IRENA Eleventh Assembly Live Day 3

20 January 2021| Articles

IRENA Assembly – Day 3: Watch on demand

Ministerial: Renewables and Pathway to Carbon Neutrality - Innovation, Green Hydrogen and Socioeconomic Policies

Ministerial: Driving the Agenda for Energising Healthcare

Watch on demand: Day 1 and Day 2 Assembly sessions.

Almost 2000 delegates from more than 150 governments, the private sector and civil society will gathered virtually to discuss key issues in the global energy transformation and chart the way forward for the Agency against a backdrop of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

This live blog provides a rolling coverage of the Eleventh Assembly Events as they happened. 

See the  Full Programme


The 11th Assembly came to a close. 

The discussions and interventions allow IRENA to set a clear agenda for the coming year. The Member's endorsement of the launch of the Global High-Level Forum on Energy Transitions on the last day of the Assembly confirms IRENA's crucial role in shaping the energy transition dialogue. 

On the last day of the 11th Assembly, 21 January, Members are reporting back on Ministerial plenary sessions and other events, including the IRENA Legislators Forum, Public-Private Dialogue and the IRENA Youth Forum.

Closing remarks were delivered by IRENA Director-General, who urged for an increased and continuous cooperation between the energy and health sectors to find common solutions. Mr. Francisco Chacón Hernández, as representative for the Vice President of the 11th Assembly, officially closed the Roundtable thanking everyone who participated and listened in.


Mr. Luc Severi, Programme Manager, Powering Healthcare of SEforAll offers his view by saying that one area that is critical for SEforALL programme powering healthcare in Africa is collaboration. It requires inter-sectoral solutions, bridged by common understanding on the needs from both energy and health sectors.

IRENA and SEforAll along with WHO co-organised a webinar with the topic ‘Powering Healthcare: Best Practices, Lessons and Considerations’, last year, to highlight emerging efforts in powering healthcare facilities as part of the broader COVID-19 response.

The interventions continue with Mr. Mohammed Alsayed, Manager of Economic Infrastructure Division at Islamic Development Bank, and Mr. Daniel Schroth, Acting Director Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, African Development Bank who agree that the needs to electrify healthcare facilities is crucial particularly this time. Some of the aspects they mention are business models to realise the renewable solutions and maintenance of these solutions.

Ms. Saira Zaidi, Manager of Clinton Health Access Initiative agrees with the speakers before her "From The Clinton Health Access Initiative experience, mobilising capital to scale up clean energy projects is important in making sure projects take shape in areas of the world that most need it," she adds.

Mr. Gautam Narasimhan, Senior Advisor, Energy and Climate at UNICEF stated that there is wide benefit and high value in financing renewable energy for healthcare. "UNICEF has spent the last 50 years trying to convince that healthcare for children is key to sustainable future. That is why we need to advance efforts to electrify healthcare facilities that can help children grow up with better life quality," he concluded.


In his turn to offer a perspective, Mr. Harish Hande, Co-Founder of SELCO Foundation, says that the combination of health and sustainable energy is a powerful nexus. "Because it will require us to find innovative solutions that will democratise the electrification efforts. We need to rethink on education on the connection between energy and health. Let us challenge ourselves to democratise this process of electrifying the world. Let's make sure for example to deliver a baby smoothly in the most remote part of the world, supported by these innovative technologies," he adds. He continues saying that without action there will be no improvement encouraging the participants to scale up investment in electrification of disadvantaged communities.

Mr Kostiantyn Gura, Acting Head of State Agency on Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving, Ukraine says that although the deployment of renewable energy has increased in the past year in the country, the pandemic adds urgency to add even more capacity. Renewables solutions can ensure continuous power supply in healthcare facilities and at the same time, bring us faster to achieve climate neutrality as per Paris Agreement goals. 


Ms. Sofia Martinez, Policy Officer of European Commission said that the EU has committed EUR 500 million to the vaccines initiative. "We need to do more and better to catalise private investment in our efforts to increase renewable energy with Africa as our priority." She moves on to add that the EU has launched the Africa & Europe working group to advance electricity in Africa, which includes access to clean cooking, consequently improving peoples health and living conditions in the region.


During his intervention, H.E. Mr Sten Arne Rosnes, Ambassador of Norway to the UAE and Permanent Representative to IRENA says that regular electricity supply is key to improved healthcare and economies. "In Sub-Saharan Africa, access to renewable and sustainable energy should be placed at the heart of recovery measures to the pandemic. Renewable technologies should be expanded as soon as possible. renewables also helps to improve gender equality, as maternity-related death rate is reduced, the quality of motherhood is improved, families experience better livelihoods," he says.


