22 November 2016
Energy Update: Non-state Actors, Regional Initiatives Show Progress Towards Energy Transition
UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz
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COP 22 Energy Day and several other events held during the Marrakech Climate Conference showcased commitments, initiatives and reports that together provide an update on the state of the renewable energy transition.

Events during Energy Day focused on contributions of non-state actors, new initiatives and updates to existing regional initiatives; several new sector-specific initiatives were launched during other side-events.

The stream of energy-related news was topped off with the publication of the 2016 installment of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) World Energy Outlook, which, for the first time, forecasts a major transformation of the global energy system in response to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

17 November 2016: In a series of events and high-level panel discussions, COP 22 Energy Day showcased initiatives and commitments that highlight the transformative role of renewable energy and its contributions to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all).

This Update provides an overview of the initiatives and commitments discussed during Energy Day, as well as other announcements made during the second week of COP 22.

Held on 11 November, Energy Day was organized by the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4all) in cooperation with the Moroccan Agency for Energy Efficiency as one of the thematic days hosted by ‘Climate Champions’ Minister Hakima El Haite (Morocco) and Laurence Tubiana (France), held under the auspices of the COP22 Presidency. [UNFCCC Press Release][UN Press Release][IRENA Press Release][Energy Day Programme][UNFCCC Press Release: Climate Action by Non-state Actors]

Energy-related Action by non-state actors

The activities of non-state actors, in particular the private sector, were a key focus of the events during Energy Day. Several existing and new initiatives under the umbrella of The Climate Group provided updates and discussed next steps. [IRENA Press Release: Corporates Taking the Lead]

Three multinational companies joined the RE100 initiative, a global business initiative aiming to accelerate the transition towards renewable energy generation by encouraging its members to procure 100% of their energy needs from renewable sources. Dalmia Cement from India joined RE100 with an interim target to increase the renewable energy use fourfold by 2030 compared to 2015. Helvetica, a Swiss insurance company, pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2020. Mars Incorporated announced it will source 100% of the energy needed for its Mexican operations from wind energy, by signing a power purchase agreement for a new wind energy project. Launched in 2014, RE100 now brings together 83 companies from the US, Europe, China and India accounting for more than 100 TWh of energy consumption. [RE100 Press Release Dalmia Cement and Helvetica] [RE100 Press Release Mars Incorporated] [RE100 Background on Dalmia Cement] [Helvetica Press Release]

EP100, a complementary campaign focusing in increasing energy productivity, announced that reinsurance company Swiss Re has joined the initiative. EP100 now unites eight international businesses that have committed to doubling their energy productivity by 2030. [EP100 Press Release: Swiss Re] [EP100 Press Release: Energy Day] [EP100 Website]

In addition to RE100 and EP100, the Renewable Energy Buyers Initiative (REBA) was launched during Energy Day. A collaborative partnership between the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and other partners, REBA works with companies and businesses to identify and overcome barriers to buying clean and renewable energy based on the WWF/WRI Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles. The initiative currently brings together more than 60 multi-national companies that have committed to support the sustainable energy transition. REBA aims to help corporations purchase an additional 60GW of renewable energy in the US by 2025. [REBA Website][Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles]

Sector Initiatives

On Energy Day, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Renewable Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) launched an EU-funded project aiming to make available clean energy technology and services for municipal waterworks in South Africa. The initiative’s objective is to optimize pumping and water treatment systems, which are often the largest electricity consumers in cities, through rigorous monitoring, evaluation and development and scaling up of solutions based on lessons learnt. The initiative was presented at a side-event during which speakers emphasized the role of partnerships with the private sector [UNIDO Press Release][REEEP Press Release]

Also on Energy Day, Italy, through its Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea, announced that it would provide additional support to the District Energy in Cities Initiative, a partnership coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and hosted by the SE4all Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. The Initiative supports a transition towards cleaner supply and more efficient use of energy in the heating and cooling of buildings, through the use of district energy systems (DES). DES combine generation of energy and heat for the delivery of heating and cooling systems, which can lead to efficiency gains of up to 80-90%. DES can also recover energy that is typically wasted, enable the use of energy sources that are typically not viable at the scale of single buildings, and integrate a variety of local fuel sources, such as renewables and energy from waste streams. Originally launched in February 2015, the Initiative aims to double the rate of energy efficiency improvements for heating and cooling by 2030. The Initiative is already working in several countries, including Bosnia Herzegovina, China, Chile, India and Serbia. The funding provided by Italy will be used to expand the initiative to the development of district energy in African countries. [UNEP Press Release][UNEP District Energy for Cities Initiative Website][SE4all District Energy Website]

