IRENA Gears Up For Fifth Assembly – Topics, Schedules, Documents

Ministers, senior officials and representatives from 150 countries and 115 organizations will meet this month at IRENA’s fifth Assembly to discuss the urgent need and increased business case for rapid renewable energy expansion.

Taking place 17-18 January, 2015 at the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi, this year’s Assembly seeks to speed the global renewable energy expansion to address global challenges including climate change, energy access and energy security.

During the Assembly, multiple IRENA reports will be launched including:

Renewable Power Generation Costs 2014
Renewable Energy in the Water, Energy & Food Nexus

In addition, five renewable energy projects in developing countries will be awarded loans under the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility, and REsource, a new search engine on all things renewable energy, will go live.

IRENA and the Financial Times will also host an invitation only Question Time Debate on innovation, technology, business and the future of energy. The event will be held at Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen airport, under the wing of the Solar Impulse plane.

The two-day Assembly marks the opening of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the largest sustainability gathering of global policy makers and business leaders in the Middle East. During this week, IRENA will hold 13 side events, offer expert briefings, and issue reports on renewable energy issues daily at the IRENA booth in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Information/documents on the Fifth Assembly
IRENA Assembly and ADSW Schedule

IRENA Newsroom

Welcome to IRENA’s blog on all things renewable energy.

Who are we? The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organization with 147 Member States (146 countries and the European Union). We promote the adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity. Learn more at www.irena.org.

The Switch to Renewable Power is a Battle We Cannot Afford to Lose (Op-Ed by IRENA Head)

(This article originally appeared in The Guardian on 24 December, 2015.)

AdnanZ-AminSince the final gavel fell at the Lima climate talks earlier this month, discussions have centred on one question: what did the talks actually accomplish?

After two weeks of intense negotiation, governments settled on a draft text that will hopefully lead to a successful global climate deal in Paris next December. While opinions vary regarding the success or failure of the outcome, there is another story emerging outside the negotiation room.

This year’s conference represented a highly-significant shift in the positive momentum to act on climate change. While negotiators engaged in contentious debates, businesses, non-governmental organisations and local authorities stepped forward to present their own climate initiatives and committed to more action on the ground.

In this shift, renewable energy took centre stage.

According to the Nazca Climate Action portal (named after Peru’s famous geoglyphs), 319 cities and 261 companies are taking action on climate change. Of the 913 total actions recorded so far, 402 relate to energy efficiency and 242 relate to renewable energy.

Private sector initiatives – such as RE100 and the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change – have also emerged to encourage businesses and investors to phase out fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy.

National governments are following suit. Peru plans to generate 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2024; Chile doubled its total renewable power capacity in 2014; Germany and Sweden will be carbon-free by 2050. The list goes on, including 144 countries with renewable energy targets, 50 countries supporting a total phase-out of carbon emissions by 2050 and 100 countries supporting zero emissions by 2100.

This action, and the hope it generates for an attainable solution to climate change, is being partly fuelled by the increasingly strong business case for renewable energy. Renewable energy is now the most cost-competitive source of power in many parts of the world.

In Dubai, solar-generated electricity reached a record-low price of six cents per kilowatt hour at an auction in November, cheaper than gas and coal. Similar low prices were achieved for solar power in Brazil in October.

Research by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) shows that a doubling of the world’s share of renewable energy by 2030, from about 18% in 2010 to 36%, would help avoid the worst effects of climate change and would be cheaper than not doing so.

When considering factors like the cost of ill health and environmental damage due to pollution, switching to renewable energy could save up to $740bn (£476bn) per year by 2030. If these costs were factored into energy prices, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures would be cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives.

Beyond cost, renewable energy improves public health and security, creates jobs, and boosts economic growth. Irena research finds that renewable energy jobs reached 6.5m globally in 2013 (the coal sector employed 7m people in the same year) and if steps are taken to double the share of renewable energy, this number could top 16m by 2030.

The momentum and action on renewable energy initiatives was not completely missed by negotiators in Lima. A carbon-free future is now formally part of the negotiations with the need to phase out fossil fuels considered one of the options in the draft negotiating text.

While this is a good first step, the emerging momentum must be injected further into the political discourse to fuel the agenda on climate action and spur a rapid transition to a low carbon future. Putting a price on carbon to create a level playing field for clean energy solutions will be an important driver of that agenda.

To accelerate the scale-up of renewables to the level required to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need urgent, bold steps, from leaders willing to take the short-term hits from those who would rather carry on with business as usual. This needs to happen at global and local levels, engaging everyone from governments and corporations to investors and individuals.

Vested interests and short-term thinking must be overcome. It will be a battle. But it is a battle we simply cannot afford to lose.

Quote of the Day: US Secretary of State John Kerry

Excerpts from his speech at the UN Climate Conference in Lima, Peru:

“Since President Obama took office, the United States has upped our wind energy production more than threefold, and we’ve upped our solar energy production more than tenfold. We’ve also become smarter about the way we use energy in our homes and businesses. And as a result, we’re emitting less overall than we have at any time in the last 20 years.

This is by far the most ambitious set of climate change actions that the United States has ever undertaken. And it’s the reason we were able to recently announce our post-2020 goal of reducing emissions from 26 to 28 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2025. That will put us squarely on the road to a more sustainable and prosperous economy. And the upper end of this target would also enable us to cut our emissions by 83 percent by 2050 – which is what science says we need to do to meet the goal of preventing over 2 degrees of Celsius warming.

