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Noor concentrated solar power plant is expected to supply 1.1 million of Moroccans with 500 MW of power by 2018. Photo: World Bank


Concentrated Solar Power is the greatest energy technology you have probably never heard of.  While it may not be as widely known as other renewable energy sources, there’s no doubting its potential - the International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.  

And this week in Morocco, the King, His Majesty Mohammed VI, is officially opening the first phase of what will eventually be the largest CSP plant in the world – the same size as Morocco’s capital city Rabat.  I congratulate Morocco for taking a leadership role that has placed it on the frontlines of a revolution that is bringing low-carbon development to emerging and developing economies worldwide.
 
In collaboration with the World Bank and the African Development Bank, the CIF has already provided US$435 million into this three-phase Noor CSP complex in Morocco.

Once Noor I, Noor II and Noor III are up and running, the facility is projected to supply 1.1 million Moroccans with more than 500 megawatts of power by 2018, while reducing carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year. The plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market. It will increase Morocco’s energy independence, create 200 jobs during the power plan operation and 1,600 jobs during power plant construction, and increase the installed capacity of solar power stations from 22 MW in 2013 to 372 MW in 2018.
 
And those who’ll gain the most will be the Moroccan population, Moroccan businesses, and industries such as transport, agriculture, and many others.  Not only will they benefit from a better electricity supply, they’ll also benefit from cleaner electricity. So what makes CSP different from regular solar power?  Well, CSP uses mirrors 12-meters high to drive steam turbines or engines with energy from the sun to create electricity. So it can provide reliable, large-scale power even when the sun is not shining.
 
However, despite its promise CSP’s current global capacity falls well short of its potential.  High technology costs and a limited number of CSP demonstration projects deter investors, especially in higher-risk emerging markets. So more successful projects like in Morocco can show CSP is a viable investment.
 
In South Africa, in collaboration with IFC, CIF is providing about US$330 million to the country’s first public and private CSP plants, including the KaXu project, the first utility-scale CSP plant to operate in Sub-Saharan Africa. The construction phase has brought over 1,000 jobs to the Northern Cape, an impoverished province in South Africa with a high rate of youth unemployment. The plant is slated to power 80,000 South African households while mitigating around a quarter of a million tons of CO2 emissions per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of close to 53,000 cars a year.

These are just two examples of how concessional funding from the CIF can leverage other sources including from other multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and the IFC and bring down costs of investments in CSP. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), CSP is among the technologies with greatest potential for cost reductions.

The costs of solar tower CSP plants could come down significantly as early as 2020 if deployment accelerates, given the current low level of deployment but high potential of the technology.
 
Finding ways to sustainably meet the world’s energy demands is a global imperative and Morocco is showing how renewable energy can play a key role in helping emerging economies produce electricity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur local private investments.  And for CSP, the future may be as bright as the gleaming mirrors in the Moroccan desert.

Elisha Thomas Laizer owns a small stationery store that provides photocopying and printing services in Kitumbeine, a Maasai village 150 km (93 mi) from the Tanzanian city of Arusha.

, but that has not stopped Elisha.

That’s because his store is actually inside a 16 KW mini grid container, under the shade of 60 solar panels. While such easy access to solar power has helped his business tremendously, it has also gifted him with a chance to learn to operate and maintain these mini grids. Consequently, he now acts as a liaison between his community and the solar company that helps set up these grids in remote Tanzanian villages that are starved for electricity.

I, with countries swiftly embracing this clean, renewable source of energy to close their electricity access gaps. A confluence of favorable market forces, including cheaper-than-ever prices and technology, have encouraged the uptake of solar by private investors and countries alike. , according to IRENA. They are projected to fall a further 60 percent in the next decade.
 

Photo: Power Corner


The effect is apparent in Kitumbeine.

, given the last vestiges of the electricity grid and power lines stop miles away. But that changed when Power Corner’s 16 KW solar and diesel hybrid mini-grid started supplying round-the-clock electricity to 50 households with the aim of connecting another 60-70 households subsequently. 

Power Corner, an initiative of the global power company Engie, recently entered the mini grids market in Tanzania. The 16 KW mini-grid in Kitumbeine is their maiden project, and they have plans to build up to 100 additional mini-grids.

