Search Results for 'East and Southeast Asia'

Laos Energy Modeling and Policy Analysis (LEMPA) Project

Meet the Laos Energy Modeling and Policy Analysis (Undergraduate!) Team: The focus of this inter-disciplinary and inter-university research group is to develop sustainable energy, water, and land-use scenarios for Laos, and to work with local stake-holders on the costs and benefits for communities, the nation, and the regional commerce in energy, water, food, timber and other commodities. Aaditee Kudrimoti Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 8.21.05 AMBio: Aaditee is a fourth-year at UC Berkeley studying political science and public policy with a concentration in energy, development, and international relations. Aaditeeis originally from Tucson, Arizona, where she began to develop an interest in international environmental affairs. At UC Berkeley, Aaditeeis working on projects in the political economy of Chinese development finance, rural electrification, and collective action. Aaditeehas become especially interested in how the rise of renewable technology is influencing energy diplomacy around the world. She hopes to pursue a career in academia and public policy and work on governance tools to build the bargaining capacity of LDCs against MNCs, foreign state-owned enterprises, etc. on the subject of FDI and other types of investment. She sees SWITCH-Laos as having the potential to serve as a critical tool in assisting the increase of the Lao people’s bargaining power over FDI in the energy sector and thus their autonomy in determining their own economic development. Outside school, Aaditee’s interests include dance, food journalism, and cooking.   Alex Lathem Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 8.20.29 AMBio: Alex Lathem is a third-year undergraduate at Yale University. He is a physics major with several years of experience using programming languages, including Python SQL, C, and Bash, to analyze scientific data. Previous research projects Alex has worked on include astrometry of near-Earth asteroids and the creation of a Hubble curve through the analysis of Type Ia supernovae. Alex spent the summer of 2019 working on the SWITCH model for China, and is very excited to apply the skills he learned there to a version for Laos. Outside of research, Alex is also interested in music, video game design, linguistics, and history.   Ashley Yip Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 8.19.15 AMBio: Ashley is a second-year undergraduate studying environmental science with an emphasis in global politics. She moved to New Mexico, where she developed an interest in environmental affairs. At UC Berkeley, she is involved in a pre-law association that helped her explore her interest in law and how she may integrate that into environmentalism. Off campus, she is working on a sex education reform project in Singapore with the Ministry of Education. She is constantly exploring the intersection between policy, education, and the environment. She hopes to return home to Singapore and pursue a career in international environmental policy or law within Southeast Asia. Ashley chose to work on SWITCH-Laos not only because greening ASEAN's economic development is essential to tackling climate change, but also because she is familiar with the demographic. She has done research in regards to both urban and rural agriculture in Asia and the US, and led research for environmental management in business operations. Outside of school, her interests include climbing, hiking, piano, and camper vans. Rachel Ng Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 8.18.18 AM Bio: Rachel is a second-year Environmental Science and Data Science major. A Singapore-native, Rachel describes that SWITCH-Laos extremely important to her because it is an important step towards the energy security of Southeast Asia. She believes that the sustainable electrification of Southeast Asia is key to regional grid stability and energy trade. She is pursuing SWITCH-Laos as critical in leading the way towards sustainable electrification. Rachel is interested in the intersectionality between climate change and community, exploring how community based issues caused by climate change can be alleviated through data. Furthermore, Rachel is currently concerned about equal access to education and volunteers weekly as a mentor to elementary school students. In the future, she hopes to return to Singapore and guide environmental change through creating an ecosystem of sustainable communities and businesses. Her hobbies include dance, rock climbing and water sports.

No need to dam free flowing rivers to meet worlds climate and energy targets

Originally published in Mongabay:

