"Faster Thank You Think: The Renewable Energy Revolution and Developing Countries"
Presented by Channing Arndt, Director
Environment and Production Technology Division
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
June 13, 2019
Faster Than You Think: The
Renewable Energy Revolution
and Developing Countries
▪ “Faster than you think: The renewable energy revolution and
developing countries.” Annual Review of Resource Economics 2019:
o Doug Arent. Scientific Computing and Energy Analysis; National Renewable
Energy Laboratory. USA.
o Faaiqa Hartley and Bruno Merven. Energy Systems, Economics and Policy
Group; University of Cape Town. South Africa.
o Alam Hossain Mondal. Department of Electrical Engineering, Daffodil
International University. Bangladesh.
Cost of Renewable Electricity at Auctions
Global Response in Power Generation
▪ Global investment in renewable energy in 2017
reached $279.8 billion.
Global CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuels by Sector
▪ Global emissions from 2014-17 grew in total by 1.6%.
▪ This substantial slowing in emissions is historic in that it is
not coupled with the GDP trend, as cumulative global GDP
grew by almost 9 percent.
▪ The reduction is associated with “a more structural change
with a shift away from carbon-intensive activities,
particularly in China but also in the United States (p. 12).”
Observations on global emissions from fossil fuels
▪ Rapid rates of technical of advance
• Systems integration
▪ Cost levels of renewables, especially solar and wind, are clearly in
• Continued technical advance, which is expected, will place more
renewables as least cost (subject to systems integration).
▪ Renewable generation share is becoming significant
• Implications of the next two doublings of renewable power share
much more profound than the previous two doublings.
Systems integration at center stage
▪ Wind power generation is highly variable on a turbine
by turbine basis.
▪ Solar PV is not available at night and is strongly reduced
▪ Systems integration matches supply with demand
• Dispatchable supply
• Demand management
Seasonal variation in wind power output:
USA Northern Midwest
Source: J. Jenkins, unpublished dissertation.
Global looking forward
▪ Variable renewable sources are highly likely to
represent rapidly increasing shares of electricity
▪ Those best able to profit from this energy revolution
• Endowments in renewable resources, notably solar and wind, but
also complementary dispatchable resources including hydropower.
• Needs for distributed power.
• The ability to systems integrate.
The energy revolution and Africa
Those who will profit most are likely to have:
1. Endowments in renewable sources, notably solar and wind,
but also hydropower.
2. Needs for distributed power.
3. The ability to systems integrate.
Broadly, good news for Africa
Source: Solar GIS, 2017
Worst possible sites in
South Africa yield more
than the best in Germany!
South Africa has extensive and consistent solar
RSA: Variable Renewable Energy Shares (least
Internal Projections of Electricity Supply for South
Africa developed around 2010
Serious Transition Issues
▪ In South Africa (and almost everywhere else), institutions are
designed to burn fossil fuels and transmit power, often via
state-owned monopolies or a tightly regulated private sector.
▪ A decade ago, some optimism existed that carbon capture and
storage technologies would allow this structure to persist.
▪ But, this has not happened.
▪ Instead, a new paradigm reliant on variable renewable energy
(VRE) is emerging.
Installed electricity capacity Electricity price by component
price of electricity is
14% higher in 2050 –
VRE replaced by
nuclear and coal
Constraining VRE (keep VRE out) raises the costs of
2020 2025 2030 2035 2040 2045 2050
GDP (conservative) Employment (conservative)
Real GDP and employment
Real GDP and employment are higher when
renewables are unconstrained
Large Opportunities and Challenges
▪ Rural electrification
• Genuine potential exists to extend access to electricity to the nearly one
billion people who lack it by 2030.
• But, it won’t happen by itself
• See IFPRI’s 2019 Global Food Policy Report
▪ Energy and development
• Clear capability to develop clean, reliable, and low cost systems,
particularly in developing countries.
• But, must develop the ability to systems integrate.
• And confront entrenched interests and habits in the power sector as well as
design and implement ‘a just transition’ from coal and other affected industries.
Forward Thinking Questions
▪ What policies, programs, and institutions are required to realize
the enormous potential for rural electrification?
▪ What are some potential downstream consequences to rapid rural
• Women’s empowerment?
• Large scale solar pumping and groundwater resources?
▪ How to deploy hydropower in a VRE dominated system?
▪ How should grid build plans and rural electrification strategies
▪ What are the benefits of modularity of VRE systems?
▪ What institutions and regulatory framework are best suited to
handling substantial VRE dependence?