Published on January 23rd, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


7 Things IRENA Is Doing To Advance Renewable Energy

January 23rd, 2014 by  

We’ve posted a number of stories about the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) activities over the past couple of years. Numerous times, in the comments, people have raised questions about how much IRENA is actually doing to advance renewable energy and whether or not the agency is really useful. I love IRENA, and following a couple of announcements just made at the World Future Energy Summit and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, I had the idea to go ahead and run down a list of several things IRENA is doing that really are making a difference or will soon make a difference.

Before jumping into that list, however, I’ll start with a little background and context. It’s worth noting that IRENA is very, very young. Its founding conference was in January 2009 (in Bonn, Germany), but it wasn’t officially established until April 2011 (in Abu Dhabi, the UAE). Nonetheless, IRENA already has 124 members (123 nations and the European Union). It also has another 43 signatories. Creating programs and projects with that many participating nations is always going to result in some sluggishness, but that breadth of membership also allows for tremendous, powerful action.

Not even three years after its official establishment, IRENA has a lot to show for its name, and what it has created are the building blocks of very real and influential change. Here are very quick summaries of 7 IRENA highlights:

fossil fuel reductions 2030

1. REmap 2030. I just wrote about this the other day, so I hope you all read that REmap 2030 article. The quick summary of the REmap 2030 report is that it provides a realistic but fairly ambitious scenario for doubling renewable energy share globally by 2030. Furthermore, this initiative will produce 26 country-specific reports outlining how particular countries can achieve their share of this significant global renewable energy growth. These roadmaps are important because they will inspire, guide, and support the creation of actual, world-changing energy policies.

2. IRENA/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) Project Facility. This is again something that was unveiled in just the past week, and which I was lucky enough to cover at the press conference*. In total, this is a 7-year, $350 million concessional loan program that enables innovative renewable energy projects in developing countries. These projects can make a significant difference themselves, and they also provide an example for others to follow. At the press conference I attended in Abu Dhabi, it was noted that the first round of financing will deliver ~$41 million for 6 renewable energy projects on 6 continents, while private financing will raise the total investment to over $80 million. The next round of funding is now open for applications.


3. IRENA Costing Alliance Website. Providing genuine utility to businesses, governments, investors, and nonprofits around the world, IRENA recently launched a websites focused solely on the topic of renewable energy & electric vehicle costs. The aim is to make this site your “one-stop shop” for any renewable energy cost data. The website needs to include much more information to genuinely become that, but even at launch it provided a great number of renewable energy cost facts, charts, and graphs that I found very interesting and useful. This — along with a couple of other sites — is already at the top of my list for renewable energy cost facts and graphics. I’m sure that’s also true for many policymakers and businesspeople.

4. Renewables Readiness Assessments. We covered these briefly about one year ago. Seemingly something like a precursor to the country-specific REmap 2030 roadmaps, Renewables Readiness Assessments “offer a country-led approach to identify priority actions to boost renewable energy deployment, with buy-in from all key stakeholders.” If such assessments aren’t useful, I’m not sure what is!

5. Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network. Policy is a critical matter in all energy industries — renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels. To deny that is to deny reality. With renewable energy still a rather young industry, there is much to be learned and shared regarding effective renewable energy policies. Policy can be a very complicated matter, and this IRENA program, which connects renewable energy experts and businesspeople with policymakers around the world, offers incalculable benefits for the global renewable energy revolution.

6. IRENA’s Knowledge, Policy and Finance Center is an overarching IRENA arm. KPFC “has established a global repository of renewable energy knowledge and serves as a center of excellence for renewable energy and finance issues,” IRENA writes. “Through this function, IRENA will provide a knowledge gateway for  statistics on costs, employment, resource potential and status of deployment, along with research and information on policies, investment frameworks and socio-economic and environmental impact for renewable energy technologies.”

7. IRENA’s Global Renewable Energy Atlas is probably one of the agency’s oldest projects. I remember writing about it back in May 2012. As the largest effort worldwide to assess the energy potential of different renewable resources all around the world, it is a never-ending project. If you haven’t checked the atlas out yet, you should go have a look. The atlas includes a bounty of renewable energy resource maps, which have been provided by some of the world’s leading research institutes. “The Global Atlas aims to become the first reference point for renewable resource data and a catalyst for planning, policy development and investment in emerging and new renewable energy markets.” This is a tremendous resource for policymakers as well as renewable energy companies looking to serve emerging markets.

