Renewable energy solutions, innovation and action were showcased yesterday in Paris at the ‘RE-Energising the Future’ international conference – a gathering of governments, businesses and civil society organized by IRENA and several partners.
Government representatives including Moroccan Energy Minister Abdelkader Amara, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, inspired the audience with their ambitious plans for scaling up renewable energy. A central feature of the discussion was that renewable energy is a key solution to three existential security challenges: climate, economy and energy supply. It was noted that having strong policy in place is essential for accelerating energy efficiency and the deployment of renewables at the scale and speed necessary to address the climate challenge.
CEOs from renewable energy pioneers – MASDAR, Iberdrola, Solar Power Company Group and 50 Hertz explained that new technologies are ready to enter the market – especially as costs decline – and that renewables are becoming important growth industries. They emphasized, however, that levelling the playing field, lowering capital costs, and ensuring policy certainty are essential for speeding up deployment. They concluded that the greatest barrier to achieving a renewable energy future is our mind set; the technology is there.
A session featuring business leaders from representatives from Google, Facebook, La Poste, Statoil, and Energias de Portugal – all of whom have sustainability embedded in their business strategies – addressed the fact that governments cannot deal with climate change on their own; business and industry are part of the solution, and much of the investment in climate solutions must come from industry. They emphasized that companies are interested in energy efficiency and the renewables market because these solutions are cost-competitive but that they are also doing so in response to consumer demand. To take this to the next stage, they emphasized that energy markets must be liberalised, that stable policy frameworks must be put in place, and that investments need to be made in infrastructure.
The last panel of the day featured speakers from emerging industries that are innovating for the future – tidal power, geothermal energy, and battery storage, for example. Companies represented included Tidal Lagoon Power, AltaRock, Hyperlook Technologies, Build Your Dreams, and M-KOPA. They reinforced the message that innovation, at all levels and across all sectors, will be a decisive factor in the world’s ability to transform the energy system of the past to one based on renewables.
Interspersed throughout the day were inspiring conversations with renewable energy leaders and pioneers. These included: the popular musician Akon who discussed his Akon Lighting Africa initiative; Claude Turmes European MP; AnaToni of Greenpeace International, Bertrand Piccard of the Solar Impulse Project and Dikirani Thaulo of the Zayed Solar Academy.
Kathy Jetnil Kijiner, a poet from the Marshall Islands, moved the audience with a performance about what it will take to keep her home from disappearing into the sea.
In addition, two new initiatives were launched: the establishment of the Global Solar Council (GSC) by the leading regional and national solar associations; and Collectively’s “We Got Power” campaign bringing together some of the world leading brands, NGOs, innovators and a global millennial audience.
The conference also heard remarks from EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change UAE and IRENA Director General Adnan Z. Amin.
“It is now not a question of ‘if’ the world ultimately transitions to a renewable energy future, but rather whether it will do so quickly enough. The energy choices we make in the next few years will determine whether we are able to close the emissions gap, and in doing so, secure a liveable climate where future generations can thrive.” – Adnan Z. Amin