Hon. Mr. Soda Zhemu, Minister of Energy and Power Development, Zimbabwe shares his country’s perspective saying that access to energy resources to rural health centers can be accelerated by the rapid deployment of off-grid renewable energy technologies. "We request IRENA's support in establishing the decentralised solar solutions in Zimbabwe's rural communities, by facilitating access to funding," he concludes. 

IRENA invites financial institutions to become Partners, and also encourages requests to obtain support for project development and access to finance for a renewable energy project under the organisation's activities supporting the Climate Investment Platform (CIP). Through regional Investments Forums, IRENA will facilitate matching investors to promising and bankable projects.

The first intervention comes from Hon. Mr. Jone Usamate, Minister for Infrastructure & Meteorological Services, Fiji, who says that small-island nation like Fiji require the support to increase access to power in rural areas. "We have received the support of the UAE who provided solar power that helped us to power rural areas including healthcare facilities," he says. Mr. Usamate emphasises that the main challenge for Fiji is to secure funding to deploy renewable energy solutions for healthcare. "IRENA has been instrumental in connecting us with the support we need," he adds, followed by an expression of appreciation to IRENA and partner organisations.

Concluding the panel discussion, Mr. Yumkella says that the main call in this panel discussion is joint efforts and concerted actions. "We're trying to send the message that health and energy ministers must work together. Everyone here has done their share, but we need to support them in stepping up the progress, faster, and at scale," he added. "And like Dr. Maria Neira said, let's also not leave anyone behind," he concludes. He then hands over the floor to the Vice President of #IRENA11A-at this time Mr. Francisco Chacón Hernández who is replacing H.E. Mr. Rolando Castro--to invite interventions from the IRENA membership and stakeholders.


Mark Carrato, Coordinator of US Aid Power Africa’s initiative says that at Power Africa there are two main - and very clear – goals. “The deployment of 30 000 megawatts of renewable energy, and development 60 000 home and business power connections in sub-Saharan Africa.” He goes on to explain how private actors can play a larger role in the electrification of rural health facilities. "Clinics need to store vaccines and powered medical equipment. Lack of energy access in healthcare facilities is one of the major problems in Africa. Increasing access in Africa means improved economies and more saved lives," he adds. He points out decentralized energy solutions as one of the most cost-effective ways to bring energy to poor, rural communities. 

“The need for electricity is incredibly urgent and tragically simple. COVID-19 has shown in detail what we have already known, energy poverty has massive implications on human and economic development,” he concludes.  

IRENA and Power Africa renewed their commitment to work together to co-develop financing pathways for renewables development in Africa yesterday, on the margins of the Assembly. 


Dr. Maria Neira, World Health Organization (WHO)’s Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, echoes other panellists’ view on the importance of bridging health and energy communities to address common challenges. WHO is supporting countries and health sector stakeholders in prioritising access to clean, reliable and affordable energy for health facilities, particularly in rural settings. "Speaking as a medical doctor who feels the frustration of her colleagues over the lack of energy access in healthcare facilities in many parts of the world, I say we need to accelerate the transition to power healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas," she concluded.

IRENA joined the World Bank and WHO along with the International Energy Agency and the United Nations Statistics Division, in developing the Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report last year, highlighting the progress towards achieving universal access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy by 2030. The report also puts an emphasis on the need to deploy renewable energy to provide solutions to the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic, especially in remote, rural, poorer and vulnerable communities.



H.E. Mr. T.S. Singh Deo, India’s Minister of Health & Family Welfare & Medical Education, Government of Chhattisgarh, shares how India has successfully implemented a solar power project to energise health facilities in the State of Chhattisgarh. The lessons-learned that the government can draw and share with others is that solar energy has emerged as a solution to power rural areas including healthcare facilities in India. "The solar energy option seems to be the most viable option in India. Not only it saves costs, it also provides clean air, further reducing pollution," he says. "We have also seen the use of solar energy in powering medicines storage, something that is very relevant with the current context of the need to store vaccines," he conluded reffering to the current COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination storage demand.


Hon. Dr. Bachir Ismael Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Energy said that “COVID-19 provides us with an opportunity to scale up renewable energy solutions, especially with the continuously reduced costs of these technologies. This is good news for countries like Burkina Faso. That way, more renewable energy can be deployed, connect it to healthcare facilities, and save lives.”



We now enter the Panel Discussion session, moderated by H.E. Mr. Kandeh Yumkella, Member of Parliament, Sierra Leone. Mr. Yumkella makes a brief introduction to the session and to the panellists. The first panellist invited to give intervention is Hon. Mr. John-Peter Amewu, Minister of Energy, Ghana, shares his country’s experience in increasing energy access in rural Ghana, especially to ensure health facilities are well-powered to serve those who need them.