  • In a comment article published in the Nature last month, scientists argue that an “energy future in which both people and rivers thrive” is possible with better planning.
  • The hydropower development projects now underway threaten the world’s last free-flowing rivers, posing severe threats to local human communities and the species that call rivers home. A recent study found that just one-third of the world’s 242 largest rivers remain free-flowing.
  • The benefits of better planning to meet increasing energy demands could be huge: A report released by WWF and The Nature Conservancy ahead of the World Hydropower Congress, held in Paris last month, finds that accelerating the deployment of non-hydropower renewable energy could prevent the fragmentation of nearly 165,000 kilometers (more than 102,500 miles) of river channels.
In a comment article published in the Nature last month, scientists argue that an “energy future in which both people and rivers thrive” is possible with better planning. For decades, hydropower dams have been a go-to solution for electrifying the developing world. There are more than 60,000 large dams around the globe, and as the demand for clean energy in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia continues to grow, hundreds more are currently in the planning stages. Hydroelectric dams have their advantages, such as providing a steady supply of baseload electricity that can be adjusted quickly to meet fluctuating demand and zero hazardous wastes or byproducts to dispose of. But according to the authors of the Nature article, by Rafael J. P. Schmitt at Stanford University, Noah Kittner, Matthias Kondolf, and Daniel M Kammen of the University of California, at Berkeley “Hydropower needs to be viewed as part of a broader strategy for clean energy, in which the costs and benefits of different sources should be assessed and weighed against each other.” The hydropower development projects now underway threaten the world’s last free-flowing rivers, posing severe threats to local human communities and the species that call rivers home. The Cambodian government, for instance, is proposing to build the 11,000-gigawatt-hour Sambor dam on the Mekong River, which “would prevent fish from migrating, threatening fisheries worth billions of dollars. It would further cut the supply of sediment to the Mekong Delta, where some of the region’s most fertile farmland is at risk of sinking below sea level by the end of the century,” according to Schmitt and colleagues. “And the dam would do little to bring electricity or jobs to local villagers: much of its hydropower would be exported to big cities in neighbouring nations, far from the rivers that will be affected.” A recent study found that just one-third of the world’s 242 largest rivers remain free-flowing, mostly in remote regions of the Amazon Basin, the Arctic, and the Congo Basin. As Schmitt and co-authors note in the Nature article, however, hydropower is just one of many clean energy options available today, and technologies like solar panels or wind turbines can produce similar amounts of electricity as large hydroelectric dams at roughly the same cost. “[S]preading a variety of renewable energy sources strategically across river basins could produce power reliably and cheaply while protecting these crucial rivers and their local communities,” the researchers write. “Solar, wind, microhydro and energy-storage technologies have caught up with large hydropower in price and effectiveness. Hundreds of small generators woven into a ‘smart grid’ (which automatically responds to changes in supply and demand) can outcompete a big dam.” Schmitt and team say that, in order to keep the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers unobstructed while increasing access to electricity in developing nations at the same time, strategies for deploying renewable energy technologies and expanding hydropower projects must be made at the basin-wide or regional level and strike the right balance between impacts and benefits of all available clean electricity generation methods. “On the major tributaries of the lower Mekong, for example, dams have been built ad hoc. Existing ones exploit only 50% of the tributaries’ potential hydropower yet prevent 90% of their sand load from reaching the delta,” the researchers report. “There was a better alternative: placing more small dams higher up the rivers could have released 70% of the power while trapping only 20% of the sand.” Site selection for solar and wind farms must be just as strategic as for new dams. “Impacts of these projects on the landscape need to be considered, too. Solar and wind farms might be built on patches of land that have low conservation value, such as along roads, or even floating on hydropower reservoirs,” Schmitt and co-authors suggest. “Solar panels and small wind turbines can be put on or near buildings to minimize infrastructure and reduce energy losses in transmission.” The scientists recommend that organizations and governments who manage river basins apply a “holistic perspective” to energy planning that takes into account all non-hydropower renewable energy options, energy efficiency measures, energy demand management, and the risks posed by global climate change — as decreasing river flows in a more drought-prone, warmer world could severely impact the output of hydroelectric dams. But in order to properly evaluate all of the trade-offs when designing a renewable energy strategy, we need to know much more about river ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them: “Researchers need to fill data gaps across whole river basins, from fish migration and sediment transport to community empowerment and impacts on food systems,” Schmitt and co-authors write. “The costs of lost ecosystem services over the life cycle of energy projects must be included in cost–benefit analyses. Such research is cheap compared with the costs of building dams and mitigating environmental impacts.” The benefits of better planning to meet increasing energy demands could be huge: A report released by WWF and The Nature Conservancy ahead of the World Hydropower Congress, held in Paris last month, finds that accelerating the deployment of non-hydropower renewable energy could prevent the fragmentation of nearly 165,000 kilometers (more than 102,500 miles) of river channels. “We can not only envision a future where electricity systems are accessible, affordable and powering economies with a mix of renewable energy, we can now build that future,” Jeff Opperman, a freshwater scientist with WWF and lead author of the report, said in a statement. “If we do not rapidly seize the opportunity to accelerate the renewable revolution, unnecessary, high-impact hydropower dams could still be built on iconic rivers such as the Mekong, Irrawaddy, and Amazon — and dozens or hundreds of others around the world. It would be a great tragedy if the full social and environmental benefits of the renewable revolution arrived just a few years too late to safeguard the world’s great rivers and all the diverse benefits they provide to people and nature.”
Pamok, Laos. Life along the banks of the Mekong River. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom for WWF.
CITATIONS • Grill et al. (2019). Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers. Nature. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1111-9 • Opperman, J., J. Hartmann, M. Lambrides, J.P. Carvallo, E. Chapin, S. Baruch-Mordo, B. Eyler, M. Goichot, J. Harou, J. Hepp, D. Kammen, J. Kiesecker, A. Newsock, R. Schmitt, M. Thieme, A. Wang, and C. Weber. (2019). Connected and flowing: a renewable future for rivers, climate and people. WWF and The Nature Conservancy, Washington, DC. • Schmitt, R. J., Kittner, N., Kondolf, G. M., & Kammen, D. M. (2019). Deploy diverse renewables to save tropical rivers. Nature 569, 330-332. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-01498-8

