Senior government officials, business leaders and key players in the global energy sector met today at the Third International Forum on Energy Transitions (IFET) in Suzhou, China. The international gathering, co-organized by the National Energy Administration of China, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government of China, is an important platform for dialogue and collaborative action on how to transform energy systems towards a sustainable, low-carbon and resilient energy future.
Over the last decade, renewables have brought disruptive change to the global energy landscape. Driven by rapid technological advances, enabling policy frameworks and plummeting costs, renewables have created unprecedented opportunities to rethink the way our energy systems operate. IFET aims to identify solutions to scale up the latest renewable energy innovations, particularly in end-use sectors, accelerate power sector transformation, increase renewable energy financing, and transform urban energy systems.
In his keynote remarks, IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin stressed the need to take the global energy transformation to the next level by strengthening innovation, mobilizing investments and modernizing gird infrastructure. Accelerating renewables deployment is essential to tackle challenges such as climate change, sustainable development and meeting growing energy demand. The Director-General underlined that the energy transformation offers us vast socio-economic benefits in terms of powering sustainable growth, creating jobs and creating local value-added.
Leading the way on the energy transformation are those frontrunner countries, like China who, early on, recognised the potential opportunities in and are developing the policies, market mechanisms, and systems necessary to reorient their economies towards the high-tech industry and workforce of the future. As highlighted in IRENA’s Corporate Sourcing Report, it is not only countries that are leading the way: companies in 75 countries actively sourced 465 terawatt hours of renewable energy in 2017, enough to power a country the size of France.
In his speech at the Sub-Forum on International Cooperation on Renewable Energy Industry Development, the Director-General also highlighted that international cooperation is needed to share lessons and experiences to overcoming challenges in transforming existing energy structures to low-carbon sustainable systems based on renewables and energy.
During his remarks at the Energy Future session, the Director-General identified five priority action areas to advance the energy transformation. These include: fostering a power sector that integrates higher shares of variable renewables and decarbonising end-use sectors, strengthening system-wide innovation, scaling up investment, ensuring equitable costs and benefits of the transition, and furthering international cooperation.
The previous conferences in 2015 and 2016 adopted the Suzhou Declaration and Consensus, respectively, which called for higher levels of ambition and decisive action to accelerate the energy transition.
IRENA also participated in the Belt and Road Energy Ministerial Conference taking place in Suzhou at the same time. Renewable energy has been identified as central to one of the initiative’s key pillars as a means to build a sustainable energy future.
IRENA and RES4Africa Partner to Accelerate Renewables in Africa
IRENA and the RES4Africa Foundation have agreed to cooperate to increase the speed of renewable energy development in Africa in the pursuit of the continent’s sustainable development and climate goals. The ‘Letter of Intent’ signed on 15 July 2019 in Rome, will see the two parties work together to explore public-private initiatives, knowledge creation opportunities, capacity building programmes and strategic dialogues to accelerate renewable energy deployment in Africa.
With more than 620 million Africans – nearly half the continent’s population – still without access to electricity, the RES4Africa Foundation works to address the water-energy-food nexus and promote the adoption of renewable energy in Africa. IRENA estimates the continent could meet nearly a quarter of its energy needs from indigenous and clean renewable energy by 2030, but to realise this potential a step-up in renewable energy action is necessary.
“To achieve the sustainable development goals and tackle climate change we must grow the share of global energy supplied by renewables to 50 per cent by mid-century,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA during the signing event. “That requires a significant scale up of renewable energy deployment. Stronger partnerships can accelerate the energy transformation lifting millions of people in rural villages across Africa out of energy poverty and delivering socioeconomic outcomes.”
Growing engagement in Africa
IRENA’s engagement with Africa on renewables dates back to the Agency’s formation nearly a decade ago. A key component of IRENA’s engagement and its effort to promote regional market integration in Africa, has been through the development of the Clean Energy Corridors. IRENA’s work informed the objectives of the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), which now targets to develop 300 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity across the continent by 2030.
IRENA analysis suggests a transformation of Africa’s energy sector with renewables by 2030, would result in carbon-dioxide emission reductions of up to 310 megatonnes per annum and create millions of jobs across the continent.
