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South Africa joins the IEA family, boosting global energy governance

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IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol (left) and HE Minister Jeff Radebe, Minister of Energy of the Republic of South Africa (Photograph: IEA)

HE Minister Jeff Radebe, Minister of Energy of the Republic of South Africa, and Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, jointly announced today South Africa’s decision to join the IEA as an Association country. South Africa is the first sub-Saharan African country to institutionalise its engagement with the IEA, a development that marks an important milestone for energy governance in Africa and globally.

South Africa is a major player in African energy markets representing the largest energy consumer on the continent, accounting for about half of Africa’s electricity capacity and possessing one of the highest electrification rates. The IEA is prioritizing work in Africa in the years ahead, and South Africa will be a critical partner for launching and delivering an ambitious array of energy access, security and clean energy transitions initiatives across the continent.

“I approved of South Africa joining the IEA as an Association country because this decision places us at the centre of the global energy forum with positive economic benefits for our country as we learn from IEA family members,” said Minister Radebe.

While commending Minister Radebe for spearheading South Africa’s energy sector reform and making outstanding progress in improving the country’s electrification rate, Dr Birol stated that “today, Mr Minister, you again demonstrate South Africa’s leadership both in Africa and beyond. I am fully confident that this new chapter in our relationship will be mutually beneficial.”

Among the agreements signed by the two leaders was a three-year joint programme of work identifying opportunities for collaboration on energy statistics, energy efficiency, electrification and power system transition, renewables integration, energy innovation, and domestic gas market design.

South Africa’s decision to join the IEA family is a welcome development, and critical to the advancement of the IEA’s modernization mandate, which was defined during the 2015 Ministerial meeting and is built on three pillars: opening the agency’s doors to emerging countries; broadening energy security beyond oil to natural gas and electricity; and developing a global clean energy hub, including for energy efficiency.

The result has been a marked growth in the IEA family to include 30 members and 8 Association countries, and to represent almost 75% of global energy consumption.

In speaking of joining the IEA family, Minister Radebe extended his “appreciation to the IEA and Dr Birol’s leadership in achieving such a result in working with South Africa to become an Association country” and highlighted that he looks forward to “working together on affordable, accessible, and clean energy”.

Dr Birol praised Minister Radebe for his vision and action and emphasized that the IEA looks forward to working with South Africa “to make the energy world more sustainable, more secure and more equitable.”

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UNIDO and Morocco’s MASEN to strengthen cooperation to deploy renewable energy technologies

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photo: UNIDO

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy of the Kingdom of Morocco (MASEN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop and implement projects deploying advanced renewable energy technologies in Morocco and targeted African countries, with the aim of creating aspirations to support African countries on their path towards inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

The partnership with MASEN complements UNIDO’s ongoing activities under its flagship ‘Low Carbon Low Emission Clean Energy Programme’ in Africa, which seeks to reduce poverty by promoting industrial growth through renewable sources of energy. It already started in 2017, on the margins of the 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), when UNIDO Director General LI Yong, and MASEN President Mustapha Bakkoury launched the Vanadium Flow Battery project to demonstrate smoothing and stabilizing electricity output. An official handover ceremony is planned to take place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, in conjunction with a workshop gathering Moroccan officials and representatives from neighboring countries.

With MASEN’s support, UNIDO proposes to create a platform for the dissemination of renewable energy technologies in targeted countries while developing the local production of some technology components, thus creating grounds for achieving shared prosperity, economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability.

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IRENA Concludes its Eighteenth Council

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High-level representatives from 124 member countries attended the 18th meeting of the IRENA Council, held on November 5 and 6, 2019, in Abu Dhabi, to review the Agency’s progress and explore its future plans to accelerate the global energy transformation to ensure a sustainable, climate-safe future.

Council Chair Mr. Guy Lentz, Luxemburg Coordinator for the EU and Inter Energy Issues, set the tone of the discussions by encouraging IRENA Council delegates to strive for a fair energy transition through renewables.

IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera echoed the Council Chair by emphasizing the central role renewable energy plays in both sustainable development and climate action. “This morning, we reflected on the profound shift in the global energy dynamics which will result in a very different world in the coming decades. The evolution of the existing energy architecture into a low-carbon and economically vibrant system is central to the global strategy on sustainable development and climate,” he said.

Ambitious renewable energy targets are now common in many countries, however, Mr. La Camera identified the gap between deployment goals and the investments necessary to achieve them as the biggest challenge facing the energy transformation.

