Renewable energy cooperation: How do we get from Powerpoints to power plants?


photo: undp croatiaphoto: undp croatia

I found myself confused as I listened to the discussion in the European Parliament a few days ago.

A policy-level discussion was taking place between various important stakeholders from the EU, the Western Balkans and the North Africa region on renewable energy cooperation between the EU and its neighbour-countries and regions.

We know that renewable energy cooperation is economically beneficial for all sides. We know there is unused renewable energy potential in the EU neighbourhood. There is even a legal instrument in the EU Renewable Energy Directive in the Article 9 called “cooperation mechanisms”.

Why, then, is energy cooperation still not happening?

The researchers and experts from the BETTER project consortium presented the synthesis of a three-year work on analysing this exact same question.

Their conclusions are that we need:

1. Higher political will and commitment,

2. Increased public acceptance of renewables in these regions to make renewables grow; and,

3. Better legal framework (long-term!) attractive to investors and clear policy-signals.

Different opinions

Some voices from the discussion said: yes, but energy is a commodity. Cooperation is just a trade. North-South cooperation is nothing more than a business case. South-South needs a stronger push towards market integration. SMEs on both sides need to be involved and get a chance to benefit. Countries need a lot more dialogue on renewable energy cooperation.

Why, some asked, would it be of interest to the EU to export jobs in renewables if it can reach its targets within the Union itself?

Those voices confused me. Why, I thought, if there are so many obstacles known for years and so many different approaches to the concept for cooperation, are we still working on this?

Catch 22

This is exactly the catch with development and cooperation, isn’t it? You don’t have to do it, but if you do, then we are all better-off.

If it is set as a fair, mutually beneficial mechanism, then you do not only create jobs, ensure energy security, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce imports of fossil fuels only for yourself, but you support your neighbours to develop in an equally BETTER way as well.

You create jobs and diversify resources in your neighbourhood so we are all more resilient to shocks and crises of all kinds – from oil spills to climate change, from economic recession to food shortages, from armed conflicts to epidemics and back.

The Energy Union is one step away from larger regional integration of markets, energy security and cooperation; regional cooperation in renewables is the logical next step.

Energy cooperation essentials

What we need is a combination of 1) policy agreement, 2) technical support and 3) financial instruments “blended in a smart way with good sequencing” – I am quoting Martin Krause now, our global energy policy advisor who contributed constructively to these two days and was cited many times during discussions.

The political agreement or policy commitment is or will be there through (m)any of the coming global instruments: the Climate Summit and the UNFCCC post-2020 framework, the Energy Community or the Pan Arab Renewable Energy Strategy.

The financial instruments, too, are around and available, many times not used to their full capacity.

What is still missing, and what we as UNDP can contribute to, is the technical assistance and cooperation on developing good pilot and demonstration projects. We can work on aligning enabling frameworks at the regional level; we can work on dialogue with stakeholders to help them make things happen.

We can work on de-risking investments and creating favourable conditions for private sector investments.

We can work on innovation, knowledge and technology transfer. This is what we do and what we are good (great!) at.

After listening to the two-day discussions in Brussels, I see a nice project pipeline for the GEF6 and upscaling solutions for the Green Climate Fund later on. Do you?

Do you believe renewable energy cooperation between regions is needed and feasible?

If so, what does it take us all to make it happen?


This article was orginally posted on the blog Voices from Eurasia.

Environment Europe & the CIS