019, adding
2,045 MW of capacity. Chinese entities are providing financing for six
of these dams.

Almost all of Laos's 731 MW of electric generating capacity was
water-based as of 2007, and all future capacity additions are expected
to be hydroelectric. China's investment capital is expected to add more
than 2,000 MW of capacity to the Laotian grid. Added capacity has turned
Laos into a major regional exporter of electricity, much of which goes
to China. In 2011, Laos exported almost 678 million kWh, or nearly 32%
of its total generation, and electricity exports accounted for about one
third of its total exports.

About 98% of Myanmar's electricity needs are expected to be generated by
hydroelectric plants in 2030; in 2007 this figure was about 50%. A
centerpiece of China's investment in Myanmar's hydroelectric generating
capacity is the 6,000 MW Myistone facility. Estimated to cost $3.6
billion, Myistone was to be one of the largest hydroelectric plants ever
built. Even though the Myistone Dam project remains on hold,
construction has begun on 13,200 MW of future hydroelectricity capacity
in Myanmar's Irrawaddy River basin, financed by both Chinese and Thai
investors. The electricity produced by these dams is intended for export
to China and Thailand.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ayago power project (Uganda) 'snatched' from Turks

Ayago power project (Uganda) 'snatched' from Turks

By, Nelson Wesonga
15 August 2013, Daily Monitor

KAMPALA- The [Ugandan] government has reallocated the $1.9 billion
(Shs4.9 trillion) 600MW Ayago Hydropower Project from a Turkish company
to China Gezhouba Group.

The deal, which is said not to have gone through competitive bidding,
restricted or otherwise, is $210 million more than what Sinohydro
Corporation will get for the 600MW Karuma HPP. The reallocation comes
against the backdrop of Japan's International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
pulling out of studies that would have helped establish the feasibility
of Ayago HPP.

According to a source, the government's decision to hand Ayago HPP to
China Gezhouba Group was taken after the government's trump card to get
the Japanese to fund the project backfired.The government had in April
upped the ante by 'awarding' the Ayago HPP engineering procurement and
construction (EPC) contract to Mapa Construction, a Turkish company.

That did not impress the Japanese who had already sunk about $2 million
(Shs5.2 billion) in Ayago's feasibility studies. It is then that the
Japanese decided to pull out. The ministry of Energy claimed that the
Japanese had pulled out of the study "due to the perceived adverse
environmental impacts" that could manifest themselves once the project
kicks off. A document seen by this newspaper indicates that the $1.9
billion project along River Ayago, and straddles the Murchison Falls
National Park, would affect the daytime habitat of the hippopotami

It remains unclear how the government plans to reassure other potential
investors in the energy sector that what happened to the Japanese and
the Turks will not happen to them.

Meanwhile, the government handed China International Water and Electric
Corporation (CWE), which the Inspectorate of Government faulted for
falsifying its portfolio, the $535 million (Shs1.3 trillion) 188MW
Isimba HPP.

CWE had claimed it constructed a 600MW dam so that it could meet the
benchmarks for Karuma.In June, the company asked for "a lead role" in
the construction of Karuma, claiming that Sinohydro had copied CWE's
construction blueprint. We could not independently verify CWE's claim
with Sinohydro.

In the same month, CWE petitioned the East African Court of Justice
(EACJ) to compel Uganda to follow procurement laws in sourcing for an
EPC for Karuma. The court is yet to decide on the issue.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

China helping Pakistan solve power crisis despite threats: report

China helping Pakistan solve power crisis despite threats: report
Pakistan Today, 12 August 2013

Several Chinese companies and institutes are working closely with
Pakistan to address its energy crisis despite severe security threats, a
senior official of a Chinese power major has said.

The work on the landmark Gomal Zam Dam came to a halt on October 2004
after unidentified militants kidnapped two Chinese engineers working on
the project at the northwestern Pakistan near the Afghanistan border.
One was saved but the other was killed in rescue efforts. Two years
passed by before work resumed on the project.