Reducing emissions in the transport sector requires the development of substitutes for high energy dense liquid fuels. One strategy to do so is to develop low-carbon, bio-based fuels. The Biofuture Platform, launched during a special event on 16 November, aims to support the development and scaling up of advanced low-carbon fuels and related investments in the bioeconomy. The launch statement, supported by 20 governments, explains the role of low-carbon fuels, bioproducts, and biotechnology-enabled products for the transition towards a green, low carbon and circular economy. It outlines the initiative’s goals, including: promoting international collaboration and dialogue among policy makers, industry, academia and other stakeholders; facilitating an enabling environment for advanced low-carbon fuel and bioeconomy-related investments; raising awareness and sharing information about the status, potential, and advantages of low-carbon fuels and other advanced bioeconomy developments; promoting research and development and R&D-related information sharing; and discussing how to effectively evaluate, share and promote sustainable practices for the production of biomass and the entire value chain life cycles. [Biofuture Platform Launch Statement][Biofuture Platform Press Release][IRENA Press Release]

Regional Initiatives

Several events during the second half of COP 22 also provided updates on regional initiatives for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and in Africa.

During a side event on Accelerating Renewable Energy Deployment in SIDS held on 13 November, speakers provided updates on the progress of the SIDS Lighthouse Initiative confirming that the initiative is on track to achieve its goals to mobilize financing for the deployment of 100 MW of new solar capacity in SIDS. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) announced an Initiative for Renewable Island Energy (IRIE). Scheduled to be launched in 2017, IRIE will promote the use of renewable energy sources in SIDS by facilitating finance, eliminating legal barriers and developing the human resources needed to use renewable energy sources. Designed to complement the Lighthouse initiative, IRIE will be carried out in collaboration with IRENA. [IRENA Press Release]

The African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) was presented at several events. A general overview was given at a side event on 9 November. The Initiative aims to ensure universal access to energy by 2030, deploy 10GW of new energy generation capacity by 2020, and bring a total 300GW of renewable energy capacity online by 2030. On 10 November, an event titled ‘AREI –Taking off’ reported on the state of implementation, including: an overview of current projects; the state of multi-stakeholder engagement and social and environmental safeguards; and pathways towards renewables-based energy systems in Africa. A high-level event on 16 November discussed the Initiative’s way forward. [ARIE COP 22 Events and Presentations] [ARIE Press Release]

Energy-related Reports

Two reports were published during the last days of COP 22: IRENA’s report titled ‘Renewables Energy Market Analysis: Latin America,’ and the IEA’s ‘2016 World Energy Outlook.’

IRENA’s report reviews the status and trends of renewable energy development in the Latin American and Caribbean region, including the knowledge, policies, cost structures, technologies and financing sources that are driving the region’s renewable energy growth. The publication shows that, while large hydropower remains the dominant type of installed renewable capacity in the region, its share has been declining due to a rapid increase in the installation rate of other renewable generation capacity, in particular wind and solar. The study notes that there are significant technical complementarities and synergies with large hydropower that can provide market entry opportunities for smaller players and become a driver of continuing non-hydro renewable energy growth.

With regard to policies, the report highlights that countries with some degree of electricity market liberalization have attracted most investment in renewables. It also underlines the need to create the right mix of policies, regulations and incentives appropriate for each country, underlining the importance of policy and regulatory stability. The publication further highlights the importance of national public financing institutions in catalyzing financing, while noting the emergence of private financing activity in niche markets and for the acquisition of assets that are already operational. According to the report, this increased interest by private financing entities such as infrastructure and pension funds, combined with continued reductions in the cost of renewables, offers an opportunity to use private financing as a catalyst for scaling up investments. This can be supported through improved enabling environments, risk mitigation, project planning and facilitated access to capital markets. [IRENA Press Release] [Report Abstract] [Renewables Energy Market Analysis: Latin America]

If the 190 countries that have submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs) so far follow through with their commitments, we can expect a major transformation of the global energy system with a substantial increase of energy derived from renewable sources and natural gas at the expense of coal and, eventually, oil. This is the overall conclusion of the 2016 World Energy Outlook based on an analysis of the NDCs submitted to date using the IEA’s 450ppm model scenario, which is consistent with the objective to limit global warming to 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures.

However, the conclusion continues, even this transformation will still likely lead to global warming of 2.7°C. Additional commitments and significant near-term emissions reductions are necessary to achieve the 2°C objective. The report states that while the path towards 2°C is very challenging but doable, “the road to 1.5°C goes through uncharted territory.” With regard to the prospect of achieving SDG 7, the publication notes that, despite efforts, 500 million people will remain without access to modern energy in 2040 and 1.8 billion will remain reliant on solid biomass for cooking and therefore exposed to indoor pollution, which will negatively impact SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages). The report also examines linkages with SDG 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all), showing that both the water needs of the energy sector and the energy needs of the water sector will intensify over the coming years. This means that managing energy-water linkages will be key to ensure that efforts to address SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) do not come at the expense of achieving other SDGs. [IEA Press Release] [WEO 2016 Infographic] [WEO 2016 Executive Summary]

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