A Six-Step Roadmap to Enhance Private Sector Resilience to Health Risks
An IDB Invest poll shows nearly 60% of projects have temporarily ceased work or faced major project delays because of COVID-19. Early lessons coupled with existing best practices in public health and safety principles provide a six-step action road map to build resilience against such risks.
Pioneering climate fund shows us what real transformations can look like
The dry wind and unrelenting sun left one uncomfortably exposed. The wafer thin air challenged every breath and made each step feel like my legs were encased in lead. Yet the journey into this Martian landscape disturbed by volcanoes in Chile’s Atacama Desert was well-worth it.
South America’s first, and the highest of its kind at 4500 meters above sea level, the Cerro Pabellón geothermal project, with an installed capacity of 48 MW, is a remarkable achievement. Developed by ENEL Green Power and Chile’s Empresa Nacional del Petróleo with financial support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which I helped to design 10 years ago, the visit was especially poignant for me.
The trip to Cerro Pabellón in 2018 is part of the CIF@10 campaign marking the 10-year anniversary of the creation of the Climate Investment Funds, which culminated this week at Morocco’s Noor Concentrated Solar Panel complex.
Trust and big goals
An example of a truly sustainable infrastructure project, Cerro Pabellón employs over 1000 people and produces electricity to power more than 165,000 households, while avoiding over 166,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year. The development of the project involved several indigenous communities and the nearby town of Ollagüe also benefitted following the provision of 24 hour electricity, which the mayor said drastically improved the lives of residents.
Cerro Pabellón powerfully demonstrates how the CIFs have helped to accelerate low carbon and climate resilient transformations. Implemented by Multilateral Development Banks, the CIFs provide developing countries with grants, concessional loans, risk mitigation instruments, and equity that leverage financing from the private sector and banks. Since 2008, US$ 8 billion has been pledged with more than 300 projects or programs funded in 72 developing countries to promote clean technology, energy access, climate resilience and sustainable forests.
The CIF’s Clean Technology Fund (CTF) made the first real contributions to kick-starting renewable energy markets in many developing countries. With initial support from CTF and other concessional resources, Chile’s performance on renewable energy has skyrocketed. From 2014 through 2017, Chile built 973MW of wind and 1.9GW of solar to become Latin America’s third largest clean energy market. Representing $10 billion of clean energy investment from 2013-2017, Chile was ranked first among developing countries in 2018 for its ability to attract investment.
This progress has boosted confidence in the potential of renewable energy to meet electricity demand and to position Chile as a global leader on climate change across different government administrations. Building on his predecessor’s legacy, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has proposed a target of generating 100% electricity from renewable energy by 2040, starting an ambitious plan for decarbonization of the energy matrix.
As we think about how to shift the trillions of dollars necessary to deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, it is essential to build on the lessons learnt and capacity developed from 10 years of experience with the CIFs.
Incorporating a new approach
The fund’s projects go beyond reducing emissions by improving lives and kick-starting systemic change to build low carbon and climate-resilient economies. Building confidence with government and the private sector and advancing regulatory changes and improving institutional capacity are CIF hallmarks.
CIF projects have proved successful when multilateral development banks are able to combine expertise and governments have a clear sectoral plan supported by communities, finance and industry. The deployment of technical cooperation to prepare projects to address non-financial barriers has also proved paramount for success.
As we think about the next decade it’s crucial to build on the CIF’s experience by continuing to work in a programmatic way on key sectors and ensure the scale of finance and resources for institutional strengthening is capable of delivering transformational impact, maintain incentives to work on more innovative projects and flexibly apply financial instruments to deliver greatest impact and mobilize markets effectively.
As Chile’s Cerro Pabellón shows, the road to the summit is steep. But we can make it. The lessons learnt from the CIF offer a springboard to do just that. ■
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Hydropower presents many advantages as a source of energy, even though it is often complex from the environmental and social perspective. It is based on relatively simple and robust technology, easy to adapt to different conditions. Hydropower projects have a long-term life span, often benefiting several generations. Due to its long operational life and low operation and maintenance cost, hydropower generation continues to be highly competitive.
