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