4. Ensure that policies enhance social and economic development, and improve quality of life for all

Clean energy transitions will provide an important opportunity to advance economic and social development, not just through job creation, but also by providing the clean, affordable energy required to allow environmental protection, economic development and growth, and a better quality of life.

  • In India, Community Cooling Hubs are helping farming communities by aggregating cooling demand and enhancing efficiency. Such approaches can combine food cooling supply chains with other services, such as community health services and emergency services, to better meet community needs.
  • Zimbabwe has greatly improved affordability and reliability of energy for healthcare facilities in poor, remote and rural areas by installing solar panels as part of the Solar for Health Initiative. Kenya has achieved similar results through its Off-Grid Solar Access project.
  • Building off the successful deployment of off-grid solar installations in remote areas, the complementary deployment of highly energy-efficient equipment in off-grid health clinics has been seen to successfully expand delivery of health services.
  • SEforALL's Universal Energy Facility (UEF) is promoting results-based financing for off-grid electricity access to expand services while reducing emissions from existing energy sources.
  • COVID-19 recovery programmes offer an opportunity to advance both clean energy and development goals, especially through the financing of infrastructure. However, IEA analysis shows that globally the proportion of stimulus funding dedicated to clean energy is currently only 2%.

Renewable energy infrastructure can also serve as a major driver for economic development in regions rich in renewable resources, which are often in rural areas with less industrial activity. Several governments have designated such regions as priority areas for clean energy investments. For example, renewable energy zones in countries such as Australia and Turkey have been major drivers of increased investment and local economic development.

It is equally important to ensure that clean energy transitions provide opportunities for local capacity building that can support job creation and economic development. International co-operation on clean energy technology capacity building will also be important in this regard.

  • The REnewAfrica Initiative assists local governments in developing a more investment-friendly environment through de-risking instruments and capacity building.
  • The Enel Foundation has developed the Open Africa Power initiative, an educational partnership involving academic institutions in Italy and Africa, to build local capacity on sustainable electricity topics. 

Clean energy policies can also improve quality of life in many ways, such as through less polluted, more liveable cities, clean cooking and a healthier environment. For example, China’s programme to provide clean stoves for 40 million households by 2020 has cut emissions, improved air quality, and improved the health and economic well-being of its citizens.

Clean energy, in combination with digital technologies, can greatly increase daily comfort and convenience of households while also lowering energy bills. Already, the use of smart home systems and devices is on the rise across the world. For instance, it is estimated that smart homes in China alone will grow from around 3.2 million in 2016 to 29.5 million in 2021. Moreover, the rise of mobile apps to easily track and manage energy consumption has helped consumers lower energy bills in a convenient way. Governments can support such innovation, as the US Department of Energy did when it launched the “Apps for Energy” competition in 2012, which financed the development of mobile apps that help consumers use less energy and save money. Such initiatives lead to widespread positive experiences associated with clean energy.

Case studies

Ensure that policies enhance social and economic development, and improve quality of life for all

Community Cooling Hubs in India

Launched in June 2019, the University of Birmingham is collaborating with the National Centre for Cold-chain Development and several groups in India to develop pilot Community Cooling Hubs. The initiative will help farming communities in India by aggregating demand to optimise efficient energy and resource management and bundle multiple revenue streams. Specifically, it aims to integrate food cold chains with other services that depend on cooling, such as community health facilities, social facilities, schools and emergency services. By bundling multiple revenue streams, the hubs can increase selling prices by as much as 4-5 times and avoid an average of 15-20% food loss. Moreover, they can reduce energy demand from the cold-chain sector, which is expected to surge in coming years in India. In doing so, the initiative combines sustainable models of cooling with broader social and welfare requirements in rural communities. 

