by Richard Ottinger

From April 3-5, 2011 Shakeel Kazmi and I represented Pace and IUCN at the final Preparatory Commission Meeting and the Inaugural Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  We also had an hour-long meeting with IRENA’s newly elected Director General, Adnan Amin from Kenya, during which he emphasized that he would seek collaboration in carrying out IRENA’s mission from interested countries and NGOs.  He was very receptive to having IUCN, ICEL, and Pace assist in IRENA’s efforts, especially in obtaining research assistance on various topics, including life cycle studies of renewable energy initiatives in developing countries, economic impacts, job impacts, subsidy market directions, and enhancing women’s education in the sciences.

IRENA is a unique organization dedicated to the promotion of renewable energy that is environmentally sound and contributes to the UN millennium goals.  Its mission “is to promote the widespread and increased adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy…”   Currently, IRENA has 149 signatories and 70 members that have ratified.  IRENA’s Member States pledge to advance renewables in their own national policies and programs, and to promote, both domestically and through international cooperation, the transition to a sustainable and secure energy supply.  IRENA aims to become the leading international centre of excellence for renewable energy and a platform for the exchange and development of renewable energy knowledge.  IRENA will facilitate access to all relevant renewable energy information, including technical data, economic data, and renewable resource potential data and will share experiences on best practices and lesions learned regarding policy frameworks, capacity-building projects, available finance mechanisms, and renewable energy related energy efficiency.

In the morning session, Chairman Gauri Singh of India presented the Commission’s proposed work plan and budget for 2011.  The Plan includes a robust communications and outreach strategy to articulate and implement renewable energy events, the creation of strategic partnerships, and a variety of program outputs.  In the afternoon session, the 21 members of the Council were announced, with Sultan Al Jaber of the UAE elected President and Adnan Amin of Kenya (who presently resides in Larchmont, NY) elected and sworn in as Director General.

During the Ministerial Roundtable on the Strategic Needs for a Clean Energy Future for IRENA, participants suggested that IRENA should concentrate on facilitating technology transfer to assist in energy poverty reduction, the improvement of institutional capacities, and ensuring that renewable energy become part of human development.  Emphasis was placed on the importance of disseminating knowledge and enabling local production, providing funding for pilot projects, adopting programs based on these policies and global analysis of best practices, and increasing global awareness through public education.  Further, the Assembly requested that IRENA should ensure inclusion of renewable energy in the UN Rio+20 deliberations.

The Preparatory Commission and Assembly meetings were notable for the harmony among participating nations and their accent on making significant substantive progress on the IRENA mission.  While a formula was agreed to as to compulsory allocation of funding, as usual, there was a lack of specificity as to the funding commitments.  But all in all, the attitude of the delegates was very up-beat and considerable progress was made.