Workspace Economic and Social Geography/Department of Geography of the University of Bonn (GIUB) and Working Group of Geographical Energy Research of the German Society for Geography (DGFG)
Friday 21 and November 22, 2014 at the Institute of Geography, University of Bonn
The transition to renewable energy and carbon-neutral energy supply has become an important policy objective worldwide. In this context, country-specific differences in development paths can be observed. In particular for "energy-hungry" emerging markets but also for other countries and regions in the global South, the transformation of energy systems opens up the opportunity to learn from leading countries. Geography with its focus on integrating perspectives can make a valuable contribution to this topic. Against this background, the annual meeting in 2014 dealt with international perspectives of energy geographies.
Global Perspectives of Renewable Energies
Speaker: Ruud Kempener (analyst for technology project plans for IRENA)
During this lecture, key issues and questions regarding the nexus - energy, geography and development- were identified: What are key sectors of the energy sector? To what extend are renewable energies (RE) and energy efficiency relevant for future growth? How can you open up the use of renewable energy even further? How to finance the use of RE? Who plays central roles in the field of RE? Important key players are for example: private actors such as companies, institutions and households, state actors such as government bodies, universities, etc.
Bioenergy and Development in Tansania
Speaker: Harry Hoffmann (PhD student at the Institute of Socio-Economics of the Leibniz - Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e. V.)
For this session, the central question of the speaker was: how can the production of charcoal, an important energy source in developing and emerging countries, be shaped more sustainably? Mr. Hoffmann focused on Tanzania, where charcoal is an important source of energy that is often processed illegally and very inefficiently. The degree of efficiency of charcoal production often amounts only to 10-15 %, which results in a high consumption of wood per unit heat. Moreover, Tanzanian charcoal is often made with improvised and very primitively built charcoal kilns. This contributes to a low quality of the product. As a positive example, Mr. Hoffmann presented a project, which was carried out in a Tanzanian village in 2010. Improved kilns for charcoal production and improved stoves were applied for combustion, which could significantly reduce both indoor air pollution and charcoal consumption.
Barriers for the Successful Use of Existing Biomass Potentials in East Africa
Speaker: Fabian Schwarz (Researcher at the Department of Development Geography, University of Bayreuth)
Mr. Schwarz presented two case studies from Uganda and Tanzania in order to present barriers to the use of biomass. In both countries, the supply of electricity is low and neither country has complied with its current 10-year plan with respect to increasing energy efficiency. Black identified the following barriers:
In Uganda as well as in Tanzania, many of the aforementioned political and institutional barriers exist, impeding the success of biomass projects. In Uganda for example, there is huge potential for bioenergy production from molasses - a waste product that often is disposed. The molasses can, however, be used as feedstock for biogas plants for power generation. Crucial for overcoming the named barriers, is the investment in education and training programs.
Renewable Energies in Sub-Sahara Africa: A Case Study of Gambia
Speaker: Pascal Ripplinger (Graduate Student at the Institute of Geography, University of Bonn)
Gambia is the smallest African country, the national electricity supply is mainly provided by diesel generators, and the country is highly vulnerable to supply shortages in oil and fuel supply, which leads to very high electricity prices. While a nationwide expansion of the national grid based on existing technology would be expensive and would go hand in hand with high emissions, decentralized renewable energiy solutions present an attractive alternative.
Incentives for the use of RE can be:
- tax benefits
- land grants
- general legislative and legal support of RE
Obstacles to the use of RE are currently:
- high investment costs
- rarely available capital
- high interest rates and short payback periods
- Expanding the national grid is hardly possible without increasing the emission of pollutants. In Gambia, electricity is currently produced primarily by diesel generators. An extension of the network would thus inevitably implicate an increase in generator capacity. However, decentralized renewable energy plants are an alternative: small wind turbines and solar systems for local power supply have already been tested.
- In addition, a technical degree program at national universities is planned to train actors in the handling and maintenance of renewable energy plants.
Initiators of Change in Multi-Level Systems: Renewable Energy in Indonesia and the Philippines
Speaker: Jens Marquardt (PhD student at the Environmental Policy Research Centre, Free University of Berlin)
Energy and Southeast Asia: the economically powerful nations in Southeast Asia (Indonesia and the Philippines) feature a rising energy consumption. In Indonesia, the power consumption increased each year by around 8-9% during the last ten years. However, the share of renewable energies is still comparatively small. It is important to mention that these countries feature a multi-level governance: many interacting authority structures operate in a network on different horizontal as well as vertical levels. Exertion of influence happens in terms of top-down and bottom-up patterns. Development projects have to find a good position in this network in order to be successful. The multi-level control has been favored in Indonesia and the Philippines by the downfall of authoritarian regimes. Currently, a radical process of decentralization begins. Now, also sub-national actors play a central role in the field of renewable energy and should be regarded as new Drivers for Change. Unfortunately, key actors often still turn out to be obstacles (banks and other finance intermediaries).
Comparison of Off-Grid Electrification vs. Grid Extension: Influencing Parameters and the Role of Renewable Energies from a Geographic Point of View
Speaker: Catherina Cader (PhD student at the Philipps-University of Marburg and assistant at Reiner-Lemoine Institut Berlin)The Reiner Lemoine Institute in Berlin has a variety of software solutions that allow the determination of optimal locations and parameters for renewable energy. Ms. Cader presented Cameroon as an example. The country was evaluated by means of the multiple parameters of the software (wind speed, solar radiation, vegetation, connection to the national grid), resulting in a map with recommendations for mini-grid locations. Thus, it can be evaluated at which locations mini-grids are more suitable compared to an extension of the national electricity grid.
The Great Appetite for Energy: A Comparison of China and India
Speaker: Dr. Thomas Henning (Research Assistant at the Department of Geography, Philipps-University of Marburg)
India and China, as emerging economies, are experiencing high economic growth, which contributes to an increasing energy demand. With regard to the electricity market, both countries have the world's third largest growth rates, linked to high emissions of CO2. Usually, carbon-intensive electricity generation is the result. Both India and China expand their energy portfolio involving RE. A large share of RE in turn accounts for hydropower in India and China. However, both countries are faced with severe difficulties when it comes to energy transport over long distances. China has many dams in the southwest of the country, which are used for the production of hydro power. On the border with India, several major projects are under construction. Especially in the catchment area of the Irrawaddy, several such projects are planned. However, the danger arises that downstream areas can dry out across national borders. This is especially important in the politically volatile border region of India to China where such dryings have the potential to intensify political conflicts.
Keynote Lecture: The Energy Transition, the Logic of Decentralization and the Economics of Re-Municipalization
Speaker: Prof. Andrew Cumbers (Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow)
The change from conventional to renewable energy sources in the context of energy generation opens up new political opportunities, as well as economic difficulties and new geographic focal points. The focus shifts from national electricity systems towards decentralized networks. This results in a rise of tensions between established privatized parties in energy supply and new demands to make power supply more democratic and collective. New approaches on municipal and local levels arise against neoliberal tendencies, privatization and competitive trends.