Ghana has now achieved 85% of energy access through grid extension, with the goal to improve the livelihood of rural Ghana. Decentralised renewable solutions have become the favoured solution to electrify rural areas. The deployment of renewable-based solutions such as off-grid solar energy for health facilities is key to store vaccines and medications, and power medical devices that can save lives. "Can you imagine going to a healthcare facility to get medical treatment only to experience a power cut?" he asked. "Our government is putting measures to deploy solutions such as solar power and batteries that can solve such problem," he concluded.


The Vice President invites the last keynote speech from Mr. Alex de Jonquières, Director Health Systems & Immunisation Strengthening, GAVI, who emphasises the importance of global immunisation to improve healthcare around the world and empower communities. GAVI feels that access to energy is key during this time when vaccine is needed in massive numbers and requires storage. “Renewable energy can definitely play a role here,” he says. “We have learned that when it comes to vaccines, it needs continuous power for storage. Sustainable, reliable energy solutions can meet that need.," he added. “Vaccines don’t deliver themselves, they need a robust supply chain that keep them cold every step of the way. Technology enables us to do things that we couldn’t conceive 10 years ago,” he continued saying that GAVI is working on establishing solar power access in different communities to ensure the needs to store and distribute vaccines are met at scale and on time.

Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary General, UN DESA now takes his turn to deliver the keynote speech. He agrees with other speakers that energy is indispensable to eradicate poverty and achieve SDGs by leaving no one behind. “As the world tries to recover from the pandemic, the nexus of energy and health becomes more important than ever. We also must remind ourselves that current unsustainable and fossil based energy in households means lack access to clean cooking solutions, causing deaths in high number worldwide,’’ he remarked. To that end, UN DESA has collaborated with other agencies including IRENA whose leadership in renewable energy is crucial in this collective effort.

The Vice President continues by inviting Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President, Rockefeller Foundation to deliver his keynote speed. DR. Shah says that the Rockefeller Foundation has committed USD 1 billion to address inclusive growth starting by increasing access to clean energy for productive recovery, ideally using renewable energy. “As Dr. Tedros noted, with the right investment, we can make sure all public healthcare facilities are powered to meet the needs of their communities,” he added. He goes on to reaffirm the Foundation’s commitment to work closely with regional and international partners to make sure policy frameworks are in place in support of these efforts.


In his introductory remarks, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization outlined five principles behind electrification of healthcare: dramatically increase investment, advocate political commitment. provide healthcare solutions for poor and marginalized, drive enabling policies and increase compression between energy and health sector.  

“It is unacceptable that there are still many healthcare facilities especially in rural areas that lack access to energy. It is a matter of life and death. Now with the COID19 pandemic, this need becomes more urgent than ever. That is why investment in energy access for healthcare facility, mobilisation of efforts in countries that need them most, strengthened cooperation among countries, should be a key priority,” he said.


IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera opened the session mentioning that the spread of COVID-19 has brought the crucial issue of electrifying healthcare centres to the fore. Hundreds of millions around the world still rely on healthcare facilities either without or with unreliable electricity, mainly residing in poor, marginalized communities from low- and middle-income countries.

Mr. La Camera says that decentralised renewable energy presents affordable, reliable and rapidly deployable solutions to energise healthcare, improve people's lives with impact, especially in rural context. This requires long-term planning by both the energy and health policy makers. Even before the pandemic, promoting dialogue on the nexus of renewable energy and health has been IRENA’s priority.

Watch the scene-setting video: 

Welcome to the second Ministerial Roundtable of the day and the last in IRENA 11th Assembly. In this ministerial roundtable on Driving the Agenda for Energising Healthcare, governments and partners will dwell on the crucial nexus between energy and health and exchange on challenges and opportunities in the deployment of renewables based solutions to power healthcare infrastructure in developing countries. The Roundtable aims to bring together a range of perspectives on this very important global development priority.

IRENA Deputy Director General, Gauri Singh, closed this Roundtable by highlighting the shared view on the importance of increasing the role of green hydrogen in the decrabonisation efforts. IRENA understands that the Agency needs to lead these efforts and align them with the Paris Agreement goals. "It is clear from the discussion that reaching net zero is a huge challenge but there are growing number of options to achieve that,” she concluded.


