Climatescope 2014

Executive summary

For years, it has been widely accepted that only the world’s wealthiest nations have the means to enjoy the benefits of zerocarbon emitting sources of energy. Developing nations, it was assumed, could afford only fossil generation. This belief guided numerous investment decisions and policies. It has even shaped the dynamics of international climate talks.

But green technologies have come a long way, and clean energy technologies are no longer out of reach for developing countries, which are home to some of the most extraordinary wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, large and small hydro, and other natural resources. In many cases, insufficient energy access has meant high reliance on accessible but dirty fossil fuels. Reliance on diesel generation in many developing countries results in some of the poorest nations having some of the most expensive electricity in the world, making the economic case for alternative sources of power often quite compelling. And in the least developed nations, where hundreds of millions of people have little or no access to electricity, cleaner energy as a distributed source of power is often the obvious choice over extending traditional huband-spoke transmission networks or local diesel generators.

Do global investors or policy-makers in the developing world yet recognize this? And what steps have they taken to facilitate clean energy development and deployment?

These are the fundamental questions that this project – Climatescope – asks and seeks to answer. Climatescope surveyed and analyzed 55 important developing nations to understand market conditions for accommodating the growth of the most innovative clean energy technologies, such as solar (photovoltaics and concentrating), wind, biomass, geothermal, and small hydro (projects smaller than 50MW). The report focused particularly on India and China where 10 states and 15 provinces were examined in greater detail. The goal was to produce snapshots of these jurisdictions potentially useful in strategic decision-making for investors, manufacturers, project developers, policy-makers, and researchers, among others.

While a number of Climatescope nations has historically embraced large hydro generation to meet local power needs, the study focused exclusively on newer sources of low-carbon generation, both because they are often technologically cutting edge and because they can generally be deployed far faster than large hydro projects, which can take years or even decades to commission. By comparison, wind projects can be sited and erected in as little as two to three years. Utility-scale photovoltaic solar projects can be constructed in as few as six months and distributed photovoltaic systems can be added to rooftops in a day or less. In short, these technologies are poised to make an immediate impact on energy supply and access in the developing world. Climatescope sought to assess how ready these countries are to embrace them.

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