To bridge this gap and accelerate the rate of energy transformation to meet climate goals, the Director-General proposed to the Council a Work Programme and Budget that aims to make the Agency:

  • More proactive: monitoring trends and recognising opportunities.
  • More efficient: streamlining programmatic output to more impactful activities, with a decisive shift to action on the ground.
  • More collaborative: developing partnerships with implementing partners, such as UNDP, taking advantage of IRENA’s significant knowledge and convening power to catalyse action on the ground.

Council members lauded the Agency’s decisive shift to action on the ground, supporting the Director-General’s plans to improve programmatic engagement with all members, initiatives and partnerships. One of the key aspects of the discussions was IRENA’s plan to take a more regional and sub regional approach to its programmatic activities. Griffin Thompson, Director of the Office of Electricity and Energy Efficiency at the U.S. Department of State, supported this approach stating, “The reality of the renewable energy transition is that there are multiple transitions and pathways. We support IRENA’s proposal to work at a more regional & sub-regional level, which speaks to these nuances.”

In alignment with the Agency’s plans, Mr. La Camera announced the appointment of Gauri Singh, Principal Secretary of the Public Health & Family Welfare Department at the Renewable Energy Corporation and former Director of IRENA’s Country Support & Partnerships Division, as the new IRENA Deputy Director-General.

On its second day, the Council’s meeting followed up on discussions from the UN Climate Action Summit in New York as they related to NDC implementation and the Climate Investment Platform. The Climate Investment Platform, a partnership between IRENA, SEforALL, and UNDP, in coordination with Green Climate Fund, aims to declutter and streamline support to developing countries by accelerating action and advancing investments.

On behalf of UNDP, Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Executive Coordinator/Director, Global Environmental Finance, Global Policy Network, spoke to Council members about the IRENA, UNDP collaboration. “Our partnership is a merging of IRENA’s energy knowledge with UNDP’s backbone of country offices and on-the-ground capabilities – a commonality of purpose, where UNDP draws on IRENA’s expertise to accelerate the 2030 agenda.”

During the Council, two side-events took place. The first lead by IRENA’s programmatic division directors explored the issues facing countries with high shares of renewable energy, highlighting the importance of dialogue and the exchange of experiences amongst countries as well as offering IRENA’s committed support to enhance this dialogue.

The second side event Decarbonising Complex Sectors: Paving the Way Towards a Carbon-Free Economy led by IRENA IITC Director Dolf Gielen, discussed the role renewables, green hydrogen, and advanced biofuels can play in decarbonising challenging sectors such as heavy industry, shipping, and aviation.

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WBG, LAS and AFESD Launch the First Pan-Arab Energy Trade Conference

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In partnership with the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), the World Bank Group and the League of Arab States (LAS) are launching today the first Pan-Arab Energy Trade Conference.

The 2-day conference, convened in Cairo, Egypt, is a key milestone towards finalizing the foundational stage of establishing the Pan-Arab Regional Electricity Market (PAEM). The ratification process for the market’s key legal agreements was discussed yesterday during a session held by the Arab Ministerial Council for Electricity (AMCE) in Cairo. The legal agreements approval is expected next year.

The conference assembles Energy and Electricity Ministers from the Arab States with regional and international energy experts to discuss strategic approaches to gather stakeholders, deepen the understanding of national and regional benefits of cross-border energy trade, and steps towards an enabling environment to align national priorities and regional goals to best exploit energy resources at the Pan-Arab level.

The conference sheds light on a number of issues on the top of which is the strategic importance of the energy trade to the region’s economies. It is also an opportunity to present the prospects and challenges facing the Pan-Arab energy trade in order to reach a consensus about means to boost it,” said Dr. Kamal Hassan Ali, the Assistant Secretary General of Economic Affairs, League of Arab States. 

Ali underscored the importance of the role played by the regional institutions in leading the way to create a Pan-Arab electricity market, establish the needed bodies to manage and govern this market, and invest in the electric power grid interconnections in addition to studying the potentials of regional cooperation in the energy sector. “These institutions should contribute to putting in place the deals to exchange electricity as well as amplifying the benefits of public and private investment in the energy sector on both the national and regional levels.

Throughout the last four decades, and with the financial support of the various financial institutions, the Arab countries worked on developing their electric power grid interconnections. “Regional trade in electricity and gas can be a powerful force for market integration, efficient resource utilization, and sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank’s Director of Strategy and Operations for the Middle East and North Africa.

MENA countries currently boast nearly 300 GW of installed electricity generation capacity. However, the available cross-border transmission interconnection capacity is only 15.8 GW, and only a fraction of that capacity is commercially utilized. “The regional energy market in MENA, once fully interconnected, would be the world’s second largest regional electricity market after the European electricity market, provided a range of enabling factors are put in place such as stronger transmission grids and Investments in low cost Renewable Energy,” said Paul Noumba Um, World Bank’s Regional Director for Infrastructure.

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