Mr Griff Thompson, Office Director, Department of State, United States of America focused on the potential of green hydrogen and stated “Of great significance is the amount of remarkable investment that governments are putting into green hydrogen from production to distribution. Green hydrogen needs to be considered in relation to all other elements that form the pathway to carbon neutrality. A green future and green hydrogen will require green returns.” He concluded calling for international cooperation on scaling up green hydrogen saying the US is looking forward to work with IRENA to pave the way for hydrogen to compete globally


H.E. Mr Henrik Landerholm, Ambassador, Sweden underlined that climate change is indeed the most important challenge in our time. Innovation in technology and services would give us a way towards energy efficiency, he added.

H.E. Mr Franz-Michael Mellbin, Ambassador, Denmark said “Denmark believes that hydrogen can play a very important role in hard-to-decarbonise sectors. Still a lot of work needs to be done and many countries have to work together to agree on how to create the best opportunities for large-scale hydrogen production.”


During his intervention, Mr. Xing Yiteng, Director, Department of New and renewable Energy, National Energy Administration, China underlined that climate change is a global challenge that we need to combat together. He added that the time is short to act - we only have a few years left to act and achieve climate neutrality goals.

He continued saying that his country will have an installed capacity of 1200 GW of solar and wind energy by 2030, while working to restrict the volume of energy consumed through improved energy efficiency technologies and the encouragement of low-carbon lifestyles. He concludes: “Climate change is threatening our very survival. We need a common community for our shared future.”

H.E. Dr Javier Papa, Under Secretary of Energy Planning, Secretary of Energy Argentina also continued the discourse on hydrogen. The Argentinian government has long acknowledged the potential of hydrogen, however the current administration is working toward the development of a new hydrogen national strategy, he said. “The prospect of the use of hydrogen in Argentina is now attracting the interest of many private companies across the country,” he added.

In his intervention, Mr Yaroslav Demchenkov, Deputy Minister of Energy for European Integration, Ukraine confirmed that the economic recovery should be aligned with the Paris Agreement, and the country aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 based on the EU green deal. "We are now in the efforts to increase the share of renewables; solar, wind and bioenergy," he continued, adding Ukraine is also looking to develop a hydrogen market in the country.


The floor is now open to interventions. 

H.E. Mr. João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Minister of Environment and Climate Action, Portugal: “Large projects can’t be developed in an isolated manner. Portugal is ready to contribute to the work that IRENA will develop in the coming years.” He continued to outline that Portugal has very good conditions to produce green hydrogen, considering the country has one of the lowest prices of solar in the world.  Open dialogue and strong partnerships are important to move forward, he concluded. 


Mr Daryl Wilson, Executive Director, Hydrogen Council focused on the importance of green hydrogen. “We believe that hydrogen will take its place and deliver our needs for decarbonisation. To get electrolysis cost to come down, we need to scale-up renewable energy," he stated. He continued explaining how renewable energy is a path to green hydrogen, and the falling costs of renewable electricity is e a key driver to making green hydrogen cost-competitive in the near future.

Read IRENA's latest digital story on How to Scale up Green Hydrogen 


Marco Alvera, CEO, SNAM says: “We are big fans of net zero. As a firm we are committed to getting there by 2040. Globally the challenge is greater he says, suggesting “the world really needs green molecules to get us to carbon neutral world. What is key is to reduce the cost of green hydrogen by scaling the production of electrolyzes. Let’s bring the cost of green hydrogen down to 2 USD per kilo.”


Mr Dominic Waughray. Managing Director, World Economic Forum said the organisation is very successful in mobilising partnerships for urban decarbonisation efforts. The business goal of the future is not only about providing profits to shareholders, but also adding values for all stakeholders. The key is a policy framework, which requires the interactions between public and private sectors to realise what can be done. "It is a systemic change at work," he said. The rise of stakeholder capitalism amongst the private sector is one of the examples of systemic shift, he continued.

H.E. Mr Awaidha Murshed Ali Al Marar, Chairman of the Department of Energy, Abu Dhabi reiterated focus and commitment to zero-emissions target. "For us, it is a journey that will never stop," he stated, bringing up the importance of innovation, digitalisation, and other technology solutions to help accelerate the journey to carbon neutrality.


Joanna Whittington, Director General, Energy and Security, there is no doubt getting to net zero will be an “enormous challenge” requiring the mobilization of a significant amount of capital. For the UK, it is important that what we are able to do domestically can be exported and replicated to support global net zero ambitions.

Dr. Karsten Sach, Director General International and European Policy, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Germany is now taking over moderation of this session. He summarized the past interventions and introduced the upcoming panellists.