"The Chinese staff members were brave because the location of the plant
was close to Afghanistan and relatively dangerous. That intimidated many
other foreign engineers," said Xiong Lixin, vice-president of Sinohydro
Corp Ltd, who had served as a project manager at the dam. "The security
measures would not have worked if there wasn�t a firm friendship between
the two nations," said Xiong, who left Pakistan in 2011.

Xiong told state-run 'China Daily' that Pakistan sent helicopters to
escort him to the construction site in 2006 and also dispatched armed
security guards to protect the Chinese staff.

With a capacity of 17,400 KW, the dam�s hydropower plant was
successfully connected to the national grid on June 26 and will provide
energy to about 25,000 households. The dam will also help the country
avoid annual economic losses of USD 2.6 million due to flooding. In
August last year, Some nine Water and Power Development Authority
employees working on the Gomal Zam Dam project were kidnapped by
unidentified armed men. Li Shaotong, economic and commercial counselor
of the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, said security uncertainties for
Chinese workers remain even after the Pakistani elections in May which
saw the country�s first democratic transit of power. The searing hot
weather also poses another challenge for Chinese projects in the
country. Wang Xiaojun, an engineer at China Nuclear Industry No 5
Construction Co, said temperatures reach above 35 degrees Celsius "for
several months a year" at the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant in north
Pakistan, which his company has recently helped build.

Having enough manpower was another obstacle. Many Pakistani workers
lacked the technical training needed for the project, said Wang. The
Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute recently agreed to help
build a power plant in Pakistan with an annual capacity of 960,000 MW,
that uses the sugarcane byproduct to produce electricity. "Pakistan is a
country rich in sugarcane and turning that into electricity is a very
cost-effective option for the country to find a way out of its shortage
of energy," said head of the institute, Jin Donghan.


Chinese striving hard to meet Pakistan's energy need
8 August 2013, Daily The Pak Banker

BEIJING: Bearing scorching heat and other problems, a number of Chinese
engineers are busy in energy and infrastructure development projects in
Pakistan to address power problem.

With an ongoing energy shortage in Pakistan, several Chinese power
companies and institutes are working closely with its government to take
advantage of its natural resources and increase electricity production.

Finding a solution to the energy crisis topped Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif's agenda during his visit to China from July 3 to 8.

The Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute recently agreed to
help build a power plant in Pakistan to convert the byproduct of
processing sugarcane into electricity.

The goal is for the plant to provide an annual capacity of 960,000 mWh,
reports China Daily with headline "China helps out energy-starved
Pakistan", a series of news reports the paper is publishing these days.

The plant has the highest productivity among those of the same kind in
the world," said Jin Donghan, head of the institute. "Pakistan is a
country rich in sugarcane and turning that into electricity is a very
cost-effective option for the country to find a way out of its shortage
of energy.

Chinese companies in Pakistan have also made strides to improve its
hydroelectricity production.

Xiong Lixin, vice-president of Sinohydro Corp Ltd, served nearly seven
years ago as a project manager for the landmark Gomal Zam Dam in
northern Pakistan to help build both the dam and a hydroelectric plant
at the site.

The dam also serves to help irrigate farmland and control flooding.

Designed and built by Power Construction Corp of China, the plant
successfully connected to the national grid on June 26. Xiong said what
impressed him most during his time in Pakistan was the intelligence and
diligence of the Chinese staff who worked hard to meet construction
deadlines on the dam.

With an installed capacity of 17,400 kW, the hydroelectric plant will
provide energy to about 25,000 local households, while the dam will help
the country avoid annual economic losses of $2.6 million due to flooding.

Xiong said the dam is a symbol of China's leading construction technologies.

Pakistani people called the project their national version of the Three
Gorges Dam, a mega hydropower generation project along the Yangtze River.

The hot weather poses a challenge for Chinese projects in the country.

Wang Xiaojun, an engineer, said temperatures reach above 35 C "for
several months a year" at the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant, which China
Nuclear recently helped build.

"We only had 200 Chinese workers there and we hired more than 1,400
local people," Xiong said.

