x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Irena chief: nuclear fears could lead push for renewable energy

Push for solar and wind power could gather strength in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, green body's director-general tells conference.

Push for solar and wind power could gather strength in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, green body's director-general tells conference.
Push for solar and wind power could gather strength in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, green body's director-general tells conference.

Abu Dhabi // Public fears in the aftermath of Japan's nuclear crisis could lead to a push for renewable energy sources, says the man in charge of the world's first green body to be based in Abu Dhabi.

"Since the tremendous scale of the nuclear disaster has become more apparent in Japan … all over the world people are starting to ask questions," Dr Adnan Amin, the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), said yesterday as the organisation concluded its first assembly.

Dr Amin was referring to continuing efforts to stop radioactive materials seeping from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Safety concerns led the German government to place a three-month moratorium on extending the life of ageing nuclear power stations and caused a rise in oil prices, which made renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power more attractive.

"The impetus towards looking at renewables today has definitely strengthened," Dr Amin said.

However, he said that investing in nuclear energy was "a sovereign decision that countries need to make".

"Nuclear energy has a number of strategic reasons to it. It has to do with energy security," he said. "Every country has a principal responsibility to provide for the energy needs of its citizens. We all know that nuclear energy has risks … we have known this for a number of decades."

The UAE is developing its own nuclear programme, with a South Korean consortium contracted to build four nuclear reactors in the country. The first power plant is expected in 2017, and the country eventually will meet 25 per cent of its power requirements through nuclear energy.

With the conclusion of Irena's inaugural assembly, the organisation became a fully fledged international body that will now receives mandatory funding from members.

Irena was created in 2009 and has 149 member states. The organisation works to develop knowledge about green energy, advise governments on how to adopt it more rapidly, and encourage research and development to make renewable energy more competitive economically.

"Renewable energy presents us with an alternative to the current polluting development models that we have," Dr Amin said. "We are excited with the challenge we have ahead of us and we are ready to go to work."

Renewable energy could help to address energy poverty, assisting the rural poor in developing countries and areas that lacked connections to conventional power supplies, Dr Amin said. It could also reduce countries' reliance on imported fossil fuels, while reducing carbon emissions.

 

Representatives of 21 countries including the UAE will be part of the Council of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The decision was made yesterday as Irena’s first assembly came to an end in Abu Dhabi.

Germany, France, the US and Australia are among the developed nations represented in the council. Developing nations such as Senegal, Tonga, Eritrea and Mali and also members.

The council, said Dr Adnan Amin, Irena’s director general, will play an important role in the organisation’s decision making. Decisions at Irena are made at bi-annual assemblies; discussing issues among 160 diverse countries can be challenging.

The council will have the task of holding consultations and preparing documents to inform the discussions of the full assembly.

“By the time member states come to the assembly, the decisions are much more streamlined,” said Dr Amin.

The UAE was confirmed this week as the permanent headquarters country for the green energy body.

vtodorova@thenational.ae