Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Dubai: As world leaders, climate champions and experts gather to chart out a path to tackle climate change and accelerate renewable energy (RE), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) India and the International Solar Alliance (ISA) held discussions on RE and environmental conservation. Held on the World Solar Day on December 5th, experts from Brazil, Nigeria, India, and the USA deliberated ways to achieve the stated goal of tripling RE adoption to 11,000 GW while minimising damage done to both the environment and communities on the ground.

Among other issues, the discussion centred around TNC India’s homegrown Siteright tool, a decision-support tool that helps identity land parcels where solar and wind development has none or negligible socio-ecological conflicts, thereby supporting timely project deployment and reducing project costs. It uses the best available information to support early screening and inform siting decisions. TNC India while presenting the tool to the CoP audience emphasised that it should be one of the sources of information to be considered when taking siting decisions for RE. The tool is now being extended to cover other parts of the world such as Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, starting with Brazil and Nigeria respectively.

“There should not be a fight between fuel for our use and fuel as food. We found the SiteRight tool to be amazingly useful and as we move forwards with deployment of solar energy, we would like to provide this tool to users across the world,” said Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General of ISA during in address. He added that a comprehensive study that details which plants can be grown under photovoltaics should be done so that the clash between land for RE and food can be minimized.

Dr Annapurna Vancheswaran, Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy India during the inaugural session remarked, “we need to find pathways to ensure that the spread of RE is sustainable and helps protect both lands and waters of our planet. Therefore, low impact siting for RE projects becomes imperative because clean energy shouldn’t come at the cost of biodiversity or food security.”

Giving a macro perspective from Nigeria, and sharing his enthusiasm for using the SiteRight tool, where it will be available soon, Dr Joseph Daniel Onoja, Director General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation said, “Solar energy is only 3 percent of Nigeria’s energy mix, so there is a lot of potential to expand it. This is where the SiteRight tool comes in as it tells us where the new RE infrastructure can come that will have less impact on biodiversity, the agricultural sector, and on humans.”

Dr Onoja opined that using other’s experience Nigeria can learn and tell ahead in time what needs to be done to minimize the impact these infrastructures have on biodiversity and on people.

Brazil, an important member of the ISA, has made big strides in renewable energy but needs a balancing act since it has large land mass but equally important biodiversity hotspots such as the Amazon rainforests.

“Brazil has one of cheapest renewable energy in the world. The world average is $50/MW and in Brazil it’s $25-30/MW. Through BNDES, we provide incentives to RE suppliers. This along with a very stable regulatory framework. In fact, in Brazil, we’re facing crisis of low RE prices, because we have access to a lot of RE sources,” informed Luciana Aparecida da Costa, Managing Director of Infrastructure, Energy Transition and Climate Change at BNDES during the discussions. She added that BNDES’ learnings about the impact of RE projects on biodiversity and the environment over the years has resulted in an improved screening process for commissioning wind and solar projects.

Dr Mathur urged that development banks such as the BNDES should make SiteRight a screening requirement for application for financing of solar and wind projects.

Bruce McKenney, Global Director, Renewable Energy, The Nature Conservancy remarked that as RE deployment moves out of the easy places to the harder places for deployment, people should not lose access to land or resources adding that proactive steps need to be taken to identify pathways that are going to be areas of least conflict and low impact.

By team

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