GRID Alternatives and RAEL partner on research to improve off-​​grid electricity access in remote areas

OAKLAND, CA: JULY 27, 2016: GRID Alternatives has announced a partnership with the University of California, Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), to integrate research into GRID Alternatives projects providing solar power to communities around the world that lack access to electricity.
RAEL researchers will work with GRID Alternatives staff and partners to study off-grid solar projects by GRID Alternatives in Nicaragua, Nepal, and tribal communities in the United States. The research will evaluate project models and outcomes to inform energy access practices worldwide. RAEL is part of UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group and was founded by Professor Dan Kammen with a mission to design and implement environmentally sustainable development in culturally and socially appropriate ways. The GRID-RAEL partnership builds on more than four years of informal collaboration with UC Berkeley students interested in renewable energy. Through its international program, GRID Alternatives has installed 70 solar PV systems in Nicaragua to-date, and continues to ensure the systems remain online and provide long-term benefits to residents. GRID Alternatives is also developing a 16-kilowatt solar-powered microgrid project in Dhapchung, Nepal to provide electricity to the community’s school, 40 families, and several businesses to aid in earthquake recovery and create a sustainable economy. “GRID’s volunteer-based model has long provided a way for people interested in renewable energy work--from industry representatives to academics and the general public--to get hands-on with solar technology and see how it makes a difference for underserved communities,” said GRID Alternatives co-founder and CEO Erica Mackie. “This partnership will help us go a step further and contribute to a global body of knowledge around how to maximize impact and ensure that projects are sustainable for the long term.” The partnership will provide direct and indirect benefits through GRID Alternatives’ energy access projects and help expand off-grid solar internationally. RAEL researchers will participate in and have access to beneficiaries of GRID Alternatives’ projects, and RAEL will work with GRID to secure funding for research projects as appropriate. RAEL will conduct system modeling and design research, technical potential analysis, qualitative surveys, and impact analysis with a focus on social and cultural issues. Dr. Kammen is a member of GRID’s National Advisory Council, was recently appointed U.S. Science Envoy for the U.S. State Department, and has been a leading voice in renewable energy deployment globally.
“Getting electricity to the 1.2 billion people who still lack access is about more than cutting edge technologies. It’s about finding solutions that are culturally, socially and economically appropriate, and are really solving the problem they are intended to solve,” said Dr. Kammen, “Partnering with organizations like GRID doing this work on the ground is a great opportunity to study what’s working and why, and get that information to the people who can use it
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ABOUT GRID ALTERNATIVES GRID Alternatives is an international nonprofit solar installer bringing clean energy technology and job training to low-income families and underserved communities through a network of community partners, volunteers, and philanthropic supporters. GRID has installed more than 7,000 rooftop solar systems with a combined installed capacity of nearly 25MW, saving $192 million in lifetime electricity costs, preventing more than 537,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing more than 27,000 people with solar training. For more information, visit www.gridalternatives.org ABOUT RAEL Based at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1999, RAEL has focused on systems approaches to fostering sustainable development at the household, community, and national levels. With a mixture of students, post-doctoral fellows and visiting scholars and practitioners, RAEL is currently active in the Balkans, China, Central America, East Africa, Southeast Asia, across North America in the design of technical and analytic approaches to clean energy systems. For more information see rael.berkeley.edu.

