Oct 16, 2013

Utilities bringing power to the people

6 min
More than 1.6 billion people do not have electricity in their homes. They burn what is available to them at the time – coal, wood, dung &ndas...

More than 1.6 billion people do not have electricity in their homes. They burn what is available to them at the time – coal, wood, dung – to create energy for cooking and for warmth. That’s more than a billion fires burning every day sending tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

There are ways and means to mitigate such a bleak scenario for the people and for the planet. That’s where the Global Electricity Initiative steps in to support major electrical utilities’ efforts to tackle climate change and improve energy access.

Global Electricity Initiative aims to provide a platform to enable the increase in electricity access in a sustainable and affordable manner. It plans to showcase the early voluntary actions by the energy industry to increase access to affordable, reliable and environmentally friendly electricity, by uniting the resources and knowledge from the world’s electrical utility community.

“We hope that GEI will pave the way for more efficient and sustainable company strategies and government policies, while establishing a global benchmark to demonstrate and share best practices for decision-makers,” says Philippe Joubert, executive chair of the Global Electricity Initiative.

GEI’s industry leaders Advisory Board, which is made up of some of the utility sector’s heavy hitters such as James E. Rogers of Duke Energy in the U.S. to Brian Dames of Eskom in South Africa to José da Costa Carvalho Neto of Eletrobras in Brazil, is tasked to provide the initiative with strategic guidance and industry insights. 

“We need to listen to the CEOs because an important part of the work will be the vision of the CEOs,” says Joubert, who is the former president of Alstom Power and CEO of the Alstom Group. “Not a lot of countries are really listening to the leaders of the utilities before they are establishing guidelines or restrictions. We never ask the CEOs and we often don't listen to the guys who know, which is a big mistake.”

That is one of the main ideas behind the Global Electricity Initiative, according to Joubert. 

Combined Global Effort

GEI was launched in 2011 at the COP-17 summit in Durban, South Africa. The organization’s leaders planned to scale up the initiative and cover a larger group of electricity utilities around the world. Approximately 10 percent of the world’s electricity production in 2011 was represented by GEI participating companies from every continent.

The first phase was announced in 2012 at COP-18 in Doha, Qatar, to study what utilities were doing and what could be done. The initiative is now driven by three of the largest industry-based and sustainability networks in the world:

  • World Energy Council (WEC);
  • World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD);
  • Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP).

The World Energy Council is the principal impartial network of leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all. Formed in 1923, WEC is the UN-accredited global energy body, representing the entire energy spectrum, with more than 3,000 member organizations located in over 90 countries.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a CEO-led organization of progressive companies that spurs the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment. The WBCSD’s 200 member companies, who represent all business sectors, and have combined revenue of more than $7 trillion, share best practices on sustainable development issues.

The Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership is a CEO-led non-profit international organization, composed of the world's leading electricity companies, whose mission is to promote sustainable energy development through electricity sector projects and human capacity building activities in developing and emerging nations worldwide.

“Bringing secure, affordable, and clean energy for the world’s seven billion people requires coordination on a global scale. Of course it requires the action of policymakers, businesses, and consumers, but importantly it is the utilities that have the know-how and the financial capacity to make this happen,” says Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council.

“The combined network of the GSEP, the WBCSD and the WEC is unique in its global reach deep into the utility sector, and it will provide a very powerful platform to push forward the objectives of the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative,” Frei says.

Act Locally, Think Globally

The need for increasing electricity access and driving forward climate change action have become a priority amongst the many issues that electricity utilities are faced with. In the last decade, utilities around the world, in both developed and developing countries have put plans in motion to utilize cleaner energy solutions and to widen access. 

According to Joubert, to further deliver on these goals, it is important to assess the progress that has been made and the lessons learned.

One of the GEI’s case studies of a utility working to connect its population is on Eskom, the national utility in South Africa. The electrification rate is 75 percent in the country, but there is a backlog of about 3.4 million households that do not have access to electricity. Eskom has electrified more than four million households since the inception of the electrification program in 1991.

According to GEI’s report, Eskom has a 10 year plan to spend an estimated cost of R32 billion over the period to deliver about 2.6 million connections. The utility forecasts that it can meet the government’s target of 3.4 million households in 2021/2022 at an estimated cost of R36 billion. The company is in the process of reviewing options to accelerate its electrification program.

In developing countries, electrification has increased rapidly over the past 30 years. Only 49 percent of the world’s population had access to electricity in 1970. By 1990 it had increased to almost 60 percent, and it was 74 percent in 2002, according to the GEI report.

“Perhaps everything will be fine and everyone will have access to electricity by 2020,” Joubert says. “But if this is not the case, I hope that we will go and look at what we can do better to make sure that goal is fulfilled.”

The Next Phase

GEI’s first findings will be unveiled at the 22nd World Energy Congress in Daegu, South Korea, at a roundtable discussion with the CEOs of the world’s major utilities on Oct. 17. After the Congress, GEI will build on their recommendations and present the initiative’s core findings to key energy leaders and ministers.

The plan is to involve more utilities after South Korea to increase the weight of the collective opinion, then collectively promote and discuss the findings on a regional level and global level for the first trimester of next year. The results will then be recommended to the policymakers.

“Personally, I am optimistic because I am an extremely worried, which is a paradox, but I think what we are doing to at the moment is not going in the right direction,” Joubert says. “It would take a lot of rule changes to direct the boat in another direction.

“But I think it will come. I am talking a lot with all these CEOs and see they are all extremely aware of the situation and see where we are going and know that they have a possibility to change this situation. That's why I am optimistic.”

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May 13, 2021

All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only UK regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil

Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.

Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.

According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.

Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.

“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."

He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."

North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).

The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.

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