UN to developing countries: Adapt RE technology

Posted on November 30, 2011

DEVELOPING countries need to encourage research to adapt renewable energy technologies for local use as alternative sources could be more cost effective than traditional supplies, a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

The report noted developing countries still have difficulty in localizing renewable energy technologies despite the existence of policies promoting clean power because of the poor absorptive capacity. Absorptive capacity is the ability of a country to identify important sources of knowledge and technological changes to route to internal learning processes to build its own competitive advantages.

The Philippines, despite being cited as one of the countries which has a renewable energy policy directed at developing technologies, is still finding it difficult to adapt.

“The major barrier to adapting renewable energy technologies is still the relatively higher cost of some technologies like wind and solar versus conventional plants at present. Since our electricity rates are not subsidized and considered as one of the highest worldwide, the alleged higher burden to consumers is the main argument against renewable energy deployment,” said Pedro H. Maniego, chairman of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB).

“Eliminating energy poverty and promoting greater access to energy to promote economic development therefore requires serious consideration of how renewable energy technologies could complement and/or even substitute conventional energy sources.

“However, a large proportion of the global population cannot afford these conventional energy supplies. According to estimates of the International Energy Agency (IEA), over 20% of the global population lacked access to electricity in 2010,” the report noted.

Developing countries are unable to adapt renewable energy technologies to their own environment as they are “more expensive than conventional sources of energy, mainly because price estimates of conventional energies do not usually include the costs of grid connections and storage.”

Only a limited number of developing countries are “steadily making their mark” as renewable energy developers and it is developed nations that is leading the charge. It is mostly Brazil, China and India that is innovating renewable energy. The report said “systemic failures exist as well, which undermine possibilities of expanding into renewable energy technologies in developing countries. Most importantly, countries and sectors are path-dependent, and renewable energy technologies face systemic risks of not being adapted, used or applied in other sectors of the economy.”

Developing countries can increase their absorptive capacities by adopting a national policy framework which includes the creation of research and development centers. However, the report notes half of the renewable energy policies enacted in 2010 came from developing countries.

The expense and patents of renewable energy technologies can be a barrier but the report recommends governments to look into international financing. -- Emilia Narni J. David