Program on Conflict, Climate Change and Green Development

[caption id="attachment_1915" align="aligncenter" width="640"]IDP camp in Malakal, South Sudan, following February 2016 violence Camp for internally displaced persons in Malakal, South Sudan, following February 2016 violence[/caption]   For a brief video introduction to the program, click here. Launched in May 2016, this new ini­tia­tive focuses on the increas­ing over­lap of con­flict and cli­mate change, and the potential of renewable energy as a tool for peace building and conflict prevention. The pro­gram will com­bine research, policy-​​based advo­cacy and oper­a­tional pro­gram­ming in conflict-​​risk coun­tries. The empha­sis of the pro­gram is on action with three related goals: First, to build stronger links between the com­mu­ni­ties work­ing on con­flict pre­ven­tion and those work­ing on cli­mate change. Sec­ond, to help encour­age the use of clean energy devel­op­ment pro­grams as accepted tools for peace build­ing and con­flict pre­ven­tion, including through pilot projects in conflict-risk or crisis settings. Third, to high­light the oppor­tu­ni­ties for peace build­ing and inclu­sive polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion that come from a shared threat of cli­mate change.  

The Challenge

Climate change is having a significant impact on livelihoods and natural resource scarcity, contributing to conflicts in countries such as Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Nigeria. Many of the worst affected geographies – in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia - include countries with a history of conflict. Existing international institutions are often siloed in their approach to cross-cutting issues such as climate change. Conflict-risks are usually met with security-first solutions, such as peacekeeping missions, and the relevant international institutions have yet to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change as a driver of conflict. Given that the negative impacts of climate change are expected to increase, we anticipate the role of climate change as a driver of conflict to grow, particularly in the most fragile states. Though these States are minimally responsible for climate change and global greenhouse gas emissions, they currently receive only a small fraction of the global climate-related financing, while often struggling to attract outside investment, and thus are likely to remain vulnerable to potentially worsening climate change-related cycles of conflict. Despite this worrying trendline, there is not yet a meaningful response to these new risks.  

The Solution

The Program seeks to address this gap by harnessing the potential of renewable energy in conflict-affected areas based on the following assumptions:
  • Recent advances in renewable energy technology, declining costs and international mobilization following the Paris Climate Agreement present a unique and potentially revolutionary new opportunity to address problems associated with intractable conflict, particularly in climate-affected states. Renewable energy can offer cheap, clean and reliable power to millions of people without access to electricity in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, two of the regions most severely impacted by climate change;
  • Renewable energy provides a unique opening for pro-peace, pro-development investment in climate-impacted conflict-risk countries. Investment in renewable energy has dramatically increased and now comprises approximately 75% of all global climate-related financing. However, the global response to climate change has been overwhelmingly focused on the worst polluting countries rather than the worst affected: less than 10% of all global climate financing goes to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia combined.
  • Renewable energy provides a potentially powerful new entry-point for peace building by facilitating cooperation between conflict parties on an issue, and creates energy infrastructure that is reliable, clean, scalable and easily distributed.
 

The Approach

We have developed three initial models for delivering energy/peace benefits, in order to help prove the concept and demonstrate the potential opportunities. We are also working on developing a new financing mechanism that is designed to specifically support the deployment of renewable energy in conflict and crisis-risk settings. Model 1, Relief camp settings: We are launching pilot projects in large Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in South Sudan, and a cluster of refugee camps in Chad and Kenya. Leveraging the international humanitarian footprint, we will demonstrate how a transition to solar power in such contexts can offer both a cheaper energy solution, while building long-term energy infrastructure and building blocks for peace for local communities. We are also exploring the applicability of this approach in other settings, including Northern Iraq and Myanmar. Model 2, Integrating renewable energy into peace building and conflict prevention programming: We are partnering with the international NGO Nonviolent Peaceforce, a leader in unarmed civilian protection, to test this model through pilot projects in South Sudan and Myanmar. Model 3: Renewable energy as a peace dividend strategy: We are promoting the use of a renewable energy as highly visible, quick impact and meaningful tool in the peace dividend toolkit – which seeks to deliver development gains to help support recently concluded, or soon-to-be finalized peace agreements. We are exploring the applicability of renewable energy to support local agreements in Central Nigeria, and at the national level in support of Myanmar’s peace process. Peace Renewable Energy Credit (PREC): We are developing a new financing mechanism specifically designed to support renewable energy investment and deployment in conflict and crisis risk settings. The PREC will help address some of the financing challenges unique to these settings, in order to help draw a greater share of global renewable energy investment to the places that need it most.

