Developing Countries are Advancing Clean Energy

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SEATTLE, Washington — In 2017, something remarkable happened. Developing nations eclipsed wealthier nations in clean energy investment for the first time. From China to Costa Rica to Brazil, these developing countries have installed 94 gigawatts of wind and solar power as well as 20 gigawatts of nuclear and hydropower. Developed countries have only added 63 gigawatts of zero-carbon energy (the United State’s total power use is 840 gigawatts). As the World Bank noted in its 2018 RISE report, sustainability and global development goals are interdependent. As developing countries are advancing clean energy around the globe, they are also reducing poverty, expanding their economies and investing in a sustainable future.

China, Brazil and India are Creating New Energy Markets

China is an energy powerhouse. It is simultaneously the world’s top emitter of carbon, the number one renewable energy producer and the largest clean energy investor. In 2017, China’s use of solar energy increased, and 100 fossil fuel projects were canceled. By taking charge of the renewable energy manufacturing sector and investing more than $44 billion in international clean energy projects, China is largely credited for the drop in wind and solar prices, making clean energy more affordable.

Brazil and India are in the top five most attractive markets for clean energy. Both countries have set impressive targets. By 2020, India aims to achieve 175 gigawatts of renewable capacity, and Brazil is set to invest $121 billion in renewable energy by 2020, tripling its clean energy capacity.

Smaller Countries are Becoming Models for Sustainability

Many smaller developing countries are advancing clean energy by reforming their energy policies and investing in sustainable infrastructure. As Africa’s first geothermal power producer, Kenya is literally changing its energy infrastructure from the ground up. In order to bring electricity to rural areas and reduce poverty, Kenya’s government has been investing heavily in renewable energy. It is now one of the top eight countries for geothermal production in the world.

Costa Rica blew the world away in 2015 when electricity from renewable resources powered it for 75 days straight. Using hydropower, wind and geothermal energy, Costa Rica utilizes clean energy for 95 percent of its electricity needs. However, oil consumption is increasing as the country develops and more of the population can afford to buy cars. Other notable countries that are advancing clean energy include:

  • The Philippines: Since 2008, the Philippines has invested in 384 renewable energy projects. The Philippines has installed more than 1,100 megawatts of wind and solar energy in the last few years.

  • Bhutan: As the world’s first carbon-negative country, Bhutan produces less carbon than its terrain absorbs.

  • Jordan: Between 2015 and 2017, Jordan added 730 megawatts of solar and wind plants.

  • South Africa: Along with 40 other countries, South Africa has instituted a carbon tax. It expects that renewable energy will take over for coal as prices for solar generators continue to drop.

  • Mexico: The recent General Climate Change Law and a $90 million investment in removing clean energy barriers is setting Mexico up to increase clean electricity to 35 percent by 2024.

Sustainable Development is Key to Ending Poverty

The U.N.’s number one Sustainable Development Goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 depends on clean, affordable energy. Three billion people still lack access to clean energy solutions and suffer from dangerous levels of air pollution; approximately one billion people do not have electricity. While affordable energy access is at the crux of development and poverty reduction, it is also a double-edged sword. Energy production currently accounts for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and poorer countries generally bear the brunt of climate change. Many developing countries are advancing clean energy because all of our futures depend on it.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Flickr

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