Today in Kitumbeine, the sun powers not only households, but several small businesses, grocery stores, a pharmacy, hotel, barber shop, welder, car and bike mechanic shops. It is amazing to see what a difference these past nine months have made for the local economy. People don’t have to drive 40-50 km to buy essential items or rely on expensive diesel generators. In fact, Kitumbeine has experienced only one minute of power outage since its solar mini-grid was set up, compared to rampant blackouts and low voltage issues in other parts of the country.

In Kitumbeine, Power Corner also provides energy efficient appliances to its customers, and have sold 16 refrigerators, 24 TVs and 8 freezers so far. The company believes that involving the local community at every stage of implementation of the mini-grid project is key to its success and emphasizes the need to teach villagers to use energy-smart appliances to use electricity even more responsibly. Power Corner aims to be more than just a service provider, taking on responsibilities such as awareness generation, educating people about efficient use of electricity and appliances, and supporting customers to take up small, commercial activities.
 
Like Power Corner, several other , by supplying energy services to local communities far from the power grid. The best part about these mini-grids is that they can co-exist with the traditional grid and can be easily incorporated as existing infrastructure if the latter is extended in these areas.
 
But not withstanding their benefits, mini-grids still faces myriad challenges in implementation and scaling up due to lack policy and regulatory clarity, standardized technical specifications, capacity building etc. 
 
To address such hurdles, the World Bank and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) are working through the Global Facility on Mini-grids to create an enabling environment, spur growth in the sector and provide quality energy services to communities. In a two-day workshop at KIITEC  technical institute in Arusha, for example, ESMAP brought together key stakeholders to discuss the technical expertise required in the sector and ways to impart these skills to local operators, electricians, and software developers at local training centers. What’s more, the World Bank’s Climate Action Plan has plans to mobilize $25 billion in private financing for clean energy in developing countries over the next five years.
 
Elisha and his success inspire me to find ways to support the mini-grid sector and replicate models like Kitumbeine where isolated community have leapfrogged from living in darkness to having access to quality energy services and economic opportunities.

Last week with the support of the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Scaling Solar initiative. The auction for 100 MW (2x50 MW) resulted in a price as low as 6 cents/kWh.
 
This is good news for the country, which much like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa faces acute electricity shortages.
 
Zambia’s solar auction result followed a series of headline-making auctions in India, Mexico, Peru, and Dubai. In Dubai’s case, the price was as low as 3 cents/kWh -- the lowest price ever offered for solar power. Solar auctions are effectively a competitive bidding process to build power plants and supply a specific quantity of electricity at a pre-agreed price over a specified period of time.
 
There are a few reasons why Zambia’s outcome is more significant than Dubai’s.
 
First, Zambia’s 6 cents/kWh price is fixed and won’t increase for 25 years. This makes the average price in real terms an even more astonishing 4.7 cents/kWh.
 
Second, there aren’t any implicit or explicit subsidies involved in the deal, neither Zambia has a sophisticated and liquid financial market. The WBG simply helped structure the auction based on the best global practices – taking into account local specifications and providing a guarantee to back-stop the obligations of the national utility to pay for the electricity being supplied.  
 
Third, Zambia has about 2400 MW of mostly hydro-based generation, compared to much larger systems in other countries with successful auctions. It also has a distressed macroeconomic situation coupled with weak institutional capacity in the energy sector. The Bank’s guarantee is critical to address the risks associated with these factors.
 
Most importantly, these results are dramatically shifting perceptions that low costs for renewable energy are unattainable in poor countries with weak institutions, underdeveloped laws and regulations, and high costs for conducting business. According to the Doing Business report, Zambia is ranked 97, compared to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is ranked 31.
 
While all the legal and financial agreements still need to be signed, . As long as countries put in place a well-structured, transparent bidding process, mitigating country risks using guarantees and other financial insurance instruments, we can expect to see even lower prices in the months and years to come.
 
Scaling Solar is a World Bank Group solution that makes it easier for governments to quickly procure and develop large-scale solar projects with private financing. It includes a ‘one-stop shop’ package of technical assistance, templated documents, pre-approved financing, insurance products, and guarantees. Scaling Solar is designed to allow governments to get fast, affordable, utility-scale power up and running within two years of engagement. It has financing support of USAID’s Power Africa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and the Infrastructure Development Collaboration Partnership Fund (DevCo).

