x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Irena: Seeking clean energy for the world

Progress UAE: Four years after Abu Dhabi was chosen as home for the International Renewable Energy Agency, member countries now number 160, and international support for green, renewable energy continues to grow.

Dr Adnan Amin, secretary general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Irena's 21-member council meets twice a year and is currently in Abu Dhabi for a two-day meeting. Delores Johnson / The National
Dr Adnan Amin, secretary general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Irena's 21-member council meets twice a year and is currently in Abu Dhabi for a two-day meeting. Delores Johnson / The National

A mere four years after Abu Dhabi was chosen as the new headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the organisation's secretary general has spoken of the "remarkable" support it has received.

For Dr Adnan Amin, Irena's secretary general, the interest this week's council meeting generated shows that Irena has emerged as the "partner of choice" for countries and institutions working in the field of renewable energy.

"It is remarkable for us the level of political support the agency has been receiving right now," he said, adding that the interest also shows more and more countries are viewing clean energy as a "viable economic option for the future".

Among those countries is China, the nation with the world's largest carbon footprint, which formally declared its interest in joining Irena in January and this week submitted its membership papers to Irena's depository in Germany. Completing the process will take four months, Dr Amin said.

"By the time of the next assembly, China will become a fully-fledged member," he said.

The fifth council meeting welcomed delegates from 96 countries to Abu Dhabi.

The 21-member council meets twice a year, guiding Irena's programmes and helping to set the agenda for its annual assembly when decisions concerning the work and future of the agency are made. Irena engages with 160 member or partner countries.

Dr Adnan said that the level of support shown by countries means Irena hopes to "maintain the trajectory of budgetary growth", which has been increasing by 15 to 20 per cent a year in the past two years.

"There has been very strong support for strengthening of the financial base of the agency. There are no numbers as yet out there but we are expecting very significant growth of at least 15 per cent or so," he said.

The new budget, the first biannual budget for the agency, is to be adopted by its assembly in January.

The two-day meeting in the capital offered delegates the opportunity to discuss how to promote clean energy.

On Monday and Tuesday the topic was Sustainable Energy for All, a United Nations initiative that aims to double the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030. Irena had been asked to contribute to the effort and is working on REMAP 2030, a set of policy and technology recommendations on how to adopt clean energy more quickly.

"We discussed in the council and got strong support for the development of a framework that would bring all actors together on this issue," Dr Amin said.

"We hope to have, within a year, a global road map that has very precise guidance and information on optimal policy paths, technology options, technology paths and what the best case scenarios are for achieving the doubling target," he said.

If no additional measures are taken to encourage renewable energy, the world will be 9 or 10 per cent short of the goal, Dr Amin said.

The two-day meeting also included discussions on how to address the energy problems of isolated islands, and joint initiatives to assist refugees and boost food security in developing countries through renewable energy.

Before the council meeting, representatives of more than 20 countries attended a workshop on the proposed Africa Clean Energy Corridor initiative, designed to encourage the use of clean energy in meeting Africa's fast-rising energy needs.

African countries, said Dr Amin, have "a major choice in terms of infrastructure" facing them.

"Do they go with the energy-intensive polluting model of yesterday, conventional energy, or do they look to exploit the huge resource potential in renewable potential that they have in the corridor to fuel their future growth and support their sustainable prosperity?" he asked.

Irena wants to encourage countries to tap into their significant clean-energy potential from various sources - geothermal, wind and solar energy, as well as biomass and hydro power.

"We had an intensive two-day process to look at what are the parameters that need to be put in place to start this initiative moving," Dr Amin said.

"We expect that this will now go to the assembly at the ministerial level where ministers from these African countries will come to endorse some action agenda for the future transformation of East and Southern Africa to a clean energy corridor."