World Bank sells out on renewable energies


World Bank officials planned to discuss the document called the "Progress Report on the Investment Framework for Clean Energy and Development" towards the end of August, before it was placed on the agenda of the joint annual meetings of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Singapore come September.

Separate G8 plan by Jan 2008: A similar programme focusing on longer term country-level activities and global research would be completed by the Group of Eight most industrialised countries at their summit in Japan in 2008.

Plan called for at Gleneagles: Rich nations had asked the World Bank, and other international financial institutions, at a summit last year in Gleneagles, Scotland, to draft the plan under discussion to combat global warming and help secure future energy supplies.

Rising energy price fears: The World Bank input comes amid heightened concerns about soaring global energy prices and the connection between high energy consumption and climate change. When the first draft of the document came out at the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, many observers said they were shocked by the lack of references to poor people.

Focus on 1.6bn poor: But analysts who have seen a leaked version of the latest report say that it now devotes considerable space to the needs of the 1.6 billion poor people, particularly in Africa and South Asia, who presently lack access to modern energy.

Clean energy production: The strategy’s advocates inside the Bank say it goes a long way in dealing with environmental problems and climate change concerns. "This paper addresses the need to produce energy in a manner that reduces local and regional air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions," said Robert Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank.

Two birds – climate change and poverty – with one stone: While acknowledging the improvements, the California-based watchdog group International Rivers Network (IRN) said that the plan misses "the double dividend of renewable energy" – namely, combating climate change and reducing poverty. In a brief analysis of the document, IRN argued that clean technologies like wind, solar, modern biomass, geothermal and small hydropower are available locally, create jobs and have very low environmental impacts, and could better achieve this dividend.

Bank has wrong priorities – IRN: The group, which presses for wider adoption of renewable energy and fewer environmentally damaging mega-projects, faulted the Bank for prioritising "large regional hydro and thermal generation plants" as the appropriate way to provide energy access. "This recommendation mirrors the misguided priorities of the World Bank’s energy sector lending, of which in 2005 only 10 percent was allocated to energy efficiency and new renewable energy projects," it said.

20 pc of investment in renewables: In its most recent figures released this week, the Bank said that investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency were now 20 percent of the Bank’s total energy sector commitments in fiscal year 2006, which totaled 4.4 billion dollars for 62 renewable energy projects in 35 countries.

Renewable energy delivers "double dividend": "Renewable energy and energy efficiency can contribute significantly to achieving the Millennium Development Goals," said Jamal Saghir, who directs the Energy and Water department at the Bank, referring to a United Nations-led plan to cut global poverty in half by 2015. "In fact, they offer a ‘double dividend’ – meeting the essential energy needs of countries for sustained growth and poverty reduction, while at the same time preserving or enhancing the environment," he said.

IRN discourages clean coal: Yet IRN argues that the Bank still favours "advanced fossil-fuel technologies" in the document, such as coal- and gas-fired plants, and non-fossil fuel technologies such as hydropower, wind and nuclear. The group called on the Bank not to waste money subsidising fossil fuel projects and to use soft loans and other funding to buy down the costs of renewable energy technologies.

No pressure on rich north: The World Bank document, critics note, also does not address the need for Northern polluters from rich nations to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Reference: World Business Council for Sustainable Development, website:

Erisk Net, 23/8/2006

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