I think I’ve shown pretty clearly why I love IRENA so much, and have given a sense of how useful the agency has become in just a few years of existence. The global agency is working on other projects not listed above, including some projects not yet officially announced. I’m sure it won’t be too long before we have another big IRENA story to cover.

Check out all of my Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week for more articles along these lines. Subscribe to our main cleantech newsletter to never miss a beat.

*Full disclosure: My trip to and attendance at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was provided courtesy of Masdar.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Bob Nikon

    In my previous article I described how important the energy was to our preferred lifestyle. In this article I will lead you to delve down into the sources of energy. The energy that now becomes inseparable part of our lives and how we obtain it has been impacting our way of live.
    There are three major formations of fossil deposits that we obtain from mother nature: Natural gas, Coal and Crude Oil.
    Natural gas is a product of fossil deposits produced by nature which certainly takes a very long time. It is a type of carbon composition being trapped deeply underground. We use natural gas in limited ways comparing with electricity, in fact all functions that are fueled by natural gas can be replaced by electricity.
    Coal is another type of fossil deposits being produced by natural process underground. It is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Electricity is widely used in our way of live. Anything we want to nourish our preferred lifestyle, electricity can make it all happen. Electricity is a man-made product that can be obtained by consuming the fossil deposits such as coal, shale, woods and crude oil. Coal is the most efficient one. We burn these fossil deposits in order to obtain energy in the form of electricity and deliver through the grid. That is how energy will be available wherever it is needed.
    Crude oil is another type of the fossil deposits. It is a carbon composition preserved underground in the form of liquid. It has to be refined so that the machinery can consume. We use crude oil for all types of machinery. It has become the important fuel for our transportation needs.
    Over a century ago we lived on the oil from whales as our energy. At some point of time we came to realize that if we kept killing them for oil. Sooner or later there would be no whales left for the new generations to come. At the mean time we discovered these fossil deposits to replace the oil from whales. They were plentiful and effective but wouldn’t it end up with the same problem? Eventually, there will be nothing left. We have plenty of these fossil deposits in some different forms at the present time, plentiful supply that we can use until some of us may feel not to worry about. But with increasing numbers of population due to:-
    -the multiplication of reproduction on every new generation. Most of us are prone to do so. Reproduction is the most tenacious instinct in all creatures.
    -the advanced technologies in medical science that help fighting against any influenza epidemic that frequently attacks and kills people in large numbers.
    -the new nutritional researches that make people live longer and healthier.
    -the great efforts to study on big accidents like aviation related accidents that kill people in large numbers all at once, in order to prevent them from happening again.
    -the great wars like WW I & II are less likely to break out any more. The new generations start to realize more value of being born as human being. They are prone to settle down calmly over the conflicts that could lead to wars.
    All these factors point to the only one thing which is more population as the time goes by and everyone of us needs energy to live on. It will be a huge mistake if we continue living on our lives not to prepare for this situation. The depletion of fossil deposits may not occur in our generation or a few generations ahead. But it certainly will occur because the rate of replenishment by nature of these resources can not catch up with the rate of our energy consumption due to progressive rate of population growth. There are no arguments against this term. We are living on borrowed time and the clock is ticking. Eventually, we all will have to pay back and it will be painful and expensive. Not to mention about the inauspicious circumstances that are created day by day to augment the effects of global worming on our natural surroundings.
    It has been a very long time since we have learned how energy can enrich our lives and we have striven to obtain the energy from different sources. The sources have been changed from time to time to be benign for environment and more reliable. Despite all the efforts, we have gone on the wrong track time after time. We live on with no plans at all when it comes to energy. It’s time to make a change now folks, once and for all. Because a right choice is now at our disposal. Join me on this fight, it will be a fight to draw solid plans for our certain future and a clean planet to live. Finally, we can have solid plans for all. Go to and participate in. Watch for my next article about free energy for eternity. I have a solid plan to reveal. We can eventually extricate ourselves completely from carbon footprint.

  • Achmed Khammas

    Ok, the Global Renewable Energy Atlas could help somehow. BUT: a Chronology of Global Renewable Energy would be much more interesting for the billions of people on this planet. And this is been done by ONE man.
    See here:

  • EcoTrotter

    Good job, IRENA!

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