Mr Thorsten Herdan, Director General on Energy Policy, Germany says: “It is interesting that we are discussing renewable energy and the pathway to carbon neutrality. In Germany, we believe renewables are the pathway to carbon neutrality." Herdan also makes the case for a comprehensive global net-zero road map. "We really need a global pathway to neutrality - without that getting there would be impossible.”

H.E. Mr Aziz Rabbah, Minister of Energy, Mines and Environment of Finance, Morocco said the country is committed to achieve a net-zero future through the deployment of renewable energy. The government is aware that a strong policy framework for increased investment in renewable energy is required.


The first panellist of today, Hon. Seamus O'Regan, Minister Ministry of Natural Resources, Canada wants the world to harness the market moment for a more sustainable and prosperous future for our planet and fellow citizens. He goes on to outline that Canada is phasing coal--powered electricity by the end of this decade and injecting a huge budget into clean energy advancement in the country to reach a net-zero future. "No one can be left behind (...) people must be at the centre of economic recovery," he concluded underlining the importance of just transition. 


This discussion is moderated by Ms. Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation (ECF) and former France's Climate Change Ambassador and Special Representative for the 2015 COP21. She underlined that a consistent reference to build a roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality is necessary. And this is where IRENA, IEA and other international agencies can play a huge role. Our net-zero goals mean we need to deploy renewables at scale and accelerated rate, she added. "We are too late in catching up with time, but we can do that with strong cooperation," she concluded.


President of the Assembly and Deputy Prime Minister, Spain, Ms Teresa Ribera, says the pathway to a carbon neutral future is not just a question of investment and technologies. She says: “It is a question of policy… a question of governance, and a question of values.


During his intervention, Mr Francesco Starace, Chief Executive Officer, Enel mentioned how decarbonisation of our economies goes head in head with electrification. Yet, the system cannot be electrified without huge investment. He added that the energy transition is a huge opportunity for Africa to improve energy access across the continent in a sustainable way.


Mr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency started his keynote speech in an optimistic manner "One of the most promising things to happen this year is that the EU, UK, Japan, Korea, Canada and China all came up with pledges for carbon-neutrality by mid-century." Yet, he continued, to give such a promise is easy, but what we need for carbon-neutrality goals to actually be achieved is huge. Without international cooperation, and a strong energy roadmap, including policies and investments, there is no way forward. 


Kick-starting the Assembly’s Ministerial on Carbon Neutrality, Ms Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy, outlines Europe’s roadmap to becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. “The future is clean or not at all,” she says noting that plans include the full phase out of coal and a huge ramp up in renewables to 85 per cent of power generation by 2050. The EU is making “leaps the energy system has never seen before.”

She continued to outlined that the European Union is putting the green transition at the heart of their efforts, including sustainable investments and plans for advancing renewables in the region. 


Watch the scene-setting video: 



In his Opening Remarks, Director-General, Francesco La Camera welcomed the participants and set a scene for this meeting, saying "Reaching net-zero across all sectors of the economy by mid this century is massive undertaking. Unparalleled changes across all parts of the energy sector need to be realised simultaneously." He progressed explaining that cost-competitive renewables can deliver most of the reductions needed in power systems. Yet, more is needed for hard to abate sectors. Mr La Camera stated that the potential solutions include green hydrogen and sustainable biomass.

"Reaching net-zero requires decisive, ambitious and sustained action." he continued. "But governments now have a once in a generation opportunity to make a rapid shift as we recover from the COVID pandemic. Together we can recover better and build a sustainable energy system that support the resilient, equitable and prosperous economies and societies," he concluded. 


The Ministerial plenary meeting on Renewables and Pathway to Carbon Neutrality - Innovation, Green Hydrogen and Socioeconomic Policies aims to both inspire and inform decision makers by showcasing examples of leadership on strategies for net-zero, sharing plans and experience to date, exploring what actions are most urgent and by strengthening the international engagement crucial to making progress. It will bring together a range of perspectives on the net-zero goal including countries who are pushing ahead and those who are still considering their strategies.

The H.E. Mr Raj Kumar Singh, Minister of New and Renewable Energy, India opened the session welcoming the high-level participants Mr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), H.E. Ms Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, European Commission and Mr Francesco Starace, Chief Executive Officer, Enel who will deliver the keynote interventions.


The second day of the Eleventh Assembly, featured two Ministerial sessions. The first Ministerial focused around the theme of the National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition. See the blog for more details.

The second Ministerial on Scaling up Finance for Renewables addressed both policy and finance aspects of channeling investments to the renewable energy sector and achieving a steady pipeline of investor-ready and scalable projects. The real-time account of the session is accessible here.

Read the blog covering all events from the World Energy Transition Day.