LEDS GP Fellowship 2016: Interview with Gustavo Ribeiro
In this feature, Gustavo Ribeiro, Consultant in Energy and Climate Change, CIOESTE – selected as the 2016 LEDS GP Fellow representing the LEDS Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Platform – talks to our communications team about his Fellowship at NREL and climate-related challenges in Brazil.
How long have you been working in low emission development?
I have been working in low emission development since 2008, when I joined an NGO that developed deforestation mitigation projects in the São Paulo area, Brazil. After that I went to a carbon consultation firm that developed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects and then onto an international consultancy firm that looked at a broader range of environmental services, where I provided support for Brazilian corporations to develop and implement climate mitigation strategies. In May 2016, I started as a specialist for energy and climate change issues, providing support for the Inter-municipal Public Consortium of the Western Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (CIOESTE)’s secretariat, and delivering technical assessments of energy related projects.
How did the idea for your fellowship come about?
At the moment, I’m focused on working with climate change policy development at subnational levels. I have a lot of experience working with the private sector and over the years I have learned how to develop and implement climate change corporate governance. I have found that the climate change agenda is highly dependent on regulatory compliance, particularly during periods of economic crisis. For this reason I believe that working with municipalities rather than with high-level governance is an emerging strategy that will enhance the effectiveness of climate policy uptake. This Fellowship is a great driver for me to learn more about climate mitigation at a subnational level in Brazil, which is an area that is undergoing rapid change.
What are the objectives of your fellowship?
At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), I will learn methods and tools related with energy assessment, for example looking at the Long-Range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) system for climate scenario planning. I am also interested in learning about financing mechanisms and sharing this learning with CIOESTE. For this, I will act as a knowledge broker, capacitating CIOESTE’s technicians on NREL’s tools and methodologies.
What learning will you bring to your home institution?
As an immediate outcome from my fellowship program, I will deliver a workshop about models and tools for low carbon urban development planning on behalf of CIOESTE. The workshop’s audience will be composed of local government staff, researchers from regional universities such as Universidade Federal de São Paulo – Escola Paulista de Economia, Política e Negócios (EPPEN), government officials, climate change specialists, and the general public. The workshop will have a capacity building session for technicians from each municipality, where NREL’s tools and methodologies can be outlined and discussed, focusing on the requirements to multiply their use throughout the eight municipalities in CIOESTE. In order to increase the knowledge exchange, a working group will be created to continue the learning process.
What do you hope the impact will be from your fellowship/how will you implement what you learn in your country?
I will apply the tools and softwares learned during my fellowship program at NREL in Brazil’s CIOESTE region, in order to evaluate alternatives of low carbon technologies and improve CIOESTE’s evaluation on energy investment. From a medium term perspective, there is also a possibility to disseminate the NREL practices to other municipalities in the São Paulo metropolitan zone.
What are the challenges and success stories of implementing LEDS in Brazil?
Brazil actually has an outstanding renewable matrix, with several successful renewable energy programs already in place, including biofuels and hydropower. Today approximately 75% of electrical energy is produced from renewable sources, and since 2008 there has been a steep increase in the number of wind farms – the CDM played an important role in that. Taking transport fuel consumption as an example, we have a big biofuel program already in place, in that all gasoline sold in Brazil is mixed with approximately 25% of ethanol. There is a similar program with diesel and biodiesel, so today all diesel sold in Brazil contains 7% biodiesel, and it is expected that this percentage will increase to 10% before 2020.
Yet in order to cater for the rapidly increasing power demand in recent years, several fossil fuel plants have started to run, meaning that the share of renewable energy in the matrix has decreased. There is also a general unwillingness to invest in renewables, which may be related to average population income and the country’s economic instability. As simple renewable technologies such as solar water heaters require an initial investment, this general unwillingness reduces the opportunities for deploying renewable technology. This is an area where municipalities can take action, as they have a unique role in providing access and incentives to these technologies for consumers. There is also a major opportunity to harness Brazil’s solar energy as we have a massive solar potential, as well as opportunities to change our major road transportation model into something more efficient in terms of greenhouse gas reduction. Brazil’s main challenge is to keep the grid emission factor at low levels and improve energy efficiency on the consumption side, which is a good opportunity for LEDS at the level of subnational governments.