Liu Xiaoxue, a researcher on South Asian studies at the Chinese Academy
of Social Sciences, said Chinese companies and contractors benefit from
employing local people in Pakistan.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why the World Bank Shies Away From Energy Efficiency

[Sorry for cross-posting]

Why the World Bank Shies Away From Energy Efficiency

By Peter Bosshard, August 8, 2013
Reuters AlertNet,
and Huffington Post,

Decentralized renewable energy projects are highly effective at reducing
energy poverty. Energy conservation and efficiency improvements are the
cheapest way to close the gap between energy demand and supply. Too bad
such measures don't fit the business model of the World Bank, the
world's most important energy financier.

Under a project supported by the World Bank and the Swedish government,
the Vietnamese electricity utility in recent years sold one million
efficient CFL light bulbs and installed thousands of electricity meters.
The project was an "extremely cost effective" part of an energy
conservation and efficiency program that reduced the country's
electricity demand by 700 megawatts.

The International Energy Agency has estimated that developing countries
could save three dollars in investment for power plants for every dollar
they invest in efficiency improvements. According to the Agency, such
investments "stand out as the cheapest and fastest way to curb demand
and emissions growth in the near term".

The World Bank's experience with energy efficiency projects confirms
this assessment. On average, such projects are considerably more
economic than new power stations. Unlike power plants, they don't
degrade the environment and displace local communities. In spite of such
benefits, energy efficiency improvements receive short shrift at the
World Bank: From 1991 to 2007, the Bank devoted only about 5 percent of
its total energy finance to such projects.

In 2010, the World Bank approved $3.75 billion dollars for the giant
Medupi coal power plant in South Africa, even though energy conservation
and efficiency programs would have been cheaper. The Bank currently
considers support for a polluting lignite coal power plant in Kosovo and
two large hydropower plants on the Zambezi, even though energy
efficiency measures have again been shown to be cheaper.

What's the problem? Comparing the energy efficiency program in Vietnam
with the Gilgel Gibe I Dam in Ethiopia may help to explain. Per dollar
of cost, the efficiency program saves about three times as much
electricity as the dam generates - and without displacing any people.
Yet per dollar of loan disbursement, the administrative overhead of the
complex efficiency program is about ten times bigger. In terms of
development impact, the efficiency program scores higher. In terms of
institutional self-interest, it loses out.

A World Bank evaluation found in 2009 that "internal Bank incentives
work against [efficiency] projects because they are often small in
scale, demanding of staff time and preparation funds, and may require
persistent client engagement over a period of years". "This", the report
concluded, "makes them less attractive to managers and agencies that use
disbursement as a measure of action and large turbines as a visible
symbol of achievement".

The World Bank's business model has harmed project quality for decades.
In 1992 the internal Wapenhans report found that a pervasive "pressure
to lend" undermined project assessment. Five years later, the Bank's
Quality Assurance Group castigated the institution's "pressure to lend",
and pointed to the "fear that a realistic, and thus more modest, project
would be dismissed as too small and inadequate in its impact". The World
Bank's central problem is "a culture of loan approval, institutionalized
in various perverse internal incentives", argues Bruce Rich in his
forthcoming book, Foreclosing the Future, about the Bank's environmental
track record.

For the past 20 years, World Bank Presidents have promised to fix the
institution's perverse incentives, and to increase support for energy
efficiency projects. On July 16, the Bank management once again assured
its Board of Directors it would address the issue through a new working
group. This is window dressing. The energy directions paper which the
Bank published on the same day limits lending for coal power plants, but
continues to focus on large gas and hydropower projects. An earlier
draft of the paper explains that "the high ratio of preparation and
supervision costs to total project size is a considerable disincentive"
for Bank managers to undertake effective but complex solar,
micro-hydropower or energy efficiency projects.

The member countries which fund the World Bank have so far been
complacent in accepting a situation which suits the export interests of
their equipment suppliers. If they are serious about promoting
least-cost solutions to the world's energy and climate crisis, they need
to redirect their funds towards institutions that are better equipped to
support renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency improvements.

Peter Bosshard is the Policy Director of International Rivers.

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