IRENA Innovation Week Kicks Off in Bonn

Energy industry experts and stakeholders from more than 60 countries gathered today in Bonn, Germany to kick-start discussions on innovation in the renewable energy power sector. Rainer Baake, German State Secretary of Economic Affairs and Energy, set the stage for the event by stressing the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency as a means to decarbonize the world economy. Without this, he stated, Paris Agreement ambitions will fall short, leaving everyone vulnerable to the myriad effects of a warming planet.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin continued discussions into the first plenary session of the day on the age of renewable power. He echoed Baake’s keynote statement, and highlighted that 50% of all needed emission reductions can be achieved through renewables, with energy efficiency measures supplying the rest, and this can be powered by further innovation in the sector.

Panel members for the first plenary – including Irene Cañas (Vice Minister of Energy of Costa Rica), Claes Rytoft (Head of Global R&D), Simone Mori (Head of European Affairs of ENEL Group), Atul Mahajan (CEO Oshawa Power), Pierre Bernard (CEO of Friends of the Supergrid), and Ilya Galkin (Director of Department of International Cooperation) – gave their views on the role of innovation in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“Typically, utilities have not been in the forefront of innovation. We need to see a new version of utilities – utility 2.0. Utilities can, and should, be driven by innovation.” – Atul Mahajan, CEO Oshawa Power

Following plenary one, the discussion moved to systemic innovation. Hermina Morita, Former Chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, gave an overview of system innovations in Hawaii’s energy system. She stated that “in Hawaii, we are not developing the best practices, we are developing the next set of practices.”

Anton Eberhard, Professor University of Cape Town, gave an overview of innovations taking place in the market to enable renewable energy growth – including auctions, regulatory and reliability standards and power purchase agreements. Further examples of innovative practice in Bangladesh were highlighted by Dipal Barua, Chairman of Bright Green Energy Foundation, and Florian Ziegler from KfW Development Bank, gave an overview of innovative financing models that reduce risks and make prices sustainable in the long run.

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IRENA Innovation Week 2016, 11-13 May

After the plenary sessions, participants split into groups to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the renewable energy transition in three distinct contexts: decentralized electricity systems for island and rural electrification; emerging electricity systems with high demand growth; and mature electricity systems with low demand growth. On Friday, the same groups will reconvene to discuss solutions to the identified challenges.

Discussions resume tomorrow as participants discuss technological innovation and delve into topics including smart grids, energy storage, and electric highways.

The plenary will be available on live webcast from 9-10:00am CET.
Follow discussions online via #IRENAinnovation
Full plenary session recordings will be posted to YouTube following the event.

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