February 
2009

Vol 8 - No. 8


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ENVIRONMENT


 

                      
Photo: IRENA

Boost for Renewable Energies

 

BY RAMESH JAURA

 

More than 60 countries around the globe have set themselves ambitious targets to enlarge the share of renewable energies in their national energy consumption. But for want of specific advice, only a few have achieved these targets so far.

 

The new intergovernmental organization, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) founded on January 26 at an international conference in Bonn, Germany, will close the gap that exists between the enormous potential of renewables and their current relatively low market share in energy consumption. IRENA is the first international organisation to focus exclusively on the issue of renewable energies, addressing both the industrialised and the developing world.

 

It is not surprising therefore that more than 120 government delegations from across the world attended the conference and 75 nations, a broad cross-section of developing and industrialised countries, signed the agency’s statute. Many others expressed their strong commitment to IRENA’s goals and their intention to join in the near future.

 

The conference was chaired by Germany's Federal Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. As Denmark and Spain from the outset had actively supported the preparation of the conference together with Germany, the respective Ministers, Connie Hedegaard (Danish Minister for Climate and Energy) and Miguel Sebastián Gascón (Spanish Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism) were elected Vice-Chairs.

 

Among the 75 founding countries are many European countries, including France, Italy and Poland, and many developing nations from Africa, such as Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, from Asia, like the Republic of Korea, India and the Philippines, and from Latin America, including Guatemala, Chile and Argentina.

 

Keeping up the great momentum that had been generated, IRENA began its work only one day after the founding conference, on January 27. At the first session of the preparatory commission the signatories adopted criteria and procedures for selecting IRENA’s interim director-general and its interim headquarters and invited the members to put forward candidatures by April 30.

 

They also created the institutional framework that will allow IRENA to embark on first elements of its working programme. The preparatory commission welcomed the invitation of Egypt to host the next session, planed for next June, where decisions will be taken on the agency’s interim director-general and interim headquarters.

 

The main task of IRENA will be to advise its members on creating the right frameworks, building capacity, and improving financing and the transfer of technology and know-how for renewable energies. IRENA will cooperate closely with other international organisations and institutions active in the field of renewable energy. These include organisations and networks such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) and the Canadian Residential Energy Efficiency Project (REEEP), working at the local, national and international levels to expand the use of renewable energies. But none of these offers both industrialised and developing countries support with regard to developing renewable energies.

 

This is where IRENA comes in: the agency will give its members concrete advice on developing and expanding political frameworks for promoting renewable energies, whilst seeking to work closely with existing organisations and initiatives. By coordinating existing measures, IRENA will enhance synergy effects and help to avoid any duplication of efforts. One of IRENA’s key advantages will be its global orientation and membership basis.

 

The Agency will advise its member states using an integrated, practice-oriented approach that takes the following three specific aspects and the individual situation in each country into account.

 

These include:

1. Improving the political environment for renewable energies through targeted political advice;

2. Expanding technology transfer in the area of renewables;

3. Supporting capacity building measures for renewable energies.

 

IRENA provides political advice but does not strive to develop international regulations and agreements single-handedly. Instead, all its services will be provided only in response to requests from individual member states or groups of member states.

 

IRENA will not intervene in other countries’ energy policies of its own accord, nor make any attempts to enforce certain political concepts. All its activities will be decided upon by the member states.

IRENA will not make available any technologies to its members. Rather, the agency will offer its member states practical support in identifying appropriate mechanisms for financing and implementing technology transfer measures and for the long-term maintenance and servicing of technology applications. Expert workshops will make an important contribution to this end.

 

Moreover, IRENA will facilitate the transfer of technologies and knowledge from public and private research and development projects by establishing databases containing best practices and setting up a flexible exchange system between the member states.

 

As regards capacity building, IRENA will act as a mediator and a catalyst by financing various programmes and offering support for national governments and the private sector.

 

Whenever possible, capacity building measures are to be carried out jointly with local institutions in the respective recipient countries. In order to identify needs and requirements, it will be necessary to take stock of current activities by national and international donor organisations.

 

This will allow for improved coordination of activities and place a focus on those areas and methods in which or through which the best results can be achieved. In the area of capacity building, IRENA will also focus on the training of multipliers.

 

Further goals pursued by IRENA are:

- Advising member states on financing options;

- Making available professionally prepared information and material to support the member states in their public relations activities;

- Developing a scientifically backed information pool based on applied policy research.

 

IRENA will focus its activities on supporting all forms of renewable energies. These include:

- Bio-energy

- Geothermal energy

- Ocean energy (e.g. tidal power and marine current power)

- Solar power

- Hydropower

- Wind energy

 

In order for projects to be eligible for IRENA promotion, the energy production methods must fulfil certain sustainability criteria.

[Source: Voices of the South on Globalization ]

 

Ramesh Jaura is chief editor of the Globalom Media group, president of Euforic-Europe's Forum on International Cooperation in Maastricht (The Netherlands) and Director of IPS-Inter Press Service Europe in Berlin.

 

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