The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is born. It has been officially launched in a Conference held in Bonn and is sponsored by Germany. So far, 80 Countries have manifested their intention to participate in the new international mechanism. It is expected that half of them will sign its founding treaty (see SustainableBusiness.com’s article).
It is only a couple of letters away from the well established International Energy Agency (IEA). What is more, it even shares the fundamental DNA of the IEA as it seeks to “foster human development and economic growth with a secure, affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy supply” (my emphasis).
What does this mean for the future of renewable energy ?
As stated on its webpage, “IRENA aims at becoming the main driving force in promoting a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale.” (see full brochure). As of now, a plurality of organisms, donor agencies and multilateral bodies share this precise aim. This plurality results in inefficient overlapping of initiatives, sometimes with two similar projects being implemented in the same country with little or no coordination between them. IRENA as a main driving force is thus good news.
This aim will be fostered by : (1) Institutional capacity-building (enabling regulatory frameworks, fostering of policy dialogues between stakeholders, (2) Information sharing (benchmark/best practice, feasibility studies/tools) and (3) Technical and Financial assistance. All these elements are crucial, especially when it comes to busting barriers preventing the growth of renewable/clean energy in developing country. Even in some developed countries, the potential for renewable energy can be left severely untapped because of barriers such as lack of expertise, lack of an enabling incentive structure for investments in renewable energy, etc.
The IRENA will have to inspire its action by what has been done in the past while letting go of cumbersome approaches. If it is to succeed, market tools aimed at the incubation of sustainable markets for sustainable energies will have to be used in conjunction will classic technical assistance and capacity-building. Initiatives such as UNEP’s African Rural Energy Enterprise Development (AREED) and Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency’s (REEEP) various market approach (such as financial risk mitigation tools) will have to be explored.
With the United States back in green business, Europeans eager to ease energy dependency, developing countries hoping to benefit from technology transfer and emerging countries looking for new commercial niches, the potential for a powerful synergy is indubitable. Welcome, IRENA!