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Green Climate Fund Ignites Renewable Energy Projects in Developing Countries

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By Paul Brown

A vast program of financing solar, wind and other renewable electricity technologies for developing countries using the UN’s new Green Climate Fund was proposed this week.

The Fund is currently being set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to “provide support to developing countries to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions” as well as to help them to adapt to global warming.

The report by the World Future Council says providing feed-in tariffs for developing countries so that they can finance setting up large-scale renewable systems and feed electricity to their grids is the best way forward for the fund.

Feed-in tariffs provide the owners of small or large-scale wind and solar arrays with a guaranteed price for electricity over 20 years, so the investor is certain to get a return on their capital. The scheme has worked in developed countries like Germany and Italy to rapidly boost renewable output.

Community power in Mali. Photo credit: The World Future Council

Pilot projects

If the same system was introduced into developing countries, the report says, it would be an important step in keeping the world’s temperature from exceeding a 2°C increase over pre-industrial levels, the limit set by politicians as the threshold of  unacceptably dangerous climate change.

Although the Green Climate Fund is still not operational, the report says that a one billion euro fund should be made available as soon as possible for pilot projects in three countries to test the feed-in tariff scheme.

These would be for three classes of countries, starting with one of the least developed states and two that are more advanced but still in need of power. That would test how the scheme would work and who would benefit most from it, and would eliminate some of the teething problems.  Depending on the technology chosen, this money could fund between one and three megawatts of clean power.

That way any glitches could be discovered and then corrected when a much larger amount of funding became available. Hundreds of wind, solar, energy-efficient biomass and small hydropower projects could then be financed in the same way.

Disrepute

Axel Michaelowa and Stephan Hoch say in the report, Fit for Renewables?, that their scheme needs tight controls to make sure that money is not wasted.

Although they do not mention the criticism of the Convention’s Clean Development Mechanism, where carbon credits have been claimed for dubious projects, they do not want another UNFCCC scheme designed to help developing countries to fall into disrepute.

They acknowledge that one of the problems of getting feed-in tariffs right is that the price of renewables, particularly solar, is falling all the time. If the support price is set too high there is a massive uptake and the country concerned is locked into paying too high a price for electricity. If the price is cut too quickly then the industry judders to a halt and many are thrown out of work, a situation that occurred in the United Kingdom.

An added problem in developing countries is making sure that the national or local grid can take up and use the electricity generated. Some developed countries have already had difficulties with this, so sorting out the grid must be part of any financing package, the report says.

The authors say the Green Climate Fund needs to look at all these aspects and develop a transparent system that prevents overfunding of schemes and builds trust, so that industrialised countries provide sufficient money.

The report envisages 100 gigawatts of electricity being funded in this way by 2020 – the equivalent of the output of 100 large-scale coal-fired power plants. This would cost nearly $1.8 billion a year to fund, sustained over two decades.

 Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

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Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."