IRENA Puts Renewables Centre-Stage at UN High- Level Meeting
‘There can be no sustainable development without renewables’ – that was the takeaway from the 17th IRENA Council which concluded recently in Abu Dhabi. It was a message the Agency’s Director-General Francesco La Camera reinforced at every opportunity and a message that will once again take centre-stage during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in New York this and next week.
The UN High-Level Political Forum takes place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 09–18 July 2019. Progress on six of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be reviewed. Renewable energy plays a prominent role in goals being discussed this year, particularly those promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG8); taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG13); and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG16).
Director-General Francesco La Camera will attend the Forum to engage dignitaries and IRENA members and partners. Mr. La Camera will also participate in a series of high-level discussions on topics including scaling-up climate action through the energy transformation and accelerating the energy transition in small island developing states.
Mr. La Camera will highlight the inter-linkages between the goals under review and access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all (SDG7), a focus of the last year’s HLPF. The essential role of renewable energy in powering growth, empowering people, and taking climate action will also be emphasised.
IRENA at HLPF
On 16 July, IRENA’s High-level side event on ‘Scaling up climate action through clean energy transitions: Delivering on the Paris Agreement and the SDGs’ will be co-convened by UN DESA, the European Union, and the Permanent Mission to the UN of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Building on findings and outcomes from reports and meetings, including the 2019 Tracking SDG7 Energy Progress Report and Climate Summit preparatory meeting in Abu Dhabi, outcomes from this discussion will feed into the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit and the SDG Summit in September 2019.
On 17 July, the High-level Side event on Scaling-Up Energy Transition in Small Island Developing States, will mark the launch of the policy brief on ‘Achieving SDG 7 in Small Island Developing States’ and pave the way for the Mid-term Review of the SAMOA Pathway taking place in September 2019. Organised by Saint Lucia, Samoa, Maldives, UN-OHRLLS and IRENA, the event will take stock of energy transition developments and renewable energy uptake in SIDS and explore the vital elements in making progress in the area of sustainable energy.
IEA hosts high-level meeting on technologies for a clean energy future
The International Energy Agency on 11 July hosted a discussion among leading global energy sector figures about technologies that can help to bring about a clean energy future, including hydrogen and nuclear power.
The main speakers at the event were Dan Brouillette, Deputy US Energy Secretary; Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and CEO of EDF; Hiroshi Oe, Japanese Ambassador to the OECD and Chair of the IEA Governing Board; and Dominique Ristori, Director-General Energy at the European Commission.
The discussion at the IEA’s headquarters in Paris was informed by two recent major reports from the IEA: Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System and The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities.
At a time of profound change in the global energy sector, countries will require all the tools at their disposal to meet their commitments to tackling emissions and air pollution while maintaining energy security.
“I’d like to thank our speakers for the robust and rewarding conversation,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, who hosted the event. “There is no miracle technology that will solve the daunting environmental challenges the world faces. We need continued innovation across a range of technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, batteries, carbon capture and more. The IEA sees hydrogen and nuclear power as important parts of clean energy transitions in many countries, but they need help from governments to overcome significant obstacles.”
Nuclear power is by far the largest source of low-carbon electricity in both Europe and North America, but many of their plants are aging. Without effective policies to spur new investment, advanced economies could lose as much as two-thirds of their nuclear capacity in the next 20 years, threatening global climate goals and energy security.
Hydrogen, which is currently enjoying unprecedented momentum, can help tackle various critical energy challenges. It offers ways to decarbonise a range of sectors where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions, including long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel. Hydrogen’s ability to store and transport energy could enable renewables to make a greater contribution to the global energy system. But it has experienced false starts in the past and still faces big challenges to scale up infrastructure and bring down costs.
The meeting on 11 July to discuss these important energy issues highlights the IEA’s role as the world’s leading energy authority and its commitment to covering all fuels and all technologies. Guests included Lithunia’s Minister of Energy Žygimantas Vaičiūnas. Lithuania has requested to join the IEA as a member country and the accession process has begun.
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