The proposal for an international agency dedicated to renewable energy was made in 1981 at the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, held in Nairobi, Kenya. The idea was further discussed and developed by major organisations in the field of renewable energy, such as Eurosolar.

As global interest in renewable energy steadily increased, world leaders convened in several settings to focus on renewable energy policies, financing and technology. Key meetings included the World Summit for Sustainable Development 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the annual G-8 Gleneagles Dialogue, the 2005 Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference, and the 2004 Bonn International Renewable Energy Conference.

The Bonn conference’s concluding resolution included support for the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), supported by the International Parliamentary Forum on Renewable Energies. It would take just a few years more for the idea to become reality.

IRENA’s first Preparatory Conference (Berlin, 10-11 April 2008)

With demand for energy growing rapidly and climate-change concerns rising, the meeting of the “IRENA Initiative” came at a critical juncture. A total of 170 representatives from 60 states expressed their overall support for the founding of a IRENA as early as possible, increasing political momentum. Whilst the basic instruments of such an agency were to be agreed upon at a later stage, the objective was clear: IRENA should be become the first intergovernmental organisation dedicated to promoting renewable energy.

Preparatory Workshops (Berlin, 30 June – 1 July 2008) 

Two preparatory workshops were convened in Berlin from 30 June 2008 to 1 July 2008. More than 100 representatives of more than 44 states attended, and addressed the founding treaty of IRENA (the IRENA Statute), the financing mechanisms, and the outline of an initial work programme. The workshops were yet another important step in the establishment of IRENA.

IRENA’s final Preparatory Conference (Madrid, 23-24 October 2008)

The Final Preparatory Conference took place just a few months later, underlining the strong global commitment to the new agency. More than 150 representatives from 51 states gathered to discuss the key issues that would ultimately enable a IRENA to start operating in the form of a preparatory commission by January 2009. A draft of the IRENA Statute was agreed on, as were important matters such as financing, the criteria and procedures for selecting the Interim Director-General and interim headquarters, and the planning for the initial phase of IRENA’s work. More states soon joined the initiative.

IRENA Founding Conference (Bonn, 26 January 2009)

IRENA was officially founded in Bonn, Germany, on 26 January 2009. Its Founding Conference remains a significant milestone for world renewable energy deployment. Governments worldwide made clear their commitment to changing the global energy paradigm, with 75 states signing the IRENA Statute at the time.

Considering the magnitude and urgency of the tasks ahead, the agency was required commence activity as quickly as possible. A preparatory commission was established the next day, to act as an interim institutional body until the ratification of IRENA’s Statute by a quorum of at least 25 states.

IRENA Preparatory Commission Sessions (2009-2011)

The Preparatory Commission for IRENA, consisting of representatives from signatory states, had a key role in preparing the institutional structures for this new intergovernmental organisation and made further progress on implementing decisions taken the Final Preparatory Conference.

Five sessions of the Preparatory Commission for IRENA were held between 2009 and 2011. At the second session in June 2009, Abu Dhabi, of the United Arab Emirates, was selected to host the interim headquarters of IRENA. Helene Pelosse, a French citizen, was appointed Interim Director-General.

  • First session (January 26, 2009)
  • Second session (Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, June 29-30, 2009)
  • Third session (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, January 17, 2010)
  • Fourth session (Abu Dhabi, October 24-25, 2010)
  • Fifth session (Abu Dhabi, 3 April 2011)

Commission attendees created an administrative Committee to assist the preparatory commission in preparing its next sessions, support the necessary next steps, and ensure efficient internal and external communication.

Following the entry into force of the IRENA Statute on 8 July 2010, preparations began for the first Assembly of IRENA. On 4 April 2011, only three years after the first conference to discuss IRENA’s formation, the preparatory commission was disbanded and IRENA was officially born.