Experiences around the world provide ample evidence that proactively addressing the potential impacts of projects early in the pre-feasibility phase is a sound investment decision by developers and contractors alike. The anticipation of potential risks and the identification of opportunities to benefit communities and ecosystems beyond the mitigation of impacts can significantly reduce implementation and operation and maintenance costs.
A recent study by Harvard University on the cost of social conflicts in the extractive industry shows that companies usually do not understand and capture the full range of costs of conflicts with local communities. Costs arising from lost productivity due to temporary shutdowns or delays can escalate to millions of dollars.
This is not different from what takes place with large infrastructure projects such as hydropower. Responsible development can benefit companies in at least four dimensions:
1. Social acceptance
Projects that are developed considering the concerns and expectations of communities and that obtain a “social license to operate” are less prone to face social unrests, protests, or labor related challenges, such as strikes, invasions and vandalism to job sites and equipment. This, in turn, translates into lower costs and opportunities to build win-win alternatives in which both the private sector and communities benefit from the implementation of projects.
2. Reduction of administrative and legal processes
Adequate treatment of social and environmental issues significantly reduces administrative and judicial processes that often hinder the implementation of projects and account for significant cost increases. Disputes over compensation, land expropriation, involuntary resettlement, or general mitigation of social impacts can drag on for years, generating direct costs as well as reputational impacts to companies and projects.
3. Financing alternatives
Adequate identification of management of environmental and social risks can be directly linked to a wider range of alternatives, incentives, and better terms for financing projects. This can bring substantial upsides, like lower cost of capital to support the implementation of hydropower projects.
4. Reputational gains
Positive image and corporate credibility resulting from responsible implementation of a project goes far beyond regional or sector specific benefits. Companies that are recognized as sustainability leaders are able to attract and retain talent, establish long term partnerships with privates, communities and NGOs, and expand involvement in different sectors, amongst others.
The current scenario with increasing pressure for water, energy and food supplies, and the uncertainties associated with climate change, make the tangible benefits of hydropower greater than ever before. This represents challenges as well as opportunities for the development of sustainable hydropower projects.
Accessing the full range of benefits that can be derived from hydropower requires responsible development of projects. At IDB Invest (formerly known as Inter-American Investment Corporation) we are supporting the implementation of hydropower projects such as Chaglla in Peru and Reventazon in Costa Rica that have been listed in a recent study as examples of best international practices. We will continue to partner with institutions and support projects that provide lessons and contribute to the sustainable development of countries in Latin America.
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Three best practices for energy companies investing in women
Three years ago, Marie-José Nadeau took the helm as the first woman to chair the World Energy Congress in its 90-year-history. She cautioned that the energy business was at a critical stage, suffering from underperformance and facing disruptive change. In her view, the industry would not have the ability to innovate and tackle these challenges without gender diversity.
At the time, only 4% of executive board members at the top 100 utilities companies were women. Today, this number has inched up by only 1%, according to EY’s 2016 Women in Power and Utilities Index. At this rate, it would take the power industry four decades to reach 30% of women participation in boards.
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At the employee level, a handful of energy companies in Latin America and the Caribbean are starting to invest in recruiting and training female personnel in non-traditional roles, for example, installing solar panels in remote areas and changing LED public lighting in cities.
As renewable energy scales up across the region, technical jobs in solar and wind will be in high demand. Energy companies will have to widen their talent pool to meet this need. Here are three ways energy companies are already investing in opportunities that benefit men and women:
1. Investing in gender certifications
Gender certifications today are what LEED certifications were a decade ago —a third-party seal of approval for sustainability— and some companies in Latin America are already investing in them. Based in Switzerland, global certifier EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) is increasing its presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Another option is seeking certification at the country level. These type of gender certifications allows companies to map and benchmark their efforts to create, support and advance gender equality throughout the workplace.
In Mexico, this was the route that an energy service company took to start transforming its corporate culture. Based in Monterrey, Óptima Energía works with cities to replace incandescent street lights with energy-efficient LED street lamps. Two years ago, Óptima Energía embarked on a gender certification program through the Mexican Standards for Labor Equality and Non-Discrimination. Investing in a gender certification is just one of many steps this company is taking to ensure an equitable and inclusive workplace that attracts the best employees.
