Energy Transition

Supporting Governmental and Intergovernmental Policymaking

Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and CCSI have been advising the Government of Paraguay since 2012. In 2013, CCSI developed a high-level strategic plan around using Paraguay's vast hydropower resources for sustainable economic development and the diversification of its economy. Beginning in 2020, CCSI and SDSN, in collaboration with partners in Paraguay, have been developing policy guidance for a decarbonization pathway for Paraguay. Read more on the project page.

 

The African Union and the African Development Bank (AfDB) are engaged in high-level efforts to design and implement comprehensive strategies for Africa’s energy development in order to achieve 100% access to modern energy services based mainly on zero-carbon energy sources, while developing and utilizing Africa’s hydrocarbon resources in a manner supportive of Africa’s long-term sustainable development. Against this backdrop, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University and President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), is supporting the AfDB in analyzing alternative energy roadmaps to 2050. Along with Columbia University's Center for Sustainable Development and SDSN, CCSI is a key partner in this effort. Read more on the project page.

 

Renewable Energy & Sustainability

The impacts of climate change, which stand to affect all of humanity, create a dire need for innovations in how humans access energy. Obtaining energy from renewable sources can help shift industry and public energy consumption away from the burning of fossil fuels, which is the world’s primary cause of carbon dioxide emissions. However, this blog argues that those urging rapid investments in renewable energies must also be cognizant of the potential impacts of these projects on the rights of local individuals and communities.

In partnership with the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Equitable Origin, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), CCSI created “Mapping the Renewable Energy Sector to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Atlas.” Aiming to provide a shared understanding of how the renewable energy sector can most effectively contribute to the SDGs, the Atlas traces the many points of intersection between renewable energy and the SDGs, including ways in which the renewable sector can contribute toward the realization of the SDGs, the risks renewable energy operations can pose for sustainable development and the realization of human rights, and the implications of the SDGs for the industry’s future operations, with special attention to the interconnections of the human rights framework with the SDGs.

Expanding access to clean energy will play a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To assist both the energy and financial sectors in their alignment with the SDGs, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and CCSI developed a four-pillar conceptual framework to define SDG-aligned business practices in the energy sector. The full report, published in February 2020, adapts the conceptual framework to the utility sector, evaluates the proposed framework against twelve existing sustainability initiatives, and compares the performance of the ten largest utilities in Europe and the United States by market capitalization. The report also provides recommendations for next steps. A two-page description of the project and a summary of the findings are also available.

Mining & the Energy Transition

The mining sector uses 11% of the world’s total energy and requires constant and reliable energy access for its operations. In many mining jurisdictions the mine sites are either too remote from the grid or power outages are frequent, resulting in companies needing to generate their own power. These off-grid solutions often rely on expensive diesel generators or self-owned and -operated thermal power plants. Falling ore grades that require more energy per ton of output, and increasing pressure on governments to reduce fuel subsidies and impose carbon taxes, will further increase the cost of such self-generation solutions. Drastic cost reductions and technological advances in solar and wind energy over recent years make renewable energy an increasingly attractive alternative energy source for mining companies. CCSI is researching how to leverage the power demand from the mines to catalyze the deployment of renewables in developing countries.

 

The green energy transition will be exceedingly mineral intensive, but the projects to increase the primary extraction of critical minerals rest on bullish forecasts and uncertain terrain due to a number of factors that threaten to leave these investments obsolete and economically stranded. Accordingly, governments, international actors, and mining advocates should heed caution when pursuing and promoting the mining of critical minerals. Read our recommendations in this paper.

The mineral intensity of the zero-carbon energy transition will inevitably require an expansion in mining activities, but alternatives to the primary extraction of minerals and metals—including biomining, phytomining, and notably recycling and circular economy approaches—also have a relevant role to play. CCSI is conducting research on economic, technological, legal, and policy aspects to support the repositioning of primary mining companies as materials supply companies that also operate in alternatives to mining, with a view to ensuring the required supply of critical minerals and metals in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement requires the world to adopt ‘green technologies’ such as renewable energies and electric transportation at an unprecedented scale. While many countries have implemented policies to spur the adoption of such technologies, a lack of focus has been placed on the sourcing of minerals that are required as inputs. As a result, there is likely to be a significant deficit that may constrain the adoption of green technologies. In this report, we argue that a neglected area in addressing the mineral scarcity challenge is the private sector’s current trajectory for geological mineral exploration and the lack of innovative initiatives on material efficiency and recycling. We propose a Smart Mineral Enterprise Development (SMED), which entails a partnership between public and private entities to consider pathways whereby public sector data sharing on geology can be coupled with research innovations in the private sector both upstream and downstream of mineral supply.

Expediting the Phase-Out of Fossil Fuels

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) persistent governance challenges have both hampered Nigeria’s oil sector development and deprived the country of public resources. The oil, climate, and COVID-19 crises and the ramp-up of the low-carbon transition exacerbate this reality. These crises provide a unique opportunity and political momentum for the Nigerian government and legislature to reconsider NNPC’s role in the energy transition and implement profound reform of the company. While it is an incredible policy and political challenge, other NOCs are showing the way, and policy guidance is already out there to guide countries and companies. Read more on our project page.

In order to stay below the 2-degree Celsius temperature increase target agreed upon in Paris, approximately two thirds of fossil fuels reserves will need to be left underground or be stranded. This raises the critical global challenge of how such stranding could be managed. While McGlade and Ekins (2015) have assessed this question by stranding more costly assets, the equity dimension has not been taken into account. Given the resource dependence both for revenues and expanding electrification, the equity dimension is particularly important for developing countries. These issues were explored in the following blogs, and we continue to explore the topic with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Development, in order to propose stranding scenarios that comply with the Paris Agreement and are equitable at the same time.

CCSI has been researching how institutional investors can effectively engage fossil fuel companies in order to move toward a decarbonized economy more quickly. CCSI mapped out the key shareholders’ resolutions on an interactive timeline. Users can also find a non-exhaustive list of articles and news reports capturing activities that the largest non-state oil and gas companies (ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell and Total) have undertaken with respect to climate change and renewable energy investments since the 1970s. Apart from allowing users to compare actions among the selected oil & gas majors, it also provides an overview of how these activities fit within the public debate around climate change.

More than one third of the energy demand growth is projected to come from power generation, particularly from countries with high population growth rates and lack of adequate electricity access. Some projections forecast that fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy form, but these projections are inconsistent with the IPCC’s recommendations. Against this backdrop, CCSI and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) have published a briefing note summarizing the ways in which international oil and gas companies can help expand access to affordable and clean energy and take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The briefing note outlines steps the oil and gas industry can take to prepare their businesses for the future, to strengthen efficiency and impact of current operations, and to leverage resources for broader partnerships and collaboration.