World Bank Ramping Up Renewable Energy

For the past year, the World Bank has been researching what it would take for the world to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, according to World Bank Energy Economist Gary Stuggins. The analysis is finding that renewable energy technology may be able to take the place of fossil fuels more quickly than previously believed as higher energy prices make these technologies more attractive.

The research, requested by G-8 leaders after the Gleneagles Summit last July, has focused on the potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants in China, India and, to a lesser extent, the potential for energy efficiency potential in Russia, as these countries are among the world’s major producers of carbon dioxide emissions. Already some renewable technologies, such as wind power, are economically viable, Stuggins said. “We feel that there are enough technologies already available, so that if there’s the political will to do it, we can make substantial differences.” The World Bank is one of the biggest promoters of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the world, financing about $9 billion in these projects since 1990. Hydropower is still the biggest component of Bank’s renewable energy portfolio, Stuggins said, but support for other renewable energy projects has accelerated since 2000. The Bank’s energy portfolio in China includes the China Renewable Energy Development Project, which is intended to “set the tone” for future renewable energy projects in the country, he added. The project provides grants to companies that produce photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. The companies market, sell and maintain their products in rural areas that do not have access to an electricity grid. Grants cover an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 PV systems in households and institutions to power lights, radios and TVs in isolated communities in Qinghai, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Xizang and Sichuan. In an effort to revive research and development in renewables, the Bank has also proposed a venture capital fund be set up to fund R&D for low carbon energy technologies.

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