2. Partnering with technical universities to train new talent
The solar industry is growing exponentially in Latin America and the Caribbean, and demand for experienced solar technicians is outstripping supply of qualified people. The same is true for the wind sector. With nearly two million people employed in renewable energy jobs, the need for a steady pipeline of qualified talent is opening doors for women.
In the last five years, Uruguay has become a powerhouse wind producer, steadily moving away from relying on fossil fuels and hydropower. Solar is now ramping up. In 2015, the energy companies Technova and Sky Solar started installing solar panels in Paysandú, a small city in Western Uruguay on the Argentinian border. The companies wanted to hire locally, and partnered with Universidad del Trabajo (UTU) and Instituto Nacional de Empleos y Formación Profesional (INEFOP) to train local personnel in the assembly of solar photovoltaic projects. They set a target of 40% female participation in their programs and met their goal.
3. Recruiting women in STEM fields
In Latin America, 45% of scientific researchers are women, surpassing even the global average; yet, women are vastly under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Cultural and socioeconomic barriers often lead young women to drop out of school to meet traditional obligations like care giving.
In Panama, Grupo Ecos invested in an internship program targeting female students on STEM and finance tracks for the Divisa Solar project, the first utility-scale solar park in the country. Financed by IDB Invest (formerly known as Inter-American Investment Corporation) and the Canadian Climate Fund for the Private Sector in the Americas (C2F), Divisa Solar is changing the conversation around traditional gender roles while benefitting local women professionals.
Empowering women makes business sense
The evidence is clear —greater gender diversity drives business success. As the renewable energy boom in Latin America leaps ahead, investing in opportunities for women professionals will be critical for energy companies to stay ahead of the curve. Alison Kay, EY global vice-chair of industry, put it in these terms: “In these times of disruptive change, as the sector undergoes fundamental transformation, diverse leadership teams make good business sense.”
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Four challenges facing the buildings of the future
In the 1960s, the Jetsons showed us a futuristic city in which pollution and the use of non-renewable resources did not exist. Twenty years later, when we had already begun to hear about environmental problems, Blade Runner showed us a more pessimistic vision of 2019: a city with countless skyscrapers, over-population, and extremely high pollution levels. Today we already have much of the Jetson’s smart technology, but sustainable buildings are needed to avoid Ridley Scott’s dystopian city.
In 2016, the New Climate Economy determined that the only way to grow in the future and address the current gap is with sustainable infrastructure. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Mercer study “Crossing the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Investing. Exploring Ways to Make it Across,” the ability to develop buildings of this kind depends on overcoming at least four key challenges:
1. Lack of familiarity
What is sustainable infrastructure? Many investors still lack the information they need to clearly identify what it is and what it is not, and to identify the nature of the business opportunity. This makes it difficult to increase this type of construction.
Sustainable infrastructure is planned, constructed, and operated to comply with changing governance, social, environmental, economic, and financial standards over time. For this reason, the role of multilateral and governmental organizations is to educate, inform, and provide appropriate financial products, in order to adapt current businesses to a climate change resilient economy with low carbon emissions.
2. Limited standardization of tools and approaches
As this is a megatrend in full swing, there is excessive fragmentation in sustainability standards, principles, and initiatives. In addition, there is a lack of adequate information available on what the environmental, social, and governance criteria are for companies not listed in their respective securities markets, making it difficult for investors to identify which projects are sustainable.
In addition, the lack of information increases transaction costs. For this reason, the IDB Group is developing and promoting the adoption of harmonized principles and working with investors to facilitate discussions regarding currently existing barriers to sustainable infrastructure. The objective is to generate useful solutions with innovative financial instruments in local markets and public-private partnerships and concessions that facilitate private sector participation.
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3. Lack of coordinated policy
Another fundamental point is to have consistent regulations and a commitment to comply with them throughout the region and in all sectors. Following guidelines like the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is key to maintaining investors’ interest in measures such as the adoption of clean energy.
For Latin America and the Caribbean, it is essential to adopt instruments adapted to our reality. In this case, the IDB Group’s NDC Invest is a solution enabling countries to implement these guidelines through a simple platform for preparing sustainable and bankable project portfolios, and increasing access to concessional funds, among other benefits.
