Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The price of oil: Saudi Arabia, the “Shi’a Crescent and Daesh (IS)

The price of oil: Saudi Arabia, the “Shi’a Crescent and Daesh (IS)
As Security Analyst Professor Paul Rogers points out, the the Middle Eastern insurgency, or as he terms it, 'Revolts from the Margins' is morphing is ways that may have an exacerbating and self-perpetrating influence throughout the region, further destabilizing oil supplies from Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia has major concerns over the increasing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Middle East, seeing a “Shi’a Crescent” in process of development from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. This stretches from Hezbollah with its substantial influence in Lebanon, to the Alawi-dominated regime in Syria, through to the Shi’a-majority government in Baghdad and its suppression of the Sunni minority, and on to Iran itself. There is a further fear of Shi’a influence in the Saudi Kingdom itself where the Shi’a minority – about 15% of the population of 21 million (excluding nearly 10 million expatriates) – is located mainly in the oil-rich Eastern Province. That minority has suffered considerable suppression and control, especially since the beginning of the Arab Awakening five years ago and remains bitter in its exclusion. Furthermore, Saudi security forces have done much to support the Sunni royal family in Bahrain where the Shi’a majority (some 70% of the island’s citizens) has been suppressed.   Saudi fears of Iran stem partly from the Sunni/Shi’a divide but more significantly from its view of Iran, with a population of 80 million compared with 21 million Saudis, as a state that sees itself as the regional leader. By contrast, successive Saudi kings have regarded their role as the Keeper of the Two Holy Places as giving them the true leadership of the Islamic world. More    

Saturday, April 2, 2016

SE4All Highlights Plans for Implementing SDG 7

25 March 2016: The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), Rachel Kyte, highlighted challenges to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all).

Briefing UN Member States and civil society, she also provided an update on the SE4All initiative's plans for supporting implementation of the Goal.

Kyte emphasized that Goal 7 has three “pillars,” addressing energy poverty, technological advancement, and investment in energy efficiency. Stressing the interlinked nature of the Goal, she said the first pillar, addressing energy poverty, is essential to leaving no one behind, noting that the electricity access gap undermines education, productivity and economic growth, while the gap in access to clean cooking fuels is detrimental to health and gender inequality. On technological advancement, Kyte noted the past decade's reductions in the cost and complexity of renewable energy, which makes on-shore wind, solar photo voltaic, and other technologies more competitive with fossil-based energy sources. On energy efficiency, she said greater investment has made it possible to provide basic electricity services using much less power.

Despite this positive progress, Kyte warned that global economic trends have slowed the momentum for electrification, renewables, efficiency and clean cooking. She said the global energy transition is not taking place at a sufficient pace to meet the temperature goal set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change, or the broader development goals expressed in the 2030 Agenda.

Kyte also stressed that the financial needs to achieve SDG 7, which are estimated at over US$1 trillion annually, will need to come from both private and public sectors. She highlighted the importance of small-scale, private investments to develop renewable energy in many African countries.

On the role of the SE4All initiative in supporting the achievement of SDG 7, Kyte said the Forum's 2017 meeting will assess progress and provide substance for the High-level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) and the UN system as a whole in its review of progress towards the SDGs. In the meantime, SE4All is developing a framework for addressing challenges faced by Member States in achieving SDG 7. Member States will have opportunities to provide input on this framework throughout May 2016, Kyte said, and the SE4All Advisory Board will consider the framework at its meeting, on 15-16 June 2016. [Event Webcast] [SE4All Website]


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Caribbean Green Economy Project

Within the Caribbean, there is a growing awareness of the need for a new economic paradigm for inclusive and sustainable development, in order to deliver solutions for the most pressing challenges which are made worse by international economic and environmental crises.

In the backdrop of the limited diversification of the countries’ economies and their dependence on natural resources, green economy offers a viable option to increase competitiveness and resilience of the region’s economies and merge prosperity and growth for all with sustainability.

"I commit my Government to working assiduously with the Social Partnership to ensure that the measures indentified in Barbados’ Green Economy Scoping Study, which can contribute to a more prosperous and environmentally sensitive Barbados, will be implemented expeditiously" said Freundel J. Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados.

