24 january 2019

[The following report was sent in an email to 4C as a member of the Climate Action Network, the umbrella organization for several hundred environmental organizations across the planet. The letter concerns the activities and policies of IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency. The author, Stephan Singer, is CAN's senior advisor on global energy policies. We post this summary with his permission.]


Dear Friends

For CAN, I attended last week’s General Assembly (GA) of IRENA, the international country-members based organisation in Abu Dhabi promoting rapid and ambitious renewable energy uptake. Here are the crucial facts and outcomes. Generally, more is documented here

IRENA now has 160 member countries, most of the larger nations but still lacking nations that are crucial for renewables nationally and in their region such as Brazil, Tanzania, Austria.

The GA saw a record of invited participants of more than 1100 persons, among them about 40 energy ministers (primarily from developing countries, mainly Africa) and about 90 vice-energy ministers and heads of energy/economy departments from their respective countries.

The GA elected a new DG, after 8 years of the successful leadership of Adnan Amin (Kenya). The new DG is an experienced Italian energy policy administrator and climate negotiator.

The rules now allow CSO to apply in advance for the various ministerial roundtables to attend and speak at the GA – things we as CAN have to explore further for next year.

IRENA issued a short report at the beginning saying that the world needs to six-fold annually its investments for renewable energy and associated infrastructure to be able to meet the Paris agreement objectives. This is than slightly lower (c. $US 1.8 trillion annually) than the assessed IPCC number of $US 2.4 trillion between 2016 and 2035 on average from the 1.5 C report for full decarbonisation of the energy sector. This is higher than earlier estimated by IRENA and might underestimate the need for boosting investments into energy efficiency as well.


(my personal assessments as there are no binding results)

Refreshing that none (as far as I know) of the high level and energy-ministerial statements cautioned about “common but differentiated responsibility” and thus fully accepted the potentially beneficial role of renewables for their own country – independent of other country actions

Statements by governments hailed the extremely beneficial role of renewables for non-climate benefits such as jobs, air pollution, saving water resources etc.

A special ministerial segment led by Switzerland, China, Ethiopia and Norway cheered the necessary role of (sustainable) hydro power to augment in particular solar and wind with back-up power and storage.

Several governments supported the role of increased renewable energy to be fundamental part of the enhanced NDC for 2030.

Several governments, however, particularly from Africa cautioned against the “hype” of renewables being the key source for energy in the future – though accepting the growing role of RES, they warned about affordability, reliability in particular wrt solar and wind and confirmed that fossil fuels will remain the key bone of economic development in foreseeable future.

Several governments highlighted the fundamental role of energy efficiency as the twin of growing renewables and recommended that IRENA in future should take up that issue in more detail in combination with RES growth.


The growing non-governmental CfA, established in 2012 with the key support of inter alia WWF and Greenpeace as CAN members, REN21 and solar and wind manufacturers, now contains 86 members from CSO (c. 25%), think tanks, renewable energy promoters and trade associations, renewable-based utilities, manufacturers etc. – But no cooperate users or regional governments/cities.

There had been three reports by the respective working groups and which were discussed in plenary by the authors and presented to governmental stakeholders and participants. On 100% RES and case studies (where CAN contributed a lot) on investment needs for renewables and addressing bottlenecks in countries, and on community-owned approaches to energy.

The work on 100% RES within CfA will go ahead with more detailed case studies on legislation and challenges, particularly for cities and countries. More to follow individually to those interested.

REN21, where CAN is member to, has established a Steering Committee for the conduct of the large biannual global conference on renewables in Korea, 22-26 October (KIREC) with the support of the Korean government and other donors. CAN is invited to be part of that Steering Committee and we will proceed that accordingly.

I had several talks and meetings with ministers and ministerial delegates as well as IRENA staff on a number of issues with RES. I will revert back to those only who work on that in more detail.

>>> Back to list