4. Lack of tools and focus on climate resilience
To date, priority has not been given to how climate change adaptation should be achieved, both in terms of infrastructure and the financial tools for investing in it. However, today there are various financial tools for adapting to climate change. For example, IDB Invest (formerly known as Inter-American Investment Corporation) has mixed climate financing instruments that can be used to address these challenges and adopt climate change resilient modalities with low carbon emissions.
Developing the construction of the future requires investing at least US$6 trillion per year in sustainable infrastructure for our region. This will make it possible to support the economic development of Latin America and the Caribbean, grow at the necessary pace, and prevent our cities from becoming futuristic dystopias.
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Water management: the key for the successful hydroelectric generation in Norway
Beyond the extraordinary Norway’s landscapes, characteristic of the planet’s cold temperate zones, decorated with a display of impressive fjords, there are two aspects of this country that particularly drew my attention: the first is that 99% of the energy consumed is hydro energy; and the second is that after oil and gas, the most important export item is precisely electrical energy.
The conditions of this Nordic country to generate clean energy, based on hydro sources, are nearly perfect. A large part of its territory is made up of alpine plateaus, with altitudes of nearly one thousand meters above sea level. Norway’s geology is primarily characterized by solid and impermeable rocky layers; liquid and solid precipitation is abundant throughout nearly the entire year; and a high percentage of its rivers fall sharply to the sea from their sources of origin in the mountains and plateaus.
But this is not all. The key to Norway’s success in the production of hydropower is human ingenuity and creativity for managing water and making the most of it while harmonizing the demands for energy and adherence to the highest environmental and social standards at the same time.
Thus, Nordic engineering found a solution for managing water resources that, while abundant, continue to be extremely valuable: pumping water between reservoirs in several hydroelectric systems, to allow “energy storing” during periods of low demand. To do this, a real labyrinth of tunnels has been constructed connecting reservoirs located at different altitudes that, during periods of low demand, take in water pumped from other reservoirs located downstream, and release it when the demand for energy requires larger flows for generation.
The Nordic formulas for hydroelectric efficiency
Nordic engineering has optimized the production of hydropower and water consumption. One of its innovative formulas has been the design of power stations with turbines with different power ratings, allowing operators to make the necessary arrangements and supply the power required so that each unit works at or close to optimal levels. For example, in Norway a plant with 90 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, rather than having three 30 MW turbines, which is the standard, is designed with one 40 MW, one 30 MW and one 20 MW turbine. This configuration allows the power station operator to “play” with various combinations of generators to produce the energy required in the most efficient way. Thus, when the demand requires 70 MW, rather than having three 30 MW turbines operating at 78% or two operating at maximum capacity, and the third at 33% of its capacity (with large losses due to under-utilization), the power plant can use one 40 MW turbine and one 30 MW turbine at their maximum capacity and at peak efficiency optimizing the use of water and the production of energy.
Another significant aspect is how the environmental licensing system works. The granting of environmental licenses for the construction and operation of new hydroelectric power plants has been mostly delegated by the national environmental administration to what are called Water Users’ Associations. These are made up of all individuals or legal entities that have some type of legal or common law right over the water from the rivers to be exploited. Licenses with a duration of 30 years are granted after an extensive consultation and collaboration process — very extensive that can last for several years to ensure that most people is included and heard —with the associates, and it has a 30-year period.
After this period, the terms of the license can be revised, and licenses may even be completely revoked, which is why the project manager is legally required to dismantle the power station, and leave the site like how it was before the project. However, so far this has never occurred, and revisions have usually been related to minimum flows to be left downstream of the reservoirs, and with the management of aquatic fauna in the intervened rivers. Keep in mind that Norway is one of the most desirable tourism destinations for European and North American fishermen looking for trout and salmon.
No doubt there is much to learn from the Nordic experience in aspects related to hydropower production and water management. Norway has made great strides in areas such as the management of geographic information to determine potential sites for new power stations; the development and application of hydro-meteorological systems to support a true energy production industry based on good water management; and how to manage the power dispatching and transmission system both within the country and toward neighboring countries, to achieve efficiencies rarely seen in other countries.
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