Zimbabwe’s Solar for Health Initiative

In 2017, Zimbabwe launched the Solar for Health (S4H) Initiative in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, and with financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The initiative aims to use Zimbabwe’s solar resources to power health clinics in remote areas. Before the S4H Initiative, more than two-thirds of health clinics in Zimbabwe only had access to electricity for about four hours a day. As of 2018, Zimbabwe had installed solar PV systems in over 400 health facilities, benefitting over 6.5 million individuals across the country. Installation of additional solar systems in 640 health facilities is ongoing and expected to be completed by the end of 2021. By providing reliable access to electricity for healthcare facilities in poor, remote and rural areas, S4H has accelerated progress toward universal health coverage. In particular, Zimbabwe has targeted communities affected by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as pregnant women and children under the age of five. 

Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project

The Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP) is a flagship project of the Ministry of Energy, financed by the World Bank, which aims at providing electricity and clean cooking solutions in remote, low density and traditionally underserved areas of the country. The project mobilises a total of USD 150 million to deliver 250 000 stand-alone solar home systems, 120 mini-grids and 150 000 clean cooking solutions to households. Out of the standalone solar facilities, USD 25 million is allocated to community facilities, including around 800 health and educational facilities. It also aims at developing sustainable supply chains for solar home systems and cooking solutions, while ensuring sustainable local employment opportunities and capacity building. KOSAP covers 14 of the 47 counties in Kenya, which have been defined as “marginalised areas”, representing 20% of the country’s population. 

Efficient equipment and health services in Sub-Saharan Africa

The World Bank and World Health Organization estimate that only 28–34% of health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa have access to reliable electricity. The implications of improving access can be life-saving. Expanding modern energy and health services is essential to increasing the quality and availability of care for women and improving the overall quality of life in off- and weak-grid communities. Appropriately designed, highly energy-efficient appliances and medical devices designed for use with off-grid solar energy systems can dramatically expand health service provision at off-grid clinics while also reducing the cost of clinic electrification overall. Super-efficient appliances deliver the same services as conventional appliances while using significantly less energy and therefore enable an off-grid clinic to do far more with a given energy supply, expanding service delivery without requiring additional solar panels or battery capacity.

Sustainable Energy For All Universal Energy Facility

With Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) serving as programme manager, the Universal Energy Facility (UEF) was launched as a results-based financing facility to provide incentive payments to qualified organisations for deploying clean energy solutions and providing verified end-user energy connections (including mini-grids and solar systems). Developed with a coalition of donors and partners, early design work of the UEF included input from private sector mini-grid developers and industry associations looking to design an alternative option to tendering processes for renewable mini-grids. Results-based financing has become a proven, viable alternative to traditional procurement approaches for energy projects to deliver connections faster and more efficiently. It also allows governments and donors to shift the risk of delivery to the private sector and provides more certainty to industry about financial support needed. The UEF is designed to rapidly connect households, businesses and public institutions to new clean and affordable decentralised energy, working in high-impact countries with significant gaps in access to reliable energy. The aim is to build up the UEF to a USD 500 million facility that will provide more than 1.3 million new electricity connections to more than 6.37 million people, directly mitigating 4.8 Mt CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Renewable energy zones in Australia

Renewable energy zones (REZs) aim to aggregate several renewable energy generators and storage facilities in a single location to benefit from economies of scale and favourable local resource and investment conditions. State governments across Australia, including New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and Queensland, have committed to developing REZs, and their respective governments have already begun consultation processes with regional stakeholders to optimise the local benefits of each project. For example, the NSW government expects that the REZs will deliver a sizeable pipeline of large-scale renewable energy and storage projects, in addition to bringing up to AUD 20.7 billion in private sector investments into the region. The four planned REZs in NSW are also expected to deliver over 6 300 construction and 2 800 ongoing clean jobs. The REZs in NSW will also lower power bills, saving the average NSW household around AUD 130 per year on its electricity bill and the average small business AUD 430 per year between 2023 and 2040. 

