Serious questions are raised today over hundreds of millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money being ‘wasted’ on climate change projects such as an Ethiopian wind farm and Kenyan solar power plant.
A Telegraph investigation shows little benefit so far from a £2 billion foreign aid programme to tackle climate change that was established eight years ago.
One scheme, costing £260m of UK taxpayers’ money, has produced only enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of just 100 British households - about the size of a typical street.
Projects including solar parks in Kenya and Mali, a rubbish-burning power plant in the Maldives and wind farmer project in Ethiopia are all earmarked for funding from the scheme.
The Telegraph investigation raises major concerns over the use of international aid money to fund complex renewable energy schemes in some of the world’s poorest countries.
It will also reignite the row over the Government’s commitment, championed by David Cameron, to ring fence the £12 billion annual foreign aid budget, which is fixed at 0.7 per cent of national income.
Critics have accused the Government of “scandalously wasting” taxpayers’ money on the schemes.
The current crop of climate change and renewable energy initiatives are showing strong signs of being the most negligently conducted and scandalously wasteful to date
Dr John Constable
While officials insist publicly the climate change schemes are working and should only be judged in 2023 at its end point, the department for International Development (Dfid) has expressed concern over delays to projects and the management of them.
One senior source said ministers inside Dfid are questioning whether the money would have been better spent on humanitarian causes instead.
The complex set of schemes - known as the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) - are run by the World Bank, with almost one-third of the £6.75 billion total funding provided by the UK government. No other country has put in so much cash.
The funds, consisting of four separate schemes, are intended to kick start green energy projects such as the building of large-scale wind and solar farms in poorer countries and environmentally friendly public transport schemes.
One of the four schemes - the £630 million Scaling Up Renewable Energy Project (SREP) - was set up with the help of £268 million financing from Dfid and the now defunct Department for Energy and Climate Change.
But at the halfway point of the project to provide renewable energy and improve energy access in 28 of the world’s poorest countries, including Haiti, Ethiopia and Bangladesh, little appears to have been achieved by way of effective results.
To date, just three SREP-funded projects - two in Honduras and one in Nepal - are producing either green electricity or improving access to it. A further 20 approved projects are not making any positive impact, according to an annual report published at the end of last year.
SREP has so far produced just 276 MWh of electricity - which experts suggest is equivalent to powering about 100 British households. Its target by 2023 is to produce 2,600 GWh - meaning it is currently producing just 0.01 per cent of the electricity expected in six years’ time.
SREP is currently providing ‘improved energy access’ - another of its key targets - to just 7,395 people, equivalent to the market town of Brechin in Scotland. The 2023 target is 4.9 million people, meaning it has so far achieved 0.15 per cent of its intended target.
The official figures also show the programme has succeeded to date in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 251.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide - the equivalent to about 95 round trip flights from London to Australia. The programme’s target is to cut emissions by 3.6 million tonnes by 2023. It is currently achieving 0.007 per cent of its intended target.
A second scheme - The Climate Technology Fund - to which the UK has contributed £1.2bn, is intended to deliver green electricity and reduce emissions in ‘middle income’ countries including gas and oil rich Kazakhstan as well as India, Turkey and Morocco. More than halfway through the scheme, set up in 2009, it is supplying about seven per cent of the renewable energy expected by 2023.
To date, only 26 projects out of 70 approved schemes under the CTF have reported any benefit. The vast majority of the projects do not record any figures at all.
Dfid’s own annual review of the schemes reveals that in 2014 officials were concerned that the CIFs “had been slow” to put in place practices “on carrying out rigorous assessments through evaluation” of its projects. Dfid subsequently authorised spending of £6m “specifically for evaluation and evidence based learning” to address “this weakness”.
A year later in 2015, according to the Dfid review, officials wrote to the World Bank “highlighting our concerns” with aspects of the management of the funds.
The Dfid review, published last year, also raises concerns over delays to projects and “the inability to demonstrate results”.
It is understood that Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, who was appointed last summer, has demanded some of the climate change programmes be more thoroughly investigated.
A senior Dfid source said: “Ministers have called in a number of climate programmes for close scrutiny to ensure they are on track and delivering.”
The insider added: “The money would be better spent on our humanitarian response with proven results than some of the incredibly complex climate programmes.”
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity strongly critical of British green energy policy, said: “Overseas development projects have long been plagued with expensive failures, but the current crop of climate change and renewable energy initiatives are showing strong signs of being the most negligently conducted and scandalously wasteful to date.”
Nigel Evans, a Conservative MP and member of the international development select committee, said: “This is deeply worrying. It raises questions about whether we are spending the money in the right ways.
“We are supposed to be helping the most vulnerable people in the world and we ought not to be pumping money into projects that are not working.”
Alex Wild, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “It’s bad enough that people are forced to pay inflated bills for hare-brained green schemes at home, let alone overseas.
“It looks like these projects are following the Dfid playbook to the letter: throw some money at a project and then when it fails to hit performance targets, throw some more at it. The countries involved would be well advised not to replicate the UK’s disastrous energy policies.”
The Government defended the funds’ performance.
A spokesman said: “The Climate Investment Fund is helping provide the world’s poorest people with stronger defences to extreme weather which can cause life-threatening crises such as floods, droughts and famine.
“The UK’s investment is already delivering results by producing reliable sources of food, improving infrastructure and giving people access to clean energy, and all programmes are on course to meet the published performance targets for 2023.”
Dfid said there had been some major successes and that the funds had reduced green-house gas emissions by the equivalent of taking three million cars off the road. Dfid said that the investment funds were further ‘enabling the building of the equivalent of over a quarter of the current global installed geothermal and concentrated solar power”.
The World Bank said: “The CIFs are a tried, tested, and trusted financing mechanism with over 300 climate smart investments in 72 developing countries around the world. Countries are now reaping the benefits from these investments in the form of cleaner and more reliable energy, new industries and markets, climate resilience and sustainable forestry. None of this would have happened without CIF involvement.”
The World bank said results were only published when projects were completed and fully up and running. It said that it can take six years for a large-scale solar power plant “to move from planning and site acquisition to full service”.