“We see a green economy not only as the area of renewable energy, but we see the green economy as a means of providing new opportunities for our people in St. Kitts,” said Earl Asim Martin, Deputy Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis.

"We are also showing that it is possible to create a better, environmentally sustainable national economy without compromising our citizens’ legitimate aspirations for increased prosperity," said Bharrat Jagdeo, Former Prime Minister of Guyana

Effective green economy strategies and programmes must address barriers to change that affect the whole Caribbean region. In searching for alternatives to “business-as-usual”, emphasis should be placed on redirecting investments and creating economic incentives that lead to sustainable development and poverty eradication.

UNEP, in cooperation with the CARICOM Secretariat and with financial support of the European Union, is supporting the region through a Caribbean Green Economy Initiative.

The outcomes of project, as well as the experiences and lessons learned during its implementation should offer ideas and opportunities for scaling up green economy transition in other countries and regions especially in island states in the Pacific, Africa and elsewhere.

Please download the project flyer on green economy in the Caribbean here.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CARICOM's Commercialization of energy efficiency programs and projects in the Caribbean.

As part of its mandate to promote resilient energy matrices region-wide, CARICOM has identified the promotion of investment into energy efficiency programs and projects as a priority action item.

On April 5th at 10.00am EST, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and New Energy Events will co-host a webinar focused on new approaches to the commercialization of energy efficiency programs and projects in the Caribbean.

Confirmed panelists:

Jacob Corvidae, Manager, Rocky Mountain Institute

Kelly Tomblin, President & CEO, Jamaica Public Service Co.

Dr. Devon Gardner, Programme Manager, Energy, CARICOM

Joseph Williams, Sustainable Energy Advisor, Caribbean Development Bank

Despite the obvious potential for investment in energy efficiency across the Caribbean, the markets are yet to take off in any meaningful way. The unavailability of sustainable and affordable financing is widely recognized as the most significant hurdle to commercialization. The webinar will explore an emerging alignment of stakeholders around energy efficiency investments, and examine a number of innovative approaches to financing.

Topics will include:

• How do we introduce investment in energy efficiency into the mainstream?

• How do regional utilities look at investment in EE initiatives from a long-term ROI perspective? How can we align economic incentives to motivate utilities to invest in EE?

• What can we learn from the experience of other markets and other utilities? Hawaii, for example?

• What is the Integrated Utility Service (IUS) model? What can we learn from the initial experience in Fort Collins?

• How might utility-centric EE programs align with public sector and multilateral objectives and with what implication for the financing of EE programs?

• How do we de-risk EE investment?

• What are the opportunity costs associated with the inability of the current "market will deliver" philosophy to tap the regional EE potential?

• What are the key stakeholders - utilities, utility regulators, governments, multilaterals and private investors - prepared to do in order to deliver clean, efficient, reliable and cost-effective energy services to end-users? More

Register Now!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Take-No-Prisoners World of Oil

It’s evident that we’re still on a planet where oil rules. The question increasingly is: What exactly does it rule over? After all, every barrel of oil that’s burned contributes to a fast-approaching future in which the weather grows hotter and more extreme, droughts and wildfires spread, sea levels rise precipitously, ice continues to melt away in the globe's coldest reaches, and... well, you know that story well enough by now. In the meantime, Planet Earth has a glut of oil on hand and that, it turns out, doesn’t mean -- not for the major oil companies nor even for the major oil states -- that the good times are getting ready to roll.

Of all the powers struggling with that oil glut and the plunging energy prices that have gone with it, none may be more worth watching than Saudi Arabia. While exporting its own extremists and its extreme brand of Islam from Afghanistan to Syria, and lending a decades-long hand to the destabilization of the Greater Middle East, that kingdom has itself been a paragon of stability. Nothing, however, lasts forever, and so keeping an eye on the Saudis is a must. That’s especially so since the latest version of the royal family has also made what might be called the American mistake (with the backing of the Obama administration, no less) and for the first time plunged the Saudi military directly into a typically unwinnable if brutal war in neighboring Yemen.

Combine the destabilizing and blowback effects of wars that won’t end, including the Syrian one, and of oil prices that refuse to rise significantly and, despite the kingdom’s copious money reserves, you have a formula for potential domestic unrest. Already the royals are cutting their domestic subsidies to their own population, pulling billions of dollars in aid out of Lebanon, and exploring a possible $10 billion bank loan.

As TomDispatch’s invaluable energy expert Michael Klare suggests today, when oil prices began plummeting in 2015, the Saudis launched an “oil war of attrition,” imagining that others would be devastated by it (as OPEC partners Nigeria and Venezuela already have been) but that the royals themselves would emerge triumphant.

Should the unimaginable happen, however, and should the kingdom itself begin to come unglued in a Greater Middle East that is increasingly the definition of chaos -- watch out. Tom

Energy Wars of Attrition
The Irony of Oil Abundance
By Michael T. Klare

Three and a half years ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) triggered headlines around the world by predicting that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s leading oil producer by 2020 and, together with Canada, would become a net exporter of oil around 2030. Overnight, a new strain of American energy triumphalism appeared and experts began speaking of “Saudi America,” a reinvigorated U.S.A. animated by copious streams of oil and natural gas, much of it obtained through the then-pioneering technique of hydro-fracking. “This is a real energy revolution,” the Wall Street Journal crowed in an editorial heralding the IEA pronouncement.

The most immediate effect of this “revolution,” its boosters proclaimed, would be to banish any likelihood of a “peak” in world oil production and subsequent petroleum scarcity. The peak oil theorists, who flourished in the early years of the twenty-first century, warned that global output was likely to reach its maximum attainable level in the near future, possibly as early as 2012, and then commence an irreversible decline as the major reserves of energy were tapped dry. The proponents of this outlook did not, however, foresee the coming of hydro-fracking and the exploitation of previously inaccessible reserves of oil and natural gas in underground shale formations. More

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency inaugurated in Barbados

BRIDGETOWN, 28 October 2015 - The Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) was today inaugurated during a ceremony held in the capital of Barbados.

This follows the decision of the 36th Regular meeting of the heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish the centre as a regional implementation hub, with Barbados as the host country. The regional centre was developed and promoted by the CARICOM Secretariat in close partnership with the Small Island Developing States Sustainable Energy and Climate Resilience Initiative (SIDS DOCK) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Financial support is being provided by the governments of Austria and Germany. CCREEE will be part of a wider network of regional sustainable energy centres for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, stressed that the urgent establishment of the centre was in line with the region’s strategic goals and focus on sustainable development. Confirming his country’s support for the centre, he added that “the CCREEE will act as a regional hub and think-tank for sustainable energy issues and activities in the region”.

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said: “The centre’s main role will be to assist CARICOM Member States in implementing the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS), as well as their respective national energy strategies and targets. The centre is an important contribution of CARICOM to the upcoming Climate Summit in Paris.”

Ambassador Vince Henderson, Chairman of SIDS DOCK, added: “We consider CCREEE and the wider network of centres for Small Island Developing States to be an essential contribution to make the Sustainable Energy for All initiative a reality for our economies and societies. The centres are expected to cooperate closely on the SIDS-SIDS energy agenda and will form not only a strong advocacy, but also a strong cooperation group.”

Pradeep Monga, UNIDO Director and Special Representative of the Director General on Energy, called “CCREEE a critical mechanism for up-scaling national efforts, particularly in the areas of project execution, capacity development, and knowledge and data management, as well as investment and business promotion, within the sustainable energy sector”.Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, highlighted the creation of CCREEE as a major milestone and pledged support for the initiative.

According to Martin Ledolter, Managing Director of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), “the centre will empower local people within the Caribbean to benefit from the growing global sustainable energy markets and participate in the emerging opportunities for south-south and north-south technology and knowledge transfer”.

The inauguration of CCREEE will also be part of the Caribbean Energy Week, which will be observed across the region from 8 to 14 November under the theme “EmPOWERING our Sustainable Development”.” More



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What’s at Stake in an Economy with Low Oil Prices

In the past, low oil prices have been seen as a boon, particularly at the gas pump. They’ve been credited with boosting economies and stirring growth. But recently oil prices have dropped so low that warning bells rippled through global markets, and they remain volatile. What does all this mean for countries and companies? How big is the risk?

For answers, I talked to Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and author of Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World. An edited version of our conversation is below.

HBR: Do you see sustained low oil prices as a risk? How so, and how large?

Bremmer: Markets have been diving on low oil prices recently not because the traditional understanding is broken; it is still true that low oil prices are good for the U.S. economy as well as for Europe, China, India. All of these consumers are going to benefit. The problem is that the IMF has been downgrading growth. They’re concerned about monetary supply, a Chinese slowdown, crises around Europe, and also that U.S. growth is not quite as robust as you’d like it to be.

The risks in lower energy prices have a lot more to do with sustainability of some of the governments around the world that are really dependent on commodity revenues for their own legitimacy and power. Venezuela is going to default in the next six months if the Chinese don’t find the wherewithal to bail them out significantly. Russia, as a big oil producer, is feeling real strains — nothing destabilizing yet, and Putin is in total control, but taxes and inflation are going up. Nigeria is going to need a new IMF program.

Most worryingly, of course, are the petro states in the Middle East and the emerging-market producer countries with brittle institutions that are trying to stay stable when the one thing that provided them legitimacy — the ability to write really big checks — is falling apart. Plus, we have Iranian sanctions coming off, which is going to lead to a lot more Iranian production, a lot more Iraqi production, and more Libyan production. These prices are going to stay low for some time. This is structural.

There has been hand-wringing about a possible connection between sustained low oil prices and the risk of another global recession. Could oil prices actually be driving increased risk of a slowdown?

I don’t think so. I know people say that every 7–8 years on average we’ve had a recession in the postwar era, and the last one was in 2008, so we’re due. People see all of the economic constraints in growth around the world. These gain some momentum in the news, then seeing oil prices dive makes people grow more negative. But that’s very different from saying we’re on the cusp of another global recession, and it doesn’t feel like we’re entering that kind of environment right now, oil prices or no.

Do you think lower oil prices could slow the transition away from fossil fuels, the demand for electric vehicles, the shift to wind and solar, and other renewable sources of energy?

Clearly, the shift in price pushes out the date that you expect these things to really expand and become large market participants globally, but I don’t think there’s any possibility the transition to renewables will just stop or slow dramatically. We’re well beyond that point. Governments around the world are very much onboard with the notion of climate change and believe that it’s going to get worse. Industrial renewables are still going to be huge.

Keep in mind that if you’re China, you need everything. The growth and energy demand in China is immense. They’re investing more in nuclear than anyone around the world. They’re not going to stop doing that because energy prices are low. They know they need it. They’re going to do huge amounts of wind, a huge amount of solar, and that’s going to continue to drive a lot of research and to generate technological benefits in the economy as well.

In your tweets and commentary from Davos, you remarked on something called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” How is this connected to what’s going on with oil?

By the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” people mean things, like automation and AI and genomics and 3D printing, that are going to transform every sector and take jobs out of economies. Most people I spoke to at Davos thought that this transformation would happen within 10 years, that we’ll see dramatic changes in the way we think about these sectors and in labor.

I generally agree, but the revolution is already hitting energy, right now. Seems like just yesterday we thought we had peak oil, we thought we were running out, that it was in the hands of traditional producers. Suddenly, overnight, it’s in the hands of a number of entrepreneurs unleashed on the U.S. market. Within the course of just a few years, frackingwent from being viewed as never-going-to-happen to a world-changing technology.

America is now the largest energy producer in the world. The problem is, if you’re Saudi Arabia, it’s not labor that makes your economy work, it’s oil. A year ago, if you talked to Saudi leaders, they would have told you, “Oh, this is a pipe dream,” pardon the pun. They didn’t prepare for this over the past decades when times were good. Now time has suddenly turned against them very quickly. For them, this Fourth Industrial Revolution is not only disruptive, it’s disruptive in a big way, immediately. More