Team

Under the overall leadership of Dr. Dan Kammen, the found­ing direc­tor of RAEL and pro­fes­sor of Energy, our team includes experts in renewable energy and climate change, as well as conflict prevention and peace building. David Mozersky is the Founding Director of the Program on Conflict, Climate Change and Green Development. An expert on Sudan and South Sudan, he has been involved in con­flict pre­ven­tion efforts in Africa since 2001, with a specific interest in mediation, negotiation and peace processes. He has worked with the Inter­na­tional Cri­sis Group, the African Union High-Level Panel on the Sudans, and Human­ity United, among others. He has written extensively about the conflicts and peacemaking efforts in the Horn of Africa, and has testified or presented before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Canadian Parliament, and South Sudanese Parliament. David has authored and co-authored more than two dozen International Crisis Group reports and briefing papers, and his writing has appeared in the Harvard International Review, International Herald-Tribune, Financial Times-Europe, and other publications. Senior Fellows
  • David Williams was selected as one of Time Magazine’s Innovators of the Year. He has been an advisor for US Department of State, merit reviewer for the US Department of Energy's SunShot program, technical reviewer for Sandia National Laboratory, solar advisor for USAID, and contributor to National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Mr. Williams has been involved in developing renewable energy projects in the Caribbean, Americas, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa.
  • Sherwin Das most recently served as the Chief of Political Affairs for the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa. He has designed and implemented conflict prevention and peace building strategies, policies and programming for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the UN Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Africa. Following a stint in the UN’s Mediation Support Unit in New York, he served as the UN’s Peace and Development Advisor in Moldova.
  • Alex Thier is a leading thinker and policy maker on international development, poverty reduction, and inclusive growth. As Founder and CEO of Triple Helix, Alex is working with a variety of organizations on expanding renewable energy access, strategic planning, and addressing fragile states. As a senior U.S. government official from 2010 to 2015, he led internal and external policy-making, reform, and implementation for USAID representing the U.S. government at the highest levels of international engagement on development policy and finance and managing a $10 billion+ portfolio of programs. He played a leadership role in the creation and implementation of several major US and international initiatives, including the Vision to End Extreme Poverty, the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership, and Power Africa. Alex has held leadership positions in the UN, Stanford University, USIP, and several NGOs. He’s authored and co-authored books, articles, and op-eds in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, and appears frequently in international media.
Advisory Board
  • Elliott Donnelley is a Founding General Partner of White Sand Investor Group, LG, a fifth generation investment partnership of the Chicago-based RR Donnelley family. In this role, he has increasingly focused on the nexus between investment for financial return and investment for social and environmental impact. Elliott is an advisor and/or co-founder of a number of ventures, including Ethic Inc., My Bliss, The China Philanthropy Forum, and KD Venture Partners. He is also on the boards of trustees of Synergos and the Philanthropy Workshop, and on the board of Stanford’s Global Project Center, where he promotes research on innovative models in philanthropy and impact investing. Elliott is a graduate of Yale University and spent years living and working in Beijing, where he still has strong ties in the philanthropy and impact investing industries.
  • Dr Youba Sokona has over 35 years of experience addressing energy, environment and sustainable development in Africa, and has been at the heart of numerous national and continental initiatives. He coordinated the scoping, framing and development of the “Africa Renewable Energy Initiative”. Reflecting his status, Dr Sokona was elected Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2015. Prior to this, Dr Sokona was Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III on the mitigation of climate change for the Fifth Assessment Report after serving as a Lead Author since 1990. In addition to these achievements, Dr Sokona has a proven track record of organisational leadership and management, for example as Inaugural Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and as Executive Secretary of the Sahara and the Sahel Observatory (OSS). Dr Sokona’s advice is highly sought after, and as such, he is affiliated with numerous boards and organisations, including as a Member of the Board for the Institute of Development Studies, as a Honourary Professor at the University College London (UCL), and as a Special Advisor to the African Energy Leaders Group.

Princeton Environmental Institute Seminar, “An Energy Plan the Earth Can Live With”

Daniel Kammen, Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, will present, "An Energy Plan the Earth Can Live With," at 4 p.m. Monday, May 7, in Guyot Hall, Room 10. Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 5.59.00 PM Kammen is the eighth and final speaker in the Challenges in Environmental Sciences Seminar (CHESS) Series organized by PEI in cooperation with campus partners. Kammen will look in overview at clean-energy projects at scales from off-grid solar-energy systems to mini-grids and decarbonization efforts in the United States, China, Nicaragua, Kenya and Southeast Asia. He will review a number of specific areas of energy-system innovation, including in energy storage and information management systems for mini-grid operation. He will examine how analytic and practical field-based efforts both decarbonize communities across scales and establish frameworks to meet the Paris climate accord. Kammen was appointed the first Environment and Climate Partnership for the Americas Fellow by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in April 2010. Kammen has served as a contributing or coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 1999.  Th IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. From 2010-2011, he was the World Bank Group's chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency, in which he helped enhance renewable-energy and energy-efficiency activities and expand the institution's role in promoting cleaner, more sustainable energy. Before joining UC-Berkeley, Kammen was an assistant professor of public and international affairs at Princeton, as well as director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) and PEI associated faculty. He received his doctorate in physics from Harvard University in 1988.

