Developing World Leapfrogging to Green Energy
June 17, 2013
While fossil fuel interests continue to cling to 19th century technology in developed nations, the developing world increasingly is betting on the technologies of the 21st century.
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jun 13 2013 (IPS) – Emerging economies such as Mexico and India are shifting energy investments into renewable resources while industrialised countries hesitate, noted two new United Nations reports released Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya.
“There is a structural change in the global energy sector underway,” said Ulf Moslener, head of research of the Frankfurt School in Germany.
“Costs are dropping radically. Renewables represented 6.5 percent of all electricity generated and reduced carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes in 2012,” said Moslener, co-author of Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2013, a report sponsored by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
Developing countries are finding installing green energy to be far less expensive than relying on fossil fuels, Moslener told IPS. Poorer countries want to reap the benefits of stable energy costs, new jobs, improved air quality and reduced health and climate damage.
While political debates about the future of green energy preoccupy countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, developing countries have embraced cleaner energy. The move is reflected by a narrowing investment gap. In 2012, developing countries invested 112 billion dollars in clean energy, compared to developed economies’ 132 billion dollars.
Investors understand that clean energy no longer costs more than fossil energy. As such, there is a lot of excitement about the potential of large-scale projects in wide range of countries.
Nevertheless, investments in clean energy in 2013 would have been higher had governments in Europe and North America not abruptly pulled back from green energy policies.
“No industry has been treated as badly as the clean energy sector, particularly in Europe,” Liebreich said in an interview.
Frequent and sometimes wholesale changes in renewable energy policies create market uncertainty, he said, so investors hold back, waiting for clarity and stability.
Such changes are being driven by polarised politics and a fact-free debate about future energy choices, particularly in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada. These countries are going to be five years behind the shift to low-cost, clean energy, he said.
Liebreich highlighted Canada’s obsession with its tar sands as good example of a government’s failure to comprehend that future economic success will be based on clean energy sources. “They are not serving the public interest,” he said.
Renewable energy investments are shifting to developing nations as countries from Morocco to Chile pursue power sources that wean them off fossil fuel imports, two studies promoted by the United Nations said.
China’s $67 billion of investment in wind, solar and other renewable projects led developing nations to $112 billion of spending in 2012, according to an e-mailed statement today from the UN and other groups involved in the studies. That compares with $132 billion of expenditure in the industrialized world.
The gap on renewables spending between richer and developing countries shrank to 18 percent last year from 250 percent in 2007, marking a “dramatic change” in investment patterns, the statement said. Two-thirds of the 138 nations that now have clean-energy targets are in the developing world.
“The uptake of renewable energies continues worldwide as countries, companies and communities seize the linkages between low-carbon green economies and a future of energy access and security,” UN Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner said in the statement. “More and more countries are set to take the renewable energy stage,” he said, citing “the logic and the rationale of embracing a green development path.”