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Closer Cooperation Strengthens Pioneering Wind and Solar Power Mapping Project

WASHINGTON, D.C./NAIROBI, (UNEP) 26 September -- An international effort to pinpoint the most promising wind and solar power sites in developing countries received a boost today with the announcement of a new collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and one of the world's leading "green energy" research centres.

The agreement, between UNEP and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), headquartered in Golden, Colorado, will expand the pilot Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA).

Under the existing project, surveys and high-quality solar and wind maps are being prepared for 13 developing countries.  The new agreement, termed a Memorandum of Understanding, will increase the number to 14 by including the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.  An existing plan to map Bangladesh will also be expanded under the new deal.

The SWERA, which has secured a $6.7 million investment from the Global Environment Facility, is seen as an important new initiative to deliver cleaner forms of energy to developing nations.

Klaus Töpfer, the Executive Director of UNEP, said:  “I welcome this closer cooperation with NREL.  Delivering cleaner and less-polluting forms of energy to poorer parts of the world is absolutely crucial for fighting poverty and helping to reduce emissions of pollutants linked with unhealthy indoor and outdoor air and global warming.  A lack of energy has other severe environmental consequences.  Those without access to electricity are forced to fell trees for firewood and cooking fuel, accelerating impacts such as soil erosion and the loss of the world's wildlife.”

"While the costs of renewable energies like solar and wind have been tumbling in recent years, obstacles remain to their widespread deployment, particularly in developing countries.  One of these is the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind resource.  The SWERA project aims to bridge this knowledge gap so potential investors can know, with a great deal of accuracy, the locations where they can secure a good and reasonable return", he said.

The importance of providing high-quality solar and wind maps, produced by SWERA using remote-sensing satellite and on-the-ground data, is highlighted by the Philippines.  The Government there changed its national energy strategy to include a greater reliance on wind power, after receiving an assessment of the kind SWERA would produce, showing a sizeable potential for wind power.

Experts also claim that, by using the information gained through SWERA,

wind developers may be able to find the best wind sites more quickly and shave

12 months or more from the time it takes to gather sufficient data to advance a wind project.

The SWERA project links with other renewable energy initiatives, including the Global Network on Energy for Sustainable Development, which was launched by UNEP at the World Summit on Sustainable Development on 1 September in Johannesburg.

It is linking up "energy centres of excellence" in order to promote renewable and cleaner forms of energy production on the ground in developing countries.

Currently over 2 billion people in developing countries have little or no access to a reliable source of energy, and nine out of 10 Africans have no access to electricity at all.  Last year, the G-8 Renewable Energy Task Force outlined how, given financing, political will and creative projects, renewable energy could be delivered to 1 billion extra people by 2010.  These new initiatives, such as a strengthened SWERA, are in line with the G-8 Task Force's proposals.

Democratic Representative Mark Udall of Colorado, Co-Chair, House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, said:  "I'm delighted that after nearly five years of development, this important collaboration between Colorado's own National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the UN Environment Programme is coming to fruition.  Its first project -- the expansion of the Solar and Wind Energy Survey Assessment -- promises to help people in developing countries gain access to clean energy technologies that can improve the quality of their lives."

Currently, the SWERA pilot countries are:  Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka.  The partnership with NREL will enhance these efforts and allow an expansion of the Bangladesh assessment and an additional assessment in Maldives.

For more information, please contact:  Eric Falt, UNEP spokesperson and Director of the Division of Communications and Public Information, in Nairobi, tel: +254-2-62-3292; e-mail:; or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, tel: +254-2-623084, mobile: +254-733-632755, e-mail:

In Washington, D.C., Brennan Van Dyke, Director, UNEP Regional Office for North America, tel: +1-202-785-0465; or e-mail:

At NREL, please contact:  Ron Benioff at +1-303-384-7504; or e-mail:

The SWERA Web site can be found at

For information media. Not an official record.