A flood of renewable energy news came down the pipeline in the run-up to Climate Week 2019 in New York City, and the US Department of Energy logged in with one item of particular interest. Despite a little bit of pushback from policy makers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the agency has been working on renewable energy projects hand over fist, and one of those projects could have a behind-the-scenes impact on the global transition to a low carbon economy.
What’s Going On With Renewable Energy In The Philippines
DOE’s news concerns the Philippines, which makes sense because islands are some of the hottest spots for clean tech development in the world. Aside from environmental issues involved in burning fossil fuels, there’s the bottom line. Islands tend to lack sufficient fossil energy resources domestically, and the expense of imported energy can suck the air out of an economy.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a clean tech research exchange between DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a team from the Philippines, in partnership with USAID (the United States Agency of International Development).
The idea is to accelerate the Philippines’ transition to renewable energy, by developing special economic carve-outs called competitive renewable energy zones.
If that rings a bell, you may be thinking of Texas, which deployed the CREZ formula to blow its wind energy industry from zero to hero in just a few short years.
Texas accomplished its wind power success story with the help of a major new clean power transmission line. A similar plan launched last year in the Philippines. Here’s NREL with the explainer:
“The CREZ process…helps solve a common circular dilemma between financing renewable energy projects and their transmission development. Financing is not accessible to renewable energy developers in regions without transmission; however, new transmission systems cannot be approved by regulators without establishing the need for additional generation.”
The Importance Of Renewable Energy Capacity Modeling
Got all that? Well, it sure worked wonders for wind power in Texas, and there is a much more sophisticated game plan in mind for the Philippines.
The new “first-of-its-kind” CREZ process leverages multiple stakeholders along with a considerable body of lessons learned, as described by NREL’s Renewable Energy Zone Toolkit and Renewable Energy Zone Transmission Planning Process Guidebook.
The process also gets an assist from a previous study of the potential for wind and solar integration in the Philippines, which makes the case for 30%-50% renewables in the country’s grid by 2040.
The Philippines team recently visited the NREL campus in Colorado to participate in working sessions aimed at improving their modeling for capacity expansion and production costs, with an eye on that 2040 target.
The Renewable Energy “Stealth” Mode
That project in the Philippines is just one example of the work that NREL and USAID have been doing to bring “clean, reliable, and affordable” power to developing economies.
If that’s news to you, join the club. The collaboration between USAID and NREL doesn’t get much attention, but it should. It is part of a global effort to replace diesel generators with solar and other renewables.
That’s just for starters. NREL actively partners with a laundry list of international organizations dedicated to clean tech. Among them is the Global Green Growth Institute, which provides developing economies with sustainable alternatives for growth, in accordance with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
CREZ Around The World
Oh, really? Yes, really! Last weekend CleanTechnica had the opportunity to speak with the head of GGGI, Dr. Frank Rijsberman.
A key part of the challenge, he said, is getting policy makers to develop net metering, feed-in tariffs, and other incentives for renewable energy development. The CREZ approach provides a powerful incentive.
“We work quite a bit with industrial parks and economic zones,” Dr. Rijsberman explained. “Quite a few global companies have signed up to the RE100 and other renewable energy initiatives, so they are definitely interested in getting renewable energy. That is an argument we are starting to use with governments. You want to attract these businesses.”
Dr. Rijsberman sees an opportunity in the many nations that have already embraced the industrial park model to attract global business:
“It puts pressure on supply chains to clean up their act. There is pressure on companies to get clean energy, and a key part of the package is “green” industrial parks. Industrial parks have been drivers of the economy in many countries, and we believe they can be zero emission, with better waste management as well.”
The tourism industry can also help drive renewable energy integration globally, Dr. Rijsberman explained. In fossil fuel-dependent countries, resorts are typically built with their own fossil energy generators. To change that, GGGI developed a “green city/green resort” model that includes addressing ocean debris as well as clean energy.
The green industrial park trend has already taken hold in Asia, and GGGI is currently working to bring it to Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on Haiti, where NREL and USAID have teamed up to introduce 54 solar minigrids, focusing on rural areas. The idea is to ensure a reliable power supply while resolving issues with price volatility and other “destabilizing forces” at work in the nation’s current, fossil-dependent electricity profile.
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Photo (screenshot, cropped): National Renewable Energy Laboratory hosts clean power planning team from the Philippines, via YouTube.
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