Noah Kittner co-​​authors “Hydropower threatens peace in Myanmar — but it doesn’t have to”

March 22, 2017 
For the article link in Nikkei Asia Review, click here.

Hydropower threatens peace in Myanmar -- but it doesn't have to

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 11.28.23 PM

Dialogue, transparency and foreign support could help rebuild local trust

Myanmar faces a critical moment for investment decision-making. The Barack Obama administration's move to lift sanctions on the Southeast Asian country has opened up new opportunities. But the moves that are made today will send political and economic ripples into the future, and the international community must act responsibly. China wants to finance a 3,600-megawatt hydropower dam called Myitsone -- one of the largest in Southeast Asia -- with the goal of directing most of the power back to China. This project, however, could compromise peace negotiations between rebel forces in the northern state of Kachin and the Myanmar government. Construction of the dam stalled in 2011 and presents a critical test for Aung San Suu Kyi's governing National League for Democracy party. Villagers in Kachin have expressed extreme opposition to the megaproject, which raises severe environmental concerns and threatens livelihoods. The issue is particularly complex due to geopolitical factors: lucrative financing from China, pressure to improve human rights from the U.S. and international community, and free trade deals with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Proceeding with the dam would diminish the authority of Myanmar to stand up to China and would exacerbate ethnic tensions that already run high between local communities and the national Myanmar government. Past promises from Chinese companies to share the benefits of hydropower development have only displaced villagers and destroyed local livelihoods in Myanmar. This case is no different. A resolute stance against Myitsone could empower local communities -- and such empowerment remains critical to developing peace and stability. Engagement with key stakeholders is necessary for a sustainable and peaceful 21st-century power system that works for the people. National electrification Currently, hydropower planning is a source of conflict, with local villagers excluded from the decision-making process. With the right approach, though, this could become an opportunity to build peace and supply sustainable energy to local communities. First, a sincere and open dialogue that engages key local stakeholders is necessary for reconciliation and building trust. Secondly, thorough environmental impact assessments with the involvement of local stakeholders would go a long way to improving transparency. Finally, the international community has the power and responsibility to support Myanmar with technical assistance and state-of-the-art science, encouraging bottom-up, small-scale hydropower and distributed renewable energy development. Electricity access initiatives led by multilateral development banks call for an aggressive push toward 100% electrification by 2030. Currently, only around 35% of Myanmar has access to power, which in many cases does not meet the needs of citizens. The 100% target could be achieved in a cost-effective manner with local resources, including the solar- and small-hydro-based mini-grids that are rapidly emerging across the country.
"Free" has a price For the past three years, in collaboration with Chulalongkorn University, we have held a series of stakeholder meetings in Bangkok with current and potential investors regarding the prospects for independent power producers, or IPPs, throughout Myanmar. These workshops have shed light on the IPP predicament facing the country and its neighbors. The "free power and free share" model -- under which Myanmar is entitled to free electricity and stakes in such projects -- fails to deliver prosperity, as fair mechanisms for allocating the benefits are not institutionalized. Often, local communities do not receive electricity and lose out on alternative investments in energy resources that require less transmission and distribution infrastructure. Banks play a key role in driving such agreements. Until now, IPPs have tried to maximize exports to neighboring countries and minimize financial risk in emerging markets like Myanmar. The lack of credibility among Myanmar's power utilities enables neighboring countries to take advantage of lax regulations and opportunities for lucrative investment at the expense of local villagers. As the Myanmar government often cannot grant concessions to cross-border IPPs due to a high risk of credit default, the benefits remain unrealized in many cases. Most of the hydropower development proposals in the Salween river basin during the last decade have not been built. A few large-scale cross-border IPPs currently operate in tributaries of the Irrawaddy River, including Shweli1, which has installed capacity of 600MW, and Dapein1, which has 240MW. While the electricity generated there is mainly exported to China, the IPP agreement grants 10-15% of total project generation and shareholdings for free to Myanmar. The conventional wisdom is that "free power, free share" remains a prerequisite for concessions by Myanmar. But this concept is inherently flawed. For example, our field survey in Shweli1 makes it clear that 15% of generated power is provided for free to the state-owned mining company and military camp, while neighboring towns must purchase electricity at 4-8 cents per kilowatt-hour and villages must re-import electricity from China at 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. These tariffs are higher than tariffs on the grid. To make things worse, the "free" benefits in Myanmar fuel conflict by compounding inequality among civilian groups. One example of this is the Mong Ton dam in Shan State, promoted by the previous military government. Nongovernmental conservation groups held an anti-dam campaign "to urge the government as well as Chinese and Thai investors to immediately stop plans to build dams, as this is causing conflict and directly undermining the peace process," as Burma Rivers Network put it. Salween Watch, a civil society watchdog, sees the construction of dams as "one of the strategies used by the military regime to gain foreign support and funding for its ongoing war effort" while viewing dams as "a strategy to increase and maintain its control over areas of ethnic land after many decades of brutal conflict." With the democratically elected NLD government having taken power in 2015, Myanmar has an opportunity to escape past nightmares and begin to distribute benefits equitably. Certainly, monetary compensation and free power seems appealing to local communities in need of electrification and economic development. However, as the NLD rightly states, it is much more critical to secure livelihoods and the environment by pursuing sustainable development practices. Villagers depend on income from natural resources, including forest and fisheries products. Our field survey regarding the Mong Ton hydropower development shows that local villagers cite deforestation, river flows and flood damage as their top dam-related concerns. Investigations into the effects of dam construction are critical undertakings that must become part of the hydropower decision-making and planning process. Without them, there can be no trust, and a strong local backlash against the influential, military-tied Ministry of Interior is inevitable. Start with science In the past, Myanmar's government glorified dams while environmental groups vilified them. Neither stance was grounded in rigorous scientific evaluations, and each side's argument fed the other's distrust -- creating resentment and hampering dialogue. To move forward, we recommend establishing regulations on environmental impact assessments that include public disclosures. Building reliable institutions to enforce such rules poses a challenge, but doing so could help to bridge the gap between groups and restore trust -- something that has been lost in Kachin and Shan states since 2011, as recent flare-ups in violence demonstrate. The timing is urgent. The peace process remains on the cusp of an agreement. Rural electrification efforts are underway, but we know that distributed mini-grids from local solar and hydropower resources can be built and deployed faster than megaprojects, supporting peace efforts. The opportunity cost of inaction is high. Continuing the Myitsone project as a concession to China, meanwhile, could undo half a decade of peace negotiations and further damage the environment while negatively impacting villagers and their livelihoods. In short, increased transparency and local engagement could usher Myanmar toward peace and prosperity. At the same time, it is up to the international community to expand the country's intellectual and institutional capacity. We can support Myanmar's infrastructure development not only through hard and soft loans, but also with technical assistance. Myanmar needs environment- and people-friendly hydropower planning. Only then will the projects support peace-building rather than conflict. Noah Kittner is an NSF graduate research fellow and doctoral student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. Kensuke Yamaguchi is a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo Policy Alternatives Research Institute. This was developed in conjunction with the Program on Conflict, Climate Change, and Green Development in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. For the article link in Nikkei Asia Review, click here.