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And at the end of the day, if nations do choose the energy sources of the past over the energy sources of the future, they’ll actually be missing out on the opportunity to build the kind of economy that will be the economy of the future and that will thrive and be sustainable.

Coal and oil may be cheap ways to power an economy today in the near term, but I urge nations around the world – the vast majority of whom are represented here, at this conference – look further down the road. I urge you to consider the real, actual, far-reaching costs that come along with what some think is the cheaper alternative. It’s not cheaper.

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And for everyone thinking that you can’t afford this transition or invest in alternative or renewable energy, do the real math on the costs. Consider the sizable costs associated with rebuilding in the wake of every devastating weather event. In 2012 alone, extreme weather events cost the United States $110 billion. When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last year, the cost of responding to the damage exceeded $10 billion.

The bottom line is that we can’t only factor in the cost of immediate energy need or energy transition. We have to factor in the long-term cost of carbon pollution. And we have to factor in the cost of survival itself. And if we do, we will find that the cost of pursuing clean energy now is far cheaper than paying for the consequences of climate change later

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I said earlier that the solution to climate change is as clear as the problem. It’s here. The solution is energy policy.

Round Up: Quotes on Renewable Energy from COP 20

 Paul Watkinson

“Renewables have a huge role to play in mitigating climate change because one of the key challenges is to decarbonize our energy system and renewables are the key way forward in doing that. Also, this is not just about reducing emissions, it’s about development, access to energy, and moving forward in a positive way…renewable energy can change people’s lives overnight. – Paul Watkinson, Head of Climate Negotiations team, France

 Adnan Amin

“To drive the rapid uptake of renewables, legislators have to take an urgent and active approach, adopting new policy frameworks at the national and regional levels. Without the support of legislators, we will be unable to turn the tide. I encourage you to come together and embrace the extraordinary opportunities the renewable revolution has to offer.” – Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General

 CF

“Quite frankly, there is no answer to climate change without substantially, dramatically, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the global energy system.” – Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC

 Espen Ronneberg

“Renewable energy, at least from the perspective of small islands states, is absolutely crucial in the fight against climate change. The amount of money we spend each year on fossil fuels in totally unsustainable. By utilizing renewables we can also significantly improve lives through energy access while reducing fossil fuel purchases.” – Espen Ronneberg, Climate Change Advisor, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

 Majid Al Suwaidi

“The United Arab Emirates recognized early that our economy was based on one thing, oil and gas, so we needed to diversify. Renewable energy projects now make economic sense, specifically solar for our region. If renewables work in the UAE, they can work anywhere in the world.” – Majid Al Suwaidi, Chief Climate Change Negotiator, UAE

 Barbara Hendricks

“Overall it is a question of gradually tackling a key challenge: power generation in Germany needs to be almost carbon-free by 2050 in order to achieve our national and European climate targets. Replacing fossil power generation with renewable energies makes the biggest contribution to this.” – Barbara Hendricks, Federal Environment Minister of Germany

 Mark Kenber

“Business is finding that committing to renewable energy makes sense. They are making the switch for business reasons…it actually saves them money.” – Mark Kenber, CEO of the Climate Group

 katjia

“Thanks to national policies, Sweden has achieved a 23% emission reduction since 1990 and our GDP has risen 60% during that same period. This proves that renewables make economic sense. Our dependency on fossil fuel has been reduced by half, and we are now one of the most renewable energy-dependent economies.” – Katja Awiti, Deputy Director General, Climate Department, Ministry of Climate and Environment Sweden

 Hullin

 “The future of renewable energy is fundamentally a choice. All of the resources and technologies are there, but legislators and governments have to choose a renewables path.” – Martin Hullin from REN21

 Rob Fowler

“I think renewable energy really has the primary role in mitigating climate change. If we are going to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which is the key here, then renewables have to take their place; energy is not going to stop being a necessary commodity for people.” – Rob Fowler, Gold Standard Foundation

Initiative Helps Islands Lead on Climate Action

Today is Lima Climate Action Day at COP 20, dedicated to strengthening the global message on the need to increase both ambition and collaboration on climate change.

To highlight actions already being taken and encourage further cooperative climate agreements, the government of Peru hosted a special event highlighting various initiates including: IRENA’s SIDS Lighthouse Initiative, Renewable Energy 100, and the Climate Bond initiative.

IRENA’s Elizabeth Press spoke about IRENA’s effort to develop more renewable energy in small island developing states (SIDS). Disconnected from mainland electricity grids, islands are especially vulnerable to price fluctuations for imported fossil fuels. But renewable energy deployment can help.

Elizabeth Press, IRENA

“SIDS can not only play their part, but can also lead in the global effort to mitigate climate change through the rapid deployment of renewables” Elizabeth Press, Deputy Director, Innovation and Technology Centre

IRENA launched its SIDS Lighthouses Initiative at the Climate Summit in New York on 23 September 2014. By 2020, the Lighthouse Initiative aims to:

  • Mobilize USD 500 million
  • Deploy 100 MW of new solar PV
  • Deploy 20 MW of new wind power
  • Deploy small hydropower and geothermal energy and a number marine technology projects in progress
  • Ensure all participating SIDS develop renewable energy road maps

By speeding the uptake of renewable energy on islands around the world, the Lighthouse Initiative will enable SIDS to lead by example on climate change. Maximising the use of indigenous, clean and plentiful renewable energy requires a structured, holistic approach to ensure long-term sustainability. The SIDS Lighthouse process will also capture invaluable lessons for the rest of the world.

Covering the latest news from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and developments in renewables.