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Clean Energy Ministerial Secondment Joins World Bank Group

Monday, June 13, 2016

Clean Energy Ministerial Secondment Joins World Bank Group

The CEM–ESMAP partnership helps developing countries integrate renewable energy into their power grids.

Last year, the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) at the World Bank announced a partnership to help developing countries integrate renewable energy into their power grids. One of the first activities in this partnership was a staff assignment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to ESMAP that has been co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). Since August 2015, this “secondment” at ESMAP has facilitated better communication between NREL, ESMAP, and the CEM initiative teams, improving coordination of projects led by each organization.

“This partnership between the Clean Energy Ministerial and ESMAP provides an important link between the research partnerships of energy ministries and the project lending of development banks,” said Daniel Noll, policy fellow at DOE. “It ensures that our efforts have continuity and that energy planning studies and scenario analysis can directly inform investment decisions.”

NREL's Nate Blair is on secondment to ESMAP.
ESMAP and NREL selected Nate Blair for the staff assignment. Mr. Blair is a group manager within the Strategic Energy Analysis Center at NREL. The group that he normally leads is heavily focused on electric grid modeling (both capacity expansion and grid operations modeling). Mr. Blair brings that network of NREL experts to this opportunity. Additionally, Mr. Blair has been active in grid capacity expansion modeling and general renewable energy system modeling for many years. He moved with his family from Golden, Colorado, in August 2015 and will be at ESMAP until July.

Mr. Blair is working to create long-lasting relationships between the World Bank and DOE that will outlast his time in Washington, DC. He is excited to be working on a variety of activities, including working with ESMAP staff to further roll out the new VRE grid integration support program, launching a national grid integration study for India, providing technical assistance for the financing of solar projects in Vietnam, and consulting with electric grid staff in Turkey and in Kazakhstan.

Mr. Blair is also working to facilitate knowledge exchanges between NREL and the World Bank. NREL’s deep knowledge of the current state and anticipated improvements of renewable energy technologies is valuable for the World Bank as it seeks to finance projects using those technologies. Over the next several months, several NREL staff members will be presenting on solar technologies, wind technologies, and issues related to renewables on the distribution grid.

Working in a development bank is, of course, a very different experience than working at a U.S. national laboratory. As Mr. Blair said, “This is an incredible personal opportunity to learn and understand the activities of the largest development bank. The people here have been really great about including me and spending time educating me on the workings of the World Bank.”

Additionally, the grid systems of developing countries are significantly different from the U.S. grid on which most NREL analysis is focused. Mr. Blair stated that “many of the assumptions we make about how to integrate significant renewable energy on the U.S. grid either aren’t appropriate or need to be significantly modified for various developing countries.” Mr. Blair is looking forward to bringing this perspective back to NREL.