Renewable energy zones in Turkey

In 2016, the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources issued a regulation commissioning renewable energy projects in Renewable Energy Resource Zones. The government awards limited-time purchase guarantees to support renewable energy investments and to incentivise local manufacturing of renewable generation assets. The process requires developers to include domestic businesses or to establish domestic factories and create employment for the local labour force as well as invest in R&D. The localisation requirements can provide direct economic benefits for Turkish factories and manufacturers, in addition to accelerating the development of subsidiary industries. The first tender was awarded in May 2017 for the construction of a 1 GW solar power plant with an estimated USD 1.3 billion total investment. The solar plant will be operational for 30 years meeting the electricity demand of over 600 000 households. The tender also included 65% local content, a commitment to conduct R&D activities in Turkey for a minimum of 10 years, employment of at least 80% local staff, and construction of a cell-manufacturing factory. The country’s first solar panel manufacturing facility, with an annual capacity of 500 MW, opened in August 2020 in Ankara's Başkent Organized Industrial Zone, employing around 1 400 people. Subsequently, a wind auction in 2017 allocated capacity to projects in Edirne-Tekirdağ-Kırklareli, Sivas and Eskişehir provinces. The contract terms included the installation of a wind turbine factory in İzmir-Aliağa, completed in December 2019 and accounting for 65% of domestic wind turbine production. An R&D centre was established in İzmir by the winner of the competition, employing more than 50 qualified personnel working in universities and research centres abroad.

REnewAfrica Initiative

RenewAfrica is a private-sector initiative designed to spur European investments into renewable energy in Africa. Launched in June 2019 by the RES4Africa Foundation, the initiative is backed by 27 industry actors from the European renewable energy sector. Under RenewAfrica, these stakeholders promote a comprehensive investment programme structure based on four pillars: policy dialogue, capacity building, technical assistance and financial de-risking. This structure aims to develop a series of sustainable, renewable investment projects across Africa, with greater use of public-private partnership models, which will help establish the necessary conditions for job creation and economic development in the countries in which they are deployed. 

Enel Open Africa Power Initiative

In 2018, the Enel Foundation launched an educational partnership, the Open Africa Power initiative, with the support of the Italian government and in partnership with top academic institutions from Italy and Africa. The aim of the initiative is to “empower and retain African talent” in the clean energy sector, to help unlock Africa’s sustainable future. The programme seeks to build in-depth knowledge and local capacity on all aspects of sustainable electricity production and distribution for high-potential PhD, Master’s, and MBA students and alumni as well as a professional networking platform for participants to maximise impact. The programme also includes a focus on geographic and gender diversity, notably with a high percentage of female participants (43% in 2020), thereby contributing to the empowerment of a new generation of African women and leaders engaged in their country’s clean energy future.

China’s clean cooking projects

China’s policy makers have been promoting clean cooking options since the 1980s. Over the past two decades, the Ministry of Agriculture has invested in research, standard setting, pilot demonstrations, and industrial development. By the end of 2013, 150 million rural families and 500 million people benefitted from reforms, such as the provision of 123 million firewood and coal-saving stoves of various types, more than 31 million energy-saving stoves, and more than 19 million energy-saving stores. According to the Clean Cooking Alliance, which China joined in 2012, around 700 million people in China still depend on solid fuels like coal and biomass for cooking and heating. In 2014, China committed to providing 40 million clean stoves to households across China by 2020, and to eliminate inefficient stoves and cooking fuels by 2030. To further this goal, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Clean Cooking Alliance launched a three-year (2015-2017) pilot programme, with projects in Liaoning, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan, Chongqing and Gansu Provinces. The evaluation results of these pilot projects are yet to be released. 

US “Apps for Energy” competition

In 2012, as part of the US government’s efforts to promote energy savings, the US Department of Energy launched the first-ever “Apps for Energy” challenge. The programme offered USD 100 000 in cash prices to software developers that build applications for mobile phones and computers that use data provided by major utilities to help consumers consume less energy and save money. The competition stemmed from the government’s Green Button initiative, under which nine large electricity suppliers agreed to provide over 15 million households access to energy consumption data. The winners were evaluated by a multi stakeholder panel that included representatives from the electricity industry, tech industry and Department of Energy. The programme led to the development of several successful apps, including the Kill-Ur-Watts app, which tracks energy usage of consumers over time and offers customisable charts as well as the option to challenge friends and family to improve their energy savings scores and carbon footprints.