IRENA’s Sixteenth Council Concludes

15 November 2018| Articles

Governing body discusses energy access, corporate sourcing, the energy transition, and the future direction of the Agency

“The global energy system is transforming at an astonishing scale and pace,” IRENA Director-General Mr Adnan Z. Amin told over 350 representatives from 110 countries, attending the Agency’s Sixteenth Council. “Profound trends in the global economy, coupled with the imperatives of sustainable development and climate change, are shifting prior assumptions about the energy system.”

Gathering in Abu Dhabi from 13 to 15 November 2018, delegates to IRENA’s biannual decision-making body expressed their support for IRENA’s work, learned the latest programmatic developments since the last Council in May 2018, and set the future course through important administrative and institutional decisions.

After electing the National Director of Promotion of Renewable Energy in Argentina’s Secretariat of Energy, Mr Maximiliano Morrone as Council Chair and Samoan Ambassador Ms Faalavaau Sila-Tualaulelei as Vice-Chair, the IRENA Director-General presented the annual report to the Council. Mr Amin described how the accelerated deployment of low-carbon energy technology and energy efficiency, as central to decarbonisation strategy, called for “fundamental shifts in investments and mindsets,” and that, “These shifts have to occur at many levels - in how policies are set, how businesses are run, and how household decisions are made.”

Presenting what happened at IRENA’s International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference and Renewable Energy Solutions for Healthcare Facilities conference held earlier this month in Singapore, IRENA’s Mr Salvatore Vinci described findings showing how off-grid renewables play a central role in addressing almost all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. IRENA Members made interventions explaining their countries’ efforts to improve rural energy access with off-grid renewables. Philippines’ Ambassador Ms Hjayceelyn Quintana said it was a dream “that all Filipinos across our islands archipelago, will have access to sustainable energy,” and that off-grid renewables would play a key role in achieving their 100% electrification goal by 2022. Permanent Secretary in Zimbabwe's Ministry of Energy and Power Development Gloria Magombo, explained how her country’s electrification fund has used energy from off-grid solar panels to refrigerate vaccines and provide lighting for women in childbirth.

IRENA’s programmatic discussion on corporate sourcing of renewable energy, shared with Members the findings of Corporate Sourcing of Renewable Energy: Market and Industry Trends, a report released during May 2018’s Clean Energy Ministerial in Copenhagen, Denmark. Acting Director of IRENA’s Knowledge, Policy and Finance Centre, Ms Rabia Ferroukhi, shared how around the world companies sourced 465 terawatt-hours of renewable electricity in 2017, which is comparable to the electricity demand of France.

Highlighting one of IRENA’s flagship initiatives, the Clean Energy Corridors, Acting Director of IRENA Country Support and Partnerships, Mr Gurbuz Gonul described the support given to countries in identifying high-potential areas for solar and wind development, and aligning it with longer term energy planning. Mr Werner Vargas, Executive Director of SG-SICA, said closer cooperation with IRENA through the initiative is helping Central America achieve its strategy of reducing fossil fuel and increasing renewable energy penetration. Senior Assistant Director of Renewable Energy at Kenya’s Ministry of Energy, Mr Paul Mbuthi explained that his country believes that energy interconnections facilitate trade and that IRENA’s clean energy corridor work is helping raise awareness and buy-in to extend the reach of clean energy access across East Africa.

Presenting at the final programmatic discussion on emerging solutions for the power sector transformation, Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre Mr Dolf Gielen shared the findings of September’s IRENA Innovation Week, saying that power sector transformation is not just about developing technology, but also enabling market design, operations, and business plans, and that successful innovations combine two or more of these aspects. Mr Ruud Kempener of the European Commission emphasised the importance of policy makers interacting directly with innovators, and the Secretary of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Anand Kumar, called on for greater integration of renewables globally through one common grid, to optimally utilise resources and overcome problems of storage.

Two side events discussed IRENA’s latest released tools and ongoing developments. In the session Flexibility of the Energy Transition, attendees were introduced to the newly released ‘Flextool’ — a tool that can support IRENA’s Members in finding the most cost-effective mix of flexibility solutions in their power systems. During the Streamlining project finance for renewable energy projects session, Mr Serkan Ata, from IRENA’s Knowledge, Policy and Finance Centre, described the Agency’s ongoing effort to develop standardised project documentation and how facilitating access to risk mitigation can increase investment and accelerate the energy transition. A panel discussion including Mr Hunaid Contractor from First Abu Dhabi Bank, Mr Wim Alen from ENGIE, and Mr Jef Vincent from IRENA, emphasised how documentation standardisation helps streamline processes for both investors and developers.

Mr Roland Roesch, Deputy-Director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre introduced attendees to IRENA’s project facilitation suite, which includes the Project Navigator, the Sustainable Energy Marketplace, the Global Atlas for Renewable Energy, and the IRENA/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) Project Facility.

At the Council, the IRENA/ADFD facility announced the opening of its seventh funding cycle. Continuing its pledge to provide concessional loans to renewable energy projects, the ADFD is making up to USD 50 million available for government guaranteed projects that increase energy access, improve livelihoods, and advance sustainable development, around the world.

During the Council’s final day, a selection committee interviewed candidates and advanced the selection process for the position of the next IRENA Director-General, which will be decided at the ninth IRENA Assembly in January 2019.

Photos from the Council can be found on IRENA’s Flickr.