The “five barefoot sisters,” as they are now known, are each responsible for lighting 15 houses. So in all, they cover a total of 60 houses in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Their training has enabled them to take part in creating environmentally and economically secure villages and it has also changed the perception of the role of women among participating villages in Koiyaki Location, Mara Division, and Narok South District.  

The “sisters” experience demonstrates how simple innovation can lead to socio-economic transformation and ownership.

This example can inform other areas, such as forestry, where women have always played a significant role in sustainable forest management in basically everything from agroforestry to collecting fuelwood and developing non-wood forest products for food, medicine, and shelter. Forest-related development initiatives, such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (also known as REDD+), can learn from the experiences to date to involve women in program design and implementation through methods which are adapted to the needs of the forest community.

A socially inclusive approach—in which vulnerable or traditionally excluded social groups such as women, indigenous peoples, and other forest dwellers are treated as partners in planning the operation of funds and deployment of climate finance—has been a hallmark of the World Bank Group’s Forests and Landscapes Climate Finance Funds. The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), BioCarbon Fund, and Forest Investment Program* (FIP) provides technical and financial assistance to countries working on forest and climate change initiatives, and are also in the unique position to help support  gender inclusion in countries around the globe. 

These programs engage forest users and producers to foster benefit sharing and participation of women in local forest governance, tenure security, and forest-based livelihoods.

In Panama, taking concrete action to ensure the full and effective participation of women and men at the community level—by hosting a series of workshops and local activities - has helped boost the indigenous Guna community’s understanding of how forest programs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit the local community. A local organization, Fundación para la Promoción del Conocimiento Indígena (FPCI), implemented this small grant project (in 2013-2014) financed by the FCPF Capacity Building Program for Forest-Dependent Peoples and Southern Civil Society Organizations to strengthen the capacity of indigenous Guna leaders, women, and young people  to take part  in the emission reductions program.

Participating in a project supported by the BioCarbon Fund in Nyanza Province and Western Province of Kenya, women have taken on leadership roles in gathering information from farms and training the community on sustainable agriculture land management practices. Based on local tradition, women don’t typically own land, but they are actively engaged in the project and are known for adopting more diverse land practices and producing higher profits on maize yields. In addition to setting the stage for more gender inclusion in future initiatives in Kenya, the project was the first to issue carbon credits and develop a carbon accounting methodology for agricultural land management. 

As well as engaging the women in indigenous communities, forest programs also generate support from the institutions upon which they are built to ensure gender parity is prioritized. Ghana stands out as an example. The country has included a gender road map into its draft REDD+ Strategy in November 2011. According to the roadmap, the benefit-sharing structures, dispute resolution structures, implementation, monitoring and evaluation structures, and monitoring reporting and verification system will include a gender officer responsible for those aspects of program design. Ghana’s Forestry Commission staff at the district and regional levels, along with the REDD+ Secretariat staff, are also to receive gender training as part of their standard work plan.

Likewise, the Forest Investment Program’s Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM) program includes specific design features to ensure women are involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of activities and other  gender elements in DGM decision-making. In Peru, the DGM program supports selected indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon to improve their sustainable forest management practices, with specific initiatives in native community land titling and community forest management. In recognition of the significant role that indigenous women play in forest management, funds have been set aside for smaller projects proposed or managed by women in such areas as food security, agroforestry, and timber.

With the focus of these emission reductions programs shifting to implementation, there is an excellent opportunity to integrate gender in program activities from day one. Likewise, the recent launch of the World Bank Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2023 and a session on gender at the upcoming Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Participants Committee meeting next week is focusing attention on the inclusion of women in development approaches to help close gender gaps and achieve results. Putting these gender-focused strategies into action on the ground is critical in ensuring country-level, country-led actions.

and forest conservation challenges as household managers, farmers, and consumers. Bringing women into the design, planning, and implementation of forest and land use efforts promotes both gender equality and smart development policy.

*The Forest Investment Program is part of the Climate Investment Funds.

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