Energy

Emerging markets take fresh leap in renewables

Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday signed a $100 million solar-hybrid power deal with a consortium led by Gridworks, to provide electricity to half a million people across three cities that have no grid connection.

Researchers have seen an energetic leap in renewable energy initiative by emerging markets as they spring in a swift, frisky curvet investing in that space.

They expressed the opinion that the amount of electricity generated from burning fossil fuels has likely peaked worldwide, as emerging markets invest in clean and cheap renewables over coal, oil and gas.

That was the finding of a report published recently by environmental think tanks, Carbon Tracker in the United Kingdom and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in India.

The researchers said emerging markets would provide 88 per cent of the growth in electricity demand over the next two decades, and say these markets are increasingly leapfrogging polluting energy sources that are uncompetitive.

Clearly, fossil fuel plants have not disappeared, said Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of CEEW and co-author of the report. But the new electricity capacity is “almost entirely likely to be non-fossil fuels.”

About one in every nine people on the planet lacks access to electricity, mostly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Leaders of poorer countries have historically had to choose between raising living standards and protecting the climate and people’s health.

Two recent studies estimate that between 1 million and 8 million people die each year from breathing in dirty air that comes from burning coal, oil and gas.

But as the cost of renewable energy plummets, that trade-off is starting to vanish. Countries like Kenya and Nigeria with fast-growing populations but low emissions could skip fossil fuel electricity altogether and avoid the destructive pathway taken in many industrialised countries.

A landmark IEA report published in May charted out a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. As well as a massive expansion of renewable energy, the policy shifts include near-term changes like banning the sale of fossil fuel boilers by 2025 and new combustion engine vehicles by 2035.

Starting immediately, world leaders would have to stop approving oil fields, gas fields and coal mines. They would also have to stop approving new coal plants.

“The sun is shining bright in many of these countries because the economics is going to support this for quite a long time,” said Marcelo Mena-Carrasco, a former Chilean environment minister who is also the director of the Climate Action Center at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso.

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