Shiraishi, Kenji

Kenji is a Ph.D. stu­dent with the Goldman School of Public Policy and a researcher in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. His cur­rent research inter­ests include empirical studies and quantitative modeling on the effectiveness of renewable energy policies in developing and developed countries for effective decision making. He is also interested in developing better tools for quantitative assessment of the multiple benefits of climate policies such as energy access, job creation, and technology development and transfer. Kenji has more than 10 years of professional expe­ri­ences in the area of Japan’s and international environmental policies as a Deputy Director for Market-based Climate Policy of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, a Managing Director of the Global Environment Centre Foundation, etc. For example, he has spearheaded and managed various government energy incentive programs for funding energy efficient and renewable energy projects in Japan as well as in Southeast Asia and Africa under the Joint Crediting Mechanism, bilateral cooperation scheme between 14 countries and Japanese Government. He has also initiated and led international cooperation initiatives on environmental policy planning, capacity building, and technology transfer focused on low-carbon city development with Japanese municipalities for Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Vientiane (Lao PDR), and other cities. He has negotiated at COP 18 and 19 of the UNFCCC as an international negotiator of the Japanese delegation on technology transfer. Outside of environmental policies, he is a creator and a leading trainer of policy analysis training courses for Japanese policy professionals. He holds an MPP with the Smolensky Prize (the Best Advanced Policy Analysis (master’s thesis)) from UC Berke­ley, for which Dan Kammen was his APA advisor.  Kenji has a MEng and a BEng in Chemical Engineering from University of Tokyo.

