World Resources Institute WRI

Mobilizing Climate Investment: The role of international climate finance in creating scaled-up, low-carbon energy

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Between now and 2050, developing countries need an estimated $531 billion per year of additional investment in energy supply and demand technologies in order to limit global temperature rise to 2° C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this scale of investment, developing country governments and custodians of international public finance will need to deploy limited public finance in ways that leverage an unprecedented volume of private sector investment. Despite growing global investment in low-carbon energy and falling costs, it will be difficult to achieve the scale and urgency of investments needed without the appropriate policy, institutional, industry, and financial conditions. Governments and their international partners need to undertake “readiness” activities designed to put in place the conditions that attract scaled-up investment and enable a transformation toward low-carbon energy development pathways.

Drawing on six developing country case studies, this report identifies a set of key lessons and insights for readiness. The report develops a framework to identify and prioritize readiness activities that will require public financial support to create the conditions necessary to scale up investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency (collectively referred to as low-carbon energy). The report discusses the implications of the findings for international climate finance and draws a number of recommendations for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). It targets international public funds and institutions looking to accelerate investment in low-carbon energy, as well as developing country governments looking to identify and prioritize activities for funding.

Enabling conditions for scaling up investment
We identify a number of policy and institutional, industry, and financial sector conditions that can attract scaled-up public and private investment in low-carbon energy. Policy and institutional conditions include plans and targets for low-carbon energy, institutional capacity to effectively implement climate change and energy policies, laws supporting investment in low-carbon energy, and regulatory and fiscal instruments to implement laws. Industry conditions include the capacity of developers to prepare bankable projects, information on renewable resource availability or options to conserve energy, engineering capacity, and the presence of a support industry and enabling infrastructure. Financial conditions include a stable financial sector with the capacity and range of financial products needed to support low-carbon energy.

In six case studies, we analyze the role that enabling activities have played in promoting scaled up investment in low-carbon energy, and the role that international public finance has played in supporting such activities. These case studies examine energy efficiency in Thailand, wind power in South Africa, solar water heaters in Tunisia, geothermal power in Indonesia, wind power in Mexico, and energy efficiency in India. Taken together, the case studies suggest two overarching determinants of success in scaling up investment: government leadership and effective responses to pricing distortions. When government leadership is strong, a commitment to policy and institutional reform and implementation of stated goals usually follows. This in turn strengthens the investment climate and increases investor confidence. In cases where market failures severely distort the market in favor of carbon-intensive energy sources, it has been more difficult to create the conditions that attract investment in low-carbon energy.

Lessons learned for the design of readiness activities
The case studies also reveal a number of lessons about the design of readiness activities and the role of international partners in supporting them.

Small amounts of long-term funding for enabling activities can help scale up investment
In each case study, small investments in enabling activities—from several hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars—helped pave the way for scaled up private and public investments by supporting the creation of conducive policies and market conditions. International support has been most effective when sustained over five or more years. Technical support can also be more effective if international advisors are integrated into national institutions and report to national, rather than international, authorities.

International support is likely to be more effective if it identifies and targets a few critical barriers to investment. In countries with comparatively few enabling conditions for investment, attempts to simultaneously surmount all investment barriers may result in resources being spread too thin to achieve a significant impact. Chapter 4 presents a framework that can aid governments and their international partners in identifying activities to support.

Strengthening the enabling environment should not end when investment begins. In each case study, readiness activities and larger investment took place simultaneously. Even in cases where the investment climate was already strong, there was still scope for additional enabling activities to address specific gaps.

Integrated, inclusive planning processes and policy and institutional reform are key to attracting investment
The integration of low-carbon energy into a broader development agenda can enhance coordination and alignment between different sectors of the economy. Civil society and private sector actors can bring valuable expertise and experience to the planning process, and play important roles in ensuring that low-carbon energy policies and plans are realistic, robust, and tailored to the needs of the country. International support should be aligned with national plans and priorities for effective and sustained outcomes, and should be flexible enough to respond in a timely manner to evolving priorities.

Changes to the policy and regulatory environment proved crucial to attracting investment on a significant scale in the case studies. International support for the design of policies is likely to be effective only if it is demand-driven and not seen as infringing on national sovereignty. Countries that have set up their own financial mechanism to support low-carbon energy projects are well positioned to implement their objectives effectively and independently, thereby reducing their reliance on international partners to finance their low-carbon energy needs.

Having the appropriate institutions in place to develop, implement, and regulate policy reforms—and empowering them with the mandate and resources to carry out their functions effectively—helped ensure that policies were coherent and consistent, which increased investor confidence.

In key institutions, strengthening the capacity of staff and management to carry out their functions is an important readiness activity that often requires international funding support. The case studies suggest that capacity-building support is most effective when carefully targeted to address particular skills gaps.

Tackling information barriers and strengthening industry and financial sector capacity can unlock investment
Public support for broad-scale renewable resource assessments or exploration can provide information on resource availability that is key to attracting investor interest. Similarly, measures to familiarize industry and other actors with low-carbon energy options—such as training centers, awareness campaigns, and seminars and workshops that bring together stakeholders—can strengthen industry knowledge of and capacity to implement renewable energy projects, and raise awareness of the potential cost savings from energy efficiency.

International support plays an important role in facilitating learning and demonstrating new financing models for renewable energy, as well as strengthening industry’s capacity to develop and implement low-carbon energy projects. In some cases, international support to strengthen the capacity of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and improve their access to financing for low-carbon energy projects has helped unlock investment by this sector of the market.

Financial institutions can play a key role in opening the market for low-carbon energy technologies. However, some financial institutions lack knowledge of and experience with these technologies. Strengthening the capacity of financial institutions to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, including through pilot financing programs, has been important in scaling up domestic sources of finance for low-carbon energy in several cases. In some cases, the high risk—real or perceived—of investing in low-carbon technologies without a proven track record in the country has deterred domestic financial institutions. Mechanisms that carefully allocate risks to those best placed to manage them can help attract financing from domestic banks and other financial institutions.

A framework for guiding readiness support for low-carbon energy investments
Building on the experiences of the six case studies, we propose a framework to guide governments and their international partners in determining how best to provide readiness support to countries with low-carbon energy sectors in different stages of development. The framework describes some of the activities required to strengthen the enabling policy and institutional environment for investment. In the early stages of development, these include support for assessing energy options, engaging stakeholders in the energy planning process, capacity building for government agencies and civil society, technical support for developing plans and strategies, and outreach activities. In later stages, activities include support for designing and implementing regulations and fiscal instruments, and targeted capacity building for government agencies, including local governments.

The proposed framework also describes some of the activities needed to strengthen the enabling industry and financial conditions for investment. In early stages of development, these include renewable resource assessments and energy conservation awareness campaigns, capacity building for project developers and financial institutions, support for technology transfer and localization, feasibility studies and environmental and social impact assessments, and support for financial sector reform. At later stages, activities include strengthening engineering capacity for low-carbon energy projects, supporting ancillary industries (such as upgrading grid infrastructure), and supporting financial institutions to assess and finance low-carbon energy projects.

Recommendations for the Green Climate Fund
The six case studies illustrate different approaches that various international partners have used to support readiness activities. The lessons learned are intended to inform the recently established GCF as it attempts to identify how best to support a paradigm shift toward low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways. Although the GFC’s detailed operational modalities are not yet defined, it could take a number of approaches to support readiness. These include supporting readiness directly or partnering with existing institutions; establishing distinct channels and allocations for readiness or integrating enabling activities into existing channels and allocations; and supporting readiness through the private sector facility.

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