Over the past two decades, Germany has emerged as an international leader in the development of renewable energy. Its ambitious policies to support the deployment of renewable energy not only helped initiate the German Energiewende project, they have also unleashed a far-reaching global process of innovation and cost reduction in the renewable energy sector. As a result, the vision of establishing sustainable energy systems is gaining traction far beyond Germany’s borders, including a growing number of emerging and developing countries.
Building on these emerging trends, the SE4All Initiative was started in 2011 by UN-Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and aims at providing access to modern energy services for all until 2030, doubling the rate of improvement of energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energies in the global energy mix. The dialogue forum “Sustainable Energy for All – The Global Dimension of the German Energiewende”, jointly convened by IASS, SE4All and KfW, aimed to stimulate a discussion on how developments in Germany might support this vision of Sustainable Energy for All and how the increasingly dynamic global developments might in turn enhance future developments in Germany. A particular focus of the discussion was on identifying opportunities for mutual learning and for establishing corresponding mechanisms to facilitate the global exchange of knowledge and experiences.
The Forum was opened by Stephan Opitz, Management Committee of KfW Development Bank, IASS Executive Director Klaus Töpfer, Parliamentary State Secretary at Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Thomas Silberhorn, and Kandeh K. Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and chief executive of the UN initiative Sustainable Energy for All.
Participants agreed that the continued success of Germany’s ongoing transformation of its energy system could provide an important signal to the international community that integrating large shares of renewable energy into the energy mix offers a viable pathway for economically and environmentally sustainable, low-carbon development. At the same time, the expansion of renewable energy in developing countries faces a unique set of opportunities and challenges, which were discussed in detail by the participants.
A number of key points from this discussion are summarized below:
- Renewable energy deployment in developing countries has to be seen within the context of a broader development agenda. Correspondingly, it is important to pursue the three targets of the SE4ALL in tandem and not separately.
- An important question for renewable energy deployment is how it can promote development of the productive sectors in developing countries.
- Decentralised solutions represent one important promise for providing access to electricity services in developing countries.
- The role of local ownership models and grassroots political support for renewables in Germany offers important lessons for developing countries.
- At the same time, larger scale solutions to provide the needed power for industry and the reliable provision of baseload power also represent important issues for developing countries.
- Energy transitions in LDCs have to take into account the fact that energy systems are not homogenous and consist of a modern and a traditional system of energy production and consumption.
- A number of mature renewable energy technologies are now available. Their widespread implementation is, therefore, no longer primarily a matter of technology development but a matter of institutional change.
- In many developing countries a lack of capacity (including the needed human resources) or “readiness” to implement renewable energy projects represents a key bottleneck for broad-based development of renewable energy.
- The development of renewable energy sources requires high upfront capital investments. This implies the need for new financing instruments.
- The development of sustainable energy systems around the globe can only succeed as a knowledge-driven transformation process, involving the widespread mobilization of knowledge. This means collecting and compiling existing knowledge, making knowledge usable, making knowledge accessible and bringing knowledge into the arena of societal actors.
- Energy transitions in developing countries require a multi-stakeholder approach, which engages not only public and private sector actors but also civil society. To facilitate this, the creation of platforms for knowledge exchange and dialog is important.
- The establishment of energy transition hubs around the world may offer the opportunity to spread knowledge and mobilize resources for energy transitions in developing countries.
The meeting concluded with the joint expression of interest of Kandeh Yumkella and Klaus Töpfer on behalf of SE4All and IASS to promote the concept of a Global Knowledge Network to mobilize existing knowledge and experiences to work towards sustainable energy for all, with an open invitation for partnerships and to continuing this dialogue process on the Global Dimension of the German Energiewende.
- Dr. Sebastian Helgenberger (Head of the IASS Transdiscipinary Panel on Energy Change)