Clean Energy Solutions for Borneo

Rapid economic growth sustained in Southeast Asia throughout the new millennium has led to a surge in large-scale infrastructure projects to facilitate industrial productivity and consumption. The state of Sarawak, located along the northern coast of the island of Borneo, is the poorest and most rural state in Malaysia but has long been a focal point for the development of large-scale hydroelectric power. At least six dams are scheduled to be completed in Sarawak by 2020 as part of a high hydro-potential corridor in central Sarawak. These forests have undisputed global and local significance ecologically, biologically and culturally. In collaboration with local grass-roots renewable project developers and river protection groups we have explored the potential for clean energy alternatives in the state through an integration of modeling tools: (a) modeling long-term utility scale electricity generation alternatives in East Malaysia to determine trade-offs across different technologies; (b) exploring the potential for rural communities in dam-affected areas to satisfy energy access needs using local resources; (c) demonstrating a rapid assessment method for estimating the impact of mega-projects on biodiversity. Each of these studies provides information useful to the discussion of alternatives and furthers the analysis of green economy costs and benefits. Our published findings have influenced policy discussions at the Ministerial level and a moratorium against the Baram Dam was announced in 2015.   Media coverage of our research and the Baram Dam Moratorium:  The Borneo Project, March 21, 2016 - Fantastic new video on "Development without destruction" in Sarawak. Mongabay, October 20, 2015 - Indigenous anti-dam activists converge in Sarawak from around the globe Sarawak Report, September 25, 2015 - BMF Press Statement: Victory, Moratorium on the Baram Dam in Malaysia The Borneo Post, September 27, 2015 - Small is Beautiful: The People Matter   Media coverage of our June 28, 2015 press conference in Kuching, Sarawak: The Borneo Post, August 11, 2015 - Adenan wants SEB to light up the rural areas The Malaysian Insider, July 31, 2015 - Adenan puts Baram dam on hold, agrees to listen to natives’ grouses Radio Free Sarawak, July 15, 2015 - "Sjotveit should be out", say Sarawakians The Malaysian Insider, July 14, 2015 - Stop Baleh dam tender until environmental study scrutinised, says Sarawak PKR Mongabay.com, July 8, 2015 - Sarawak can meet energy needs without mega-dams: report BFM 89.9 - The Business Station (www.bfm.my), Radio and online interview, July 3, 2015, Clean energy options in East Malaysia The Daily Express - East Malaysia, June 30, 2015 - Sarawak Mega Dam Project Study The Borneo Post, June 29, 2015 - Borneo May See the End of Mega-Dams The Malaysian Insider, June 29, 2015 - Activists say Adenan rethinking mega dams policy in Sarawak Free Malaysia Today, June 29, 2015 - Adenan May Drop Mega Dam Projects The Maylay Mail, June 29, 2015 - CM pulls the brakes on Baram dam until he goes through detailed studies, group claims International Rivers (2014). Better Solutions Than Megadams for Powering Sarawak, Study Finds. World Rivers Review Vol 29. No 2. Page 5. Earlier media coverage of this work on energy alternatives to coal and mega-hydropower projects includes this report in TIME Magazine: February 22, 2011 - Borneo says no to dirty energy Recent discussions of the relationship between mega-dams and earthquakes has also been receiving local coverage in Borneo: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/06/28/dams-fault-lines-and-quakes/

Shirley, Rebekah

Rebekah Shirley is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at RAEL. She completed her doctoral studies in the Energy and Resources Group in 2015. She previously obtained a MSc. Energy and Resources (2011) and a MSc. Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley (2011). Her doctoral and post-doctoral research focuses on distributed renewable energy (DRE) technologies and designing integrated modeling frameworks to support energy planning in emerging economies with a focus on Southeast Asia, Africa and island regions. As a researcher at RAEL Rebekah has conducted feasibility studies, built impact calculators and designed energy systems for clients across Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. She has worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and USAID. Rebekah is a University of California Chancellor’s Fellow and has won grants from organizations such as the DOE and the Rainforest Foundation that support her work. Rebekah is also currently the Director of Research at Power For All, a global education and advocacy initiative founded by energy access practitioners and implementers to advance renewable solutions for universal energy access. Rebekah oversees the development of Power For All’s Platform for Energy Access Knowledge, an interactive open-access research hub focused on decentralized energy technologies.

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