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The power of the sun

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The end of summer is nigh. Temperatures are falling and the days are getting shorter.

In the northern hemisphere, summer lasts until the autumnal equinox on 22 September. Many of the EBRD’s regions, however, from the Balkans to Turkey and the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED), have sunny weather all year round.

This means that they also have great potential to harness solar energy. 

Solar is a primary source of renewable energy, popular around the world. It is typically low cost and easy to install and use. “The cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted dramatically in the last decade, making them not only affordable but often the cheapest form of electricity,” according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  

There are many environmental advantages of renewable energy, such as lower carbon emissions and reduced air pollution, as well as numerous socioeconomic benefits, such as job creation. As of 2019, around 11.5 million people worldwide worked in the renewable energy sector, according to IRENA, with more than a third of them working in photovoltaics.

The EBRD, its partners and donors have been investing in solar energy for almost three decades. Our projects can often come in unlikely shapes and forms – and there are countless examples, from solar-powered park benches to solar-powered chewing-gum production and local gym heating.

According to the World Bank, “around 70 countries boast excellent conditions for solar PV, where average daily output exceeds 4.5 kilowatt hours per installed kilowatt of capacity (kWh/kWp) – enough to boil around 25 liters of water. Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa regions dominate this category.”

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The World Bank further finds that high-solar-potential countries tend to have low seasonality in solar photovoltaic output, meaning that the resource is relatively constant from month to month throughout the year. Even in regions such as Central Asia (temperatures in Kazakhstan can fall as low as -45°C, for example), solar energy is widely used.

In Kazakhstan, for instance, the EBRD and the local authorities have agreed to develop a long-term cooperation strategy to achieve carbon neutrality in the country’s power sector by 2060. The accord will further cement Kazakhstan’s status as a renewable energy leader in Central Asia.

Moreover, a long-term engagement strategy backed by targeted concessional financing from the EBRD and the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) has been instrumental in jump-starting Kazakhstan’s renewables market. Since 2010, grant funds from the CIF’s Clean Technology Fund (CTF) have helped strengthen Kazakhstan’s enabling environment and facilitated capacity and investment growth in the renewables sector. The EBRD-CIF partnership has enabled the sector to attract billions of dollars in clean energy investment to the country since 2013.

EBRD invests in second solar park in Kazakhstan, Burnoye-2

Together, Burnoye Solar-1 and 2 will create one of the largest renewable energy generators in eastern Europe and largest in Central Asia

Solar energy can generate power on a range of scales, from little gadgets and appliances, such as lamps or benches, to large companies or even entire villages or cities.

In Croatia, for example, an EBRD client, Ivan Mrvos, built a prototype smart bench to light municipal parks and streets with the help of solar panels. The bench can also charge mobile phones, houses a wi-fi unit and even gathers data on temperature and air pollution. Ivan’s company, Include, has now placed thousands of these innovative benches in cities around the world, in countries across the European Union (EU) and as far afield as Australia and Abi Dhabi. 

Ivan Mrvos, Croatian entrepreneur

In Serbia, meanwhile, you can walk around numerous cities and see thousands of houses with solar panels on the roof. This is a relatively recent development; the use of solar power in residential buildings and individual houses is still in its early stages in Serbia.

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The EBRD’s Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF) works with local banks to lend funds to residential borrowers for investments in residential energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions. To help homeowners invest in green solutions, the GEFF provides technical assistance and grants, supported by the EU and bilateral donors through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), as well as the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance.

One recipient is Nikola Rađenović from Belgrade. “I believe I will pay off my investment in 7 to 10 years, maybe even sooner, considering the house is completely powered by solar energy,” Nikola says. “My electricity bills are zero.”

Elsewhere, in Turkey, more than 50,000 households have invested in environmentally friendly homes thanks to a lending programme developed jointly by the EBRD, the EU and the CIF.

Business owners, too, have embraced the use of solar energy.

In Tajikistan, the EBRD and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have aided a gym to invest in climate-friendly technologies, including the installation of solar panels.

In Ukraine, the EBRD, the GEF, the EU and Japan helped a supermarket adopt green technologies, including the installation of 664 photovoltaic panels on the store’s roof, which are used to generate maximum electricity at peak times. The store’s external lighting is also powered by solar panels on autonomous time lapse, complemented by batteries if necessary.

In Jordan, the EBRD, the German development finance institution, DEG, the GEF, the EU and Spain supported Yellow Door Energy with the development, construction and operation of a portfolio of eight solar photovoltaic plants.           

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These plants will supply all of the electricity they generate to five private companies ‒ Umniah (telecommunications), Carrefour supermarkets, Safeway supermarkets, Taj Mall (retail industry) and Classic Fashion (garment manufacturing). In total, the plants are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 49,000 tonnes per year.

And the list of examples goes on, with the EBRD promoting the use of solar energy in nearly all of the economies in which it invests.

The summer may be coming to an end, but the power of the sun is (almost) limitless. Solar power can be generated in numerous ways, all over the planet. It has so many benefits for our everyday lives and, of course, preserves the environment. With this in mind, we have just one wish for the cooler season ahead: let the sun shine!

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