A quantitative analysis of 10 multilateral development banks’ investment in conventional and renewable power-generation technologies from 2006 to 2015


Multilateral development banks (MDBs) play a pivotal role in the financing of electricity-generation projects in developing countries, thus having a major impact on the emission pathways of these countries. While information about the MDBs’ investments is publicly available, it is dispersed and hard to compare. A comprehensive compilation of all MDBs’ power-generation investments over the years has been missing. To address this gap, here we assess power-generation financing by all ten relevant MDBs during 2006–2015, in different regions, and through different branches of the banks. The study assesses technology choices by compiling a bottom-up dataset drawing information from 841 projects and programmes. We find that MDBs financed a major portion of all power-generation growth in the developing world, with an increasing share of renewables. However, MDBs have ‘greened’ their portfolios to different extents, and the activities of their public- and private-sector branches differ substantially.

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Fig. 1: Annual total financial commitments to power-generation technologies by MDBs.
Fig. 2: Share of power-generation capacity added during 2007–2015 through projects with MDB participation.
Fig. 3: Total financial commitments to power-generation technologies by individual MDBs.
Fig. 4: Financial commitments to power-generation technologies by branches of the World Bank Group.
Fig. 5: Financial commitments to power-generation technologies by branches of regional MDBs.
Fig. 6: Financing approvals made by the GCF for renewable energy, arranged by accredited entity.

Data availability

The project database generated and analysed during the current study is available at https://doi.org/10.3929/ethz-b-000289554. Source data for the figures are available from B.S. upon reasonable request.


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The authors would like to thank the interviewees and further technical experts at the MDBs for their valuable time and insights. Seminar participants at the 2017 Singapore International Conference of the IAEE and the 2018 SETI meeting at Duke University provided valuable feedback on earlier drafts of the paper. The coding of project data was conducted by C. Antonakopoulos, J. Münchrath, M. Scolaro, G. Sznek, D. Tonelli and M. Wälchli. The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from ETH Zurich Foundation, and from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract number 16.0222 (the opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Swiss Government) as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme project INNOPATHS under grant agreement no. 730403.

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T.S.S. secured project funding. B.S. and T.S.S. designed the research. B.S. coordinated the data research and carried out the analyses. B.S. and T.S.S. conducted the interviews. B.S. and T.S.S. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Bjarne Steffen or Tobias S. Schmidt.

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Supplementary Note 1, Supplementary Tables 1–3, Supplementary Figures 1–4, Supplementary References

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Steffen, B., Schmidt, T.S. A quantitative analysis of 10 multilateral development banks’ investment in conventional and renewable power-generation technologies from 2006 to 2015. Nat Energy 4, 75–82 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-018-0280-3

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