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Policies are critical to helping wind and solar PV to become a bigger part of the energy mix

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Organised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the IEA, the Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables was attended by high-ranking officials. (Photograph: IEA)

As the contributions of solar PV and wind power to electricity systems keep growing around the world, governments and industry must address the critical work of integrating these variable renewables into their electrical grids.

This work is essential to make sure that countries can benefit from higher shares of renewable power while ensuring grid stability and avoiding shortages. For this reason, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the International Energy Agency convened a one-day ministerial conference in Berlin today to share best practices and innovative ideas to fully grasp the opportunities of wind and solar.

The Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables was attended by high-ranking officials and industry CEOs, including Ministers, Deputy Ministers and State Secretaries from the countries of Sweden, Thailand, Japan, Morocco, Poland, Switzerland and the United States. It was co-chaired by Peter Altmaier, the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, and Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

“Germany’s energy transition rests on three pillars: expansion of solar and wind energy, digitalisation in the energy sector and sector coupling. We want 65% of our electricity to be renewables-based by 2030,” said Mr. Altmaier. “The use of renewable energy is growing everywhere around the world. It will therefore become ever more important for us to engage in cross-border cooperation and share and discuss best practices with other countries.”

Dr Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said: “Wind and solar are critical pillars of the world’s efforts to tackle climate change, reduce air pollution and provide energy access to all. Their declining costs are a huge opportunity. But power systems need to become more flexible and market designs must be adapted in order to avoid unintended impacts on electricity security.”

The IEA has been working on system integration for almost 15 years and is expanding its efforts. In particular, it is preparing a major new study on electricity security to help countries to better manage the impact of energy transitions, guard against new cybersecurity threats and develop resilience to extreme natural events.

Renewable electricity is a key driver of clean energy transitions. After stalling last year, global capacity additions of renewable power are set to bounce back with double-digit growth in 2019, driven by solar PV’s strong performance, to reach almost 200 GW. But more will be needed to reach long-term climate and sustainable energy goals. Renewable capacity additions need to increase by more than 300 GW on average each year between 2018 and 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario. Wind and solar account for 80% of that growth.

Unlocking this potential will require governments to set out the right frameworks to handle these growing shares. That means long-term planning in which the design of grids and markets fully takes account of the shifting landscape.

Today, 25 countries have 10% variable renewable electricity in their mix. Several countries have committed to long-term targets for very high shares of renewables or even full reliance on these sources. By 2030, more than 50 countries will have reached wind and solar electricity levels of 10%. Germany is already moving towards more than 50% by that year, and the European Union aspires to reach 35%.

These ambitions mean current system integration ideas need scaling up from successful pilots to clear legislative programs that ensure effective uptake of renewable sources in line with global energy and climate ambitions. Today’s conference highlighted that these efforts need to fit into wider all-energy strategies that consider economic sectors affected by energy transitions, as put forward in Germany’s recent Climate Action Law proposal, for example.

The IEA continues to take a leading role in supporting global energy transitions through data, expert insights and clear policy advice, taking all technologies and sectors into account.

Following the success of today’s event, the IEA will convene a second Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables in Paris in September 2020 at which the major report on electricity security will be launched. In the report, the IEA will develop fact-based insights and put forward key policy recommendations on how infrastructure, markets and institutions can adapt to the evolving challenges of electricity security in the 21st century.

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IRENA Facilitates Investment and Renewable Projects on Ground in Africa

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Boosting renewable energy projects on the ground requires scaling up investment. IRENA’s state-of-the-art analysis of enabling policy frameworks and finance mechanisms channel public and private investment in markets like Africa, Latin America, Asia, South-East Europe and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Now, IRENA is taking its work one step further by increasing the Agency’s on-ground impact with 15 regional and sub-regional platforms which aims at scaling up renewables deployment and investments.

One step in this new direction is the event that took place in Johannesburg as part of the Africa Investment Forum hosted by the African Development Bank. It facilitated renewable energy deal-making in Sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with Power Africa and the African Trade Insurance Agency. The event corresponds to IRENA’s new direction and way forward ensuring an acceleration of the renewable energy transformation globally.

Speaking at the Investment Forum in South Africa, IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera underlined the importance of renewable energy to meet sustainable economic growth and Africa’s climate and development ambitions. “Now more than ever, renewables have become a compelling investment proposition”, said La Camera. “With renewable energy technology prices set to decline, the cost-competitiveness of renewables will strengthen further. IRENA’s analysis shows that nearly a quarter of Africa’s energy needs could be met from indigenous and clean renