Apr 102014


Best Practices in Gathering and Using Energy Data for LEDS Development

Recording of Webinar Presentation here: LEDS-GP_140410

Accessible, reliable, and up-to-date data is a critical factor in Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) energy planning. Unfortunately, policymakers often struggle with significant data gaps. This webinar presents an overview of the importance of energy data collection, best practices, and strategies for linking data collection and LEDS development processes. This is the first of a series of webinars organized by the LEDS GP Energy Working Group. The webinar series features insights and experiences drawn from the Energy Working Group’s diverse membership.

  • Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch Institute
  • Laura Williamson, REN21
  • Eder Semedo, ECREEE
  • Nicola Bugatti, ECREEE.

More information on the Energy Working Group of the LEDS GP can be found here: http://en.openei.org/wiki/LEDSGP/sector/energy. Worldwatch currently runs the secretariat of the EWG and Alexander Ochs acts as its chair.

Jan 302014

Despite a growing consensus that support for the oil and gas industry is unfair, inefficient and globally dangerous, there’s no actual implementation of plans to change it.

By Carey L. Biron | January 30, 2014
WASHINGTON – Global tax breaks, incentives, and various other consumption and production subsidies for the fossil fuel industry are likely topping $2 trillion each year, amounting to 2.5 percent of total gross domestic product for 2012. After a dip in the immediate aftermath of the global financial recession, these figures have risen in recent years, according to a new report from Worldwatch, a Washington-based think tank. Incentives for renewable energy sources remain tiny by comparison, estimated at just $88 billion for 2011. (…)
“In the U.S., a lot of this is just lip service. The country is really not yet walking the walk,” Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute, told MintPress. “Both nationally and internationally, we have not made any significant progress toward the goal of reducing subsidies, which was actually declared quite a long while ago. In my view, it’s outrageous that we’re not making any more progress.”
[You can find the whole story here]
Nov 192013

GlobalPostLogoAnalysis: The new prime minister’s honeymoon is marred by an asylum scandal — and a host of other questionable moves.

Global Post, 19 November 2013

(…) On Sunday, tens of thousands of Australians took to the streets to protest against what they see as government climate change denial.

Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, slammed the announcement last week that Australia would downgrade its emissions reduction targets from 25 percent to just 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020.“Emissions in Europe and the United States are [already] decreasing,” he told GlobalPost. “The position of the new Australian government is shameless and irresponsible. And it makes no sense — economically, socially, environmentally, politically.”

He said the policy could have dire consequences for other countries, too. “Abandoning that pledge could be a deal wrecker for the international community and any meaningful international agreements,” he says. “The Australian government is also considering cutting commitment to the Green Climate Fund, an international fund to help developing countries cope with the impact of climate change. At the same time, it complains about the environmental refugees that arrive at its shore every day because they no longer see a future in their own countries.”

With severe cuts also in store for Australia’s premier federal scientific research institute, CSIRO, it is unclear how Australia will nurture the talent needed to fight climate change. Ochs says that instead of leading the world in the development of green energy sources, Australia will have to “rely on an economic model from the last century that is dirty, ugly, uneconomic and kills Australians every day.” (…)

Nov 072013

The Worldwatch Institute has launched its Sustainable Energy Roadmap for Jamaica, a look at the measures that the Jamaican government can take to transition its electricity sector to one that is socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable.

Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap: Pathways to an Affordable, Reliable, Low-Emission Electricity System, analyzes the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment in Jamaica and discusses the social and economic impacts of alternative energy pathways, concluding that a scenario of high renewable penetration can bring significant savings, greater energy security, gains in competitiveness, and many other important benefits to the country.

The Jamaican government, with whom Worldwatch worked closely on the project, has set a nationwide goal of 20 percent renewable energy use by 2030. Worldwatch says the roadmap will help to realize this goal.

However, Worldwatch says the bar can, and should, be set much higher: Jamaica can become a zero-carbon island in a matter of decades, and its people would benefit enormously from such a transition, according to the WI. Continue reading »

Jul 032013

Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Director Alexander Ochs on “Good Morning Boss” on the Philippine’s People’s Television Network talking about the potential for the nation to transition to a zero carbon economy.

3 July 2013

Jun 182013

South and Central America could generate 100 percent of their electricity with renewable resources, a new study finds

By Lisa Friedman, Climatewire, picked up by Scientific American [here] and others

Latin America and the Caribbean could meet 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy, a new Inter-American Development Bank study finds. From Mexico to Chile, countries already are producing higher levels of clean power, but the study notes the region still has a long way to go. Last year just 5.4 percent of the $244 trillion global renewable energy investment went to Latin America. But with Latin America’s economy expected to grow 3 percent annually, the study argues that the region will need to nearly double its installed power capacity to about 600 gigawatts by 2030 at a likely price tag of $430 billion.

The report, “Rethinking Our Energy Future,” will be released today at a Global Green Growth Forum meeting in Bogota, Colombia. It comes amid growing concern among energy experts that the region is not living up to its clean energy potential. (…)

Last week the Worldwatch Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., unveiled a Central America report also showing the region has the resources and the technical capacity to meet all its electricity needs with renewables. But, it argues, governments are undermining their own investments in geothermal, biomass, wind and solar with plans to increase imports of oil, coal and natural gas.

“Central America is at a crossroads,” Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute, said in the study. According to the study, Latin America currently generates about 7 percent of the world’s total electricity production, but demand is skyrocketing as population levels rise and the region’s economy improves. By midcentury, Latin America’s power demand is expected to triple while carbon emissions from the power sector will double. Continue reading »

Apr 252013

U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), the Worldwatch Institute, and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) held a policy briefing on the status and future of renewable energy in the United States and around the world.

Featuring commentary by:

Mohamed El-Ashry, Senior Fellow, UN Foundation
Christine Lins, Executive Secretary, REN21
Eric Martinot, Author, Renewables Global Futures Report
Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy, Worldwatch Institute

You can find the event announcement [here]

Jan 242013

Jonathan Pershing is resigning as a senior U.S. climate negotiator at the State Department and moving to the Energy Department to serve as a senior climate policy official, the State Department said Jan. 18. Pershing has been deputy special envoy for climate change at the State Department since March 2009, serving as the No. 2 U.S. climate negotiator under U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern and representing the United States at international climate change negotiations. (…)

It is possible that the position will not be continued or will be redesigned under the leadership of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute. Kerry has been nominated by President Obama to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (…)

You can find the full BNA Daily Environment Report & BNA Daily Report for Executives [HERE].


Nov 282012

Published in Outreach | COP-18, Doha |  28 November 2012 

Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy, Worldwatch Institute

More than half of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels for energy supply. Even excluding traditional biomass, fossil fuel combustion accounts for 90 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Against this background, it is surprising how limited a role energy is playing in the ongoing climate negotiations. And yet this discussion could be instrumental in refocusing the debate about what is necessary and what is possible in both the areas of climate mitigation and adaptation—bringing it back down from the current inscrutable spheres of negotiation tracks, subsidiary bodies, parallel sessions, ad-hoc working groups, and special meetings (which, let’s be frank, nobody outside the negotiators understands anymore).

First, a focus on energy shows how far we are from solving the climate crisis. Energy-related CO2 emissions grew 3.2 percent in 2011 to more than 31 gigatons—despite the economic crisis. We know that if we don’t want to lose track of the 2-degree Celsius threshold of maximum warming that would hopefully avoid major disasters, energy emissions must decline by at least one third to 20 gigatons in 2035, despite expectations that energy demand might double in the same time frame. .

So the challenge is enormous. But—and this is where the good news starts—clean energy solutions are at hand, ready to be implemented. The costs for wind, solar, sustainable hydro, biomass and waste energy technologies all continue to fall rapidly, and, in many markets, they are becoming price competitive with fossil fuels—even if externalities and fossil fuel subsidies are not internalized. If they are, the cost that our societies pay for our continued reliance on fossil fuels becomes truly outrageous: Coal, responsible for 71 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, causes more than US$100 billion in local pollution and health care costs annually in the United States alone, in addition to the personal hardships of those suffering from these impacts. Add the costs for climate change, and it becomes incomprehensible why our societies continue down the fossil path despite the availability of alternatives.

Continue reading »

Sep 132012

Adam Dolezal and Alexander Ochs | ReVolt | 13 September 2012

Para una versión en español de este blog, por favor hacer click aquí.

Last week, the Worldwatch Institute’s Central America team – together with our partners from the INCAE Business School – convened a working group of nearly 40 renewable energy experts and decision-makers in Managua, Nicaragua. The emphasis: access to energy for marginalized communities through sustainable energy options. With presentations and participation from the government’s renewable energy office, Nicaragua’s renewable energy association, an array of rural energy initiatives, and the region’s largest wind power developer, the working group took our research and potential for impact to a new level.

Participants from the workshop The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Nicaragua at INCAE Business School Campus in Managua, Nicaragua.

Worldwatch Director of Climate & Energy, Alexander Ochs, incited the round table forum to recall that the overarching goal of our efforts is not to promote renewable energy technology for its own sake– as so often the discussion can remain caught in technical details – but for the environmental, social and economic outcomes that clean and locally-generated energy provides. Renewable energy is a means to reach overarching policy priorities: giving access to modern energy sources, mitigating local pollution and climate change, and addressing important gender, health, and education issues. In a region where countries ship 5 to 15 percent of their GDP overseas for the import of fossil fuels-the use of which produces high additional social, environmental and economic costs- harvesting domestic renewable energy sources is a prerequisite for sustained economic growth.

The objectives of our workshop were to assemble a group of policy, industry, and community leaders in order to gauge the degree of existing knowledge and activity on renewables, as well as to identify capacity gaps and the need for political and administrative reform. This was accomplished by appointing speakers to address the forum, who were then followed by designated respondents, to create open interaction and dialogue. The work was organized in two plenary sessions and 4 break-out groups.

Dr. Ana María Majano, co-host of the event and Associate Director of the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) at the INCAE Business School, moderated a diverse group of presenters from various renewable energy walks of life. Presenters included representatives from the solar company Suni Solar and the clean cookstove group Empresa Cocinas MI FOGON, who reiterated the connection between sustainable energy projects and socio-economic development in Nicaragua. The country currently has the lowest electrification rate in Central America at about 72 percent, but Nicaragua has made enormous progress in recent years to address the issue. In grid-connected areas that experienced day-long black-outs as recently as eight years ago, electricity supply is now relatively stable. Douglas Gonzalez of Suni Solar spoke to the company’s experience installing small decentralized solar PV systems in Nicaragua. Representing a utility-scale wind developer, Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy’s Sean Porter spoke to the administrative difficulties his company had to tackle in the construction of the new 45 MW Eolo wind farm in the country.

Small break-out groups address questions regarding barriers and enablers to renewable energy in Nicaragua.

The  interactive, discussion-based break-out groups identified key political, regulatory, administrative, and financial barriers to scaling up renewables in Nicaragua—and how to move those barriers out of the way. All participants used the opportunity to contribute to finding solutions based on prepared questions and supported by a facilitator that guided the group’s discussion and presented findings to the larger forum.

In addition to identifying barriers, last week’s workshop in Managua, Nicaragua highlighted past successes in the country in order to gain insight on renewable energy ‘enablers,’ or frameworks, policies and measures that facilitate renewable energy development. Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, Lorena Lanza, spoke to a number of Nicaragua’s rural electrification projects, such as the off-grid Rural Electrification Program (PERZA), a program that electrified 6,863 homes through distributed solar between 2003 and 2011 (when the funding concluded). Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Climatescope report recently recognized Nicaragua’s green microfinance sector as the strongest in Central America—good news for distributed renewable energy vendors, installers, and consumers.  Overall, Nicaragua, which is the lowest-income country in the Western hemisphere after Haiti, ranked second in Climatescope’s ranking for climate investment in Latin America, trailing only behind the much larger economy of Brazil.This is an enormous testimony to the country’s achievement in terms of political and administrative reform.

Nicaragua’s National Development Plan (PNDH) calls for 94 percent of the country’s electricity to be sourced from renewables by 2017. These are ambitious plans indeed given that in 2011, Nicaragua had the region’s highest use of fossil fuels in electricity generation at 67 percent. However, Nicaragua has the second largest share of non-hydro renewables with 21 percent, due to geothermal plants such as Polaris and Momotombo, the Amayo wind farm, and others. Against this background, the group was divided on whether the 80 percent renewables goal is a realistic one, given the availability of funding and the current investment environment.

Worldwatch Central America team visits Momotombo Geothermal Plant at the foot of Momotombo Volcano on the shore of Lake Managua.

Currently, there are 87 MW of geothermal in operation in the country, but according to the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Program (ESMAP), Nicaragua has an estimated geothermal resource of 1200 MW—more than the total installed capacity in 2011 (1,094 MW) and the strongest potential in the entire region. Solar, wind, biomass, waste-to-energy, and small hydro potentials are also enormous, although detailed assessments of these resources have still to be made. Renewable energy development in Nicaragua will depend on breaking down barriers and fortifying enablers within the political-administrative framework, and on the availability and implementation of necessary funds. Our workshop was an exciting step in this direction.

We have been amazed by the amount of leadership on renewable energy in the region and we are extremely grateful for the high-quality contributions of our workshop participants. Through this consultation, we have identified key areas where reform is needed to further establish Nicaragua as a worldwide renewable energy leader. In the coming months, we will continue to report on our conclusions from the workshops and the Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America.

Please see our project webpage for further workshop information including access to presentations as well as photos from the workshop and video interviews with renewable energy experts in Nicaragua.

We are thankful for the generous support of the Climate Development Knowledge Network and the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America.

Sep 042012

Presented by Clean Energy Solutions Center, REN21, and Leonardo Energy | September 4, 2012

Vickie Healey – Moderator
Christine Lins – Presenter
Alexander Ochs- Presenter

[Please find my presentation, given jointly with my colleague Evan Musolino, HERE]

Aug 302012

The Worldwatch Institute and the INCAE Business School host high-level workshop on energy access and renewable energy potential in Central America

WASHINGTON – August 30 – The Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org) and the INCAE Business School’s Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) are co-hosting two workshops on “The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America” in Managua, Nicaragua and Alajuela, Costa Rica tomorrow and on September 3, respectively. The participative dialogues aim to promote the exchange of ideas and experiences among a select group of experts from regional institutions, civil society organizations, energy sector companies, and government agencies. The workshops will focus on the role of renewable technologies in broadening access to modern energy services and achieving regional development goals.
“This project is a joint effort aimed at speeding the development of renewables in Central America,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program. “Key energy experts will gather in one room to discuss the region’s challenges and opportunities in embracing renewables, discussing state-of-the-art reforms as well as areas of local, national, and regional best practices.”

“It’s not just that all countries will need to contribute to mitigating and adapting to global climate change.” continued Ochs. “Central America can become a real leader on renewables, given the high price it pays for its current energy system—-some countries spend 10 percent or more of their GDP on importing fossil fuels. The region has also had exciting early experiences with adopting new, unconventional renewable technologies, including geothermal, solar, biomass, and wind technologies.”

The first workshop will take place at the INCAE Business School’s Managua campus from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 30, 2012. The second workshop will take place at the INCAE Business School’s Alajuela campus from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 3, 2012.

[You can find the full announcement HERE]


Aug 212012

Alexander Ochs, Director and Katie Auth, Researcher at the Worldwatch Institute welcome a new energy model, and encourage governments to undertake Sustainable Energy Roadmaps.

Climate change and the reliable, affordable supply of energy are among the most pressing issues we will face in the twenty-first century. Despite recognition of these unprecedented collective challenges, the international community has so far failed to take
aggressive action. Fortunately, signs point to the appearance of a new paradigm – fuelled in part by the growing efficiency and plummeting costs of renewable energy sources. Facilitating a shift to clean, low-carbon societies does not mean sacrificing
economic or human development. On the contrary, it increasingly represents our only way to attain both.

Already, people around the world are dealing with the effects of changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, and biodiversity loss – with negative implications not only for the environment, but also for human health and well-being. Commonwealth countries, located across a wide geographic range, will face a broad array of climaterelated impacts. These include changes in the distribution of fish stocks, the melting of Arctic ice, coastal flooding, and drought. It is vital that Ministers within the Commonwealth take heed and look for sustainable solutions.

[Find the whole article, published in the 2012 Commonwealth Ministers Reference Book, HERE]

Aug 212012

Alexander Ochs, Eric Anderson, and Reese Rogers | Aug 21, 2012

A recent projection places the total value of conventional global fossil fuel subsidies between $775 billion and more than $1 trillion in 2012, depending on which supports are included in the calculation.1 In contrast, total subsidies for renewable energy stood at $66 billion in 2010, although that was a 10 percent increase from the previous year.2 Two thirds of these subsidies went to renewable electricity resources and the remaining third to biofuels.3

Although the total subsidies for renewable energy are significantly lower than those for fossil fuels, they are higher per kilowatt-hour if externalities are not included in the calculations. Estimates based on 2009 energy production numbers placed renewable energy subsidies between 1.7¢ and 15¢ per kilowatt-hour while subsidies for fossil fuels were estimated at around 0.1–0.7¢ per kWh.4 Unit subsidy costs for renewables are expected to decrease as technologies become more efficient and the prices of wholesale electricity and transport fuels rise.5

Globally negotiated efforts to reduce fossil fuel subsidies have been hindered by competing definitions of subsidies. Calculation methods also vary. The common price gap approach to calculating consumption subsidies uses the difference between the observed domestic prices of energy and the world market prices as an estimate of the impacts of a country’s policies on market prices.6 Some oil exporters, however, argue that production cost rather than market price should be used as the baseline.7 The difficulties in accurately measuring data are compounded by the lack of transparency among countries with regard to energy subsidies.8


[For full access to the complete trend and its associated charts, log in to Vital Signs]

Aug 212012

By Cheryl Kaften, August 21, 2012 

Total subsidies for renewable energy stood at $66 billion in 2010 – less than one-tenth of the government financing provided globally to the fossil fuel industry, according to new research from the Washington, DC-based Worldwatch Institute.
“These so-called hidden costs, or externalities, are in fact very real costs to our societies
that are not picked up by the polluter and beneficiary of production but by all taxpayers,” said Alexander Ochs, director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy program and report co-author.  “Local pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels kill thousands in the United States, alone, each year, and society makes them cheaper to continue down their destructive path.”

Shifting official support from fossil fuels to renewables, Ochs pointed out, is essential
for “decarbonizing” the global energy system.

Such a shift could help create a triple win for national economies by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, generating long-term economic growth and reducing dependence on energy imports.
“At the same time, a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies would level the
playing field for renewables and allow us to reduce support for clean energy sources as well,” said Ochs.  “After all, fossil fuels have benefited from massive governmental backing worldwide for hundreds of years.”

Progress toward a complete phase-out, however, has been minimal, according to Ochs. The
2009 pledge by the Group of 20 major economies to reduce “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” has been left “vague and unfulfilled.” The lack of a definition has left countries to make their own determination if their subsidies are inefficient. As of August 2012, G20 countries had not taken any substantial action in response to the pledge: Six members opted out of reporting altogether (an increase from two in 2010), and no country has yet initiated a subsidy reform in response to the pledge.

[You can find the whole article HERE; further reporting HERE | HERE | HERE | HERE]


Jul 262012

 Thursday, July 26, 2012 – Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter

The Dominican Republic has “extensive” solar and wind resources and will be able to meet the  government’s ambitious renewable energy goals, a new study has found. Yet the Caribbean  nation’s road map — among the first of its kind — cautions that while the Dominican Republic has made important strides in weaning itself off fossil fuels and reducing its carbon footprint, it still needs stronger domestic policies and international funding to succeed.

“I think the Dominican Republic has to be credited. It’s a developing country, and it has really gone through the paradigm change that I wish so many other countries would have already gone through,” said Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute, which developed the study. “They have come a long way, and they have a long way to go,” Ochs said. But, he added, “I think the Dominican Republic can become a model country.”

Continue reading »

Jul 242012

    International Business Times, 24 July 2012, 08:53 BST


According to a new report released by the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program, the Dominican Republic will benefit economically, socially, and environmentally if it relied more heavily on renewable energy sources and less on fossil fuels. The report, Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy System: Harnessing the Dominican Republic’s Wind and Solar Resources, assesses the Caribbean country’s wind and solar energy resources and provides a policy roadmap for how it can cost-effectively harness its renewable potential and reduce its dependence on energy imports.

“Developing a stable energy infrastructure that can withstand both fuel price fluctuations and looming natural disasters is extremely important for a country like the Dominican Republic,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program. “Installing a renewable energy system in a country that in some years spends ten percent or more of its GDP on the burning of foreign fossil fuels while having very strong domestic renewable resources is vital for its sustained—-and sustainable—-development.”

Continue reading »

May 302012

Wed, 30 May 2012 04:57 GMT, Source: Content Partner // Inter Press Service
By Carey L. Biron

WASHINGTON, May 30 (IPS) – If a series of “golden rules” can be followed, a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests, global natural gas usage could grow by more than 50 percent by 2035.The report, released on Tuesday, came under sharp criticism from environmental groups for charting a route to a “golden age” in the extraction and use of natural gas.
“We have an opportunity for natural gas to address the intermittency problems of renewable energy sources – it could become an ally of renewables,” Alexander Ochs, the director of the climate and energy programme at the Worldwatch Institute here in Washington, told IPS. Ochs also reviewed a draft of the IEA report.

Ochs says that there are a number of actors within the gas sector that will welcome the new IEA recommendations as a way of cutting down on the potential of a future environmental catastrophe that could lead to industry-damaging policy restrictions.

“The problem isn’t with this report. The problem is that if you don’t have good regulations in place, there go your opportunities,” he says. “And if you don’t have smart technologies in place, you lose this ally.”

Ochs does warn that the report underplays the potential use of renewables in the upcoming decades, however, by suggesting that green technologies other than hydro will only make up five percent of total energy demand in the next quarter century.

“I think the IEA could well be wrong in the numbers it’s using. Technically and economically, more than half of our electricity could come from renewables as early as 2030,” he says.

“But if gas sees a golden age and becomes cheap globally, it could get in the way of renewables. Then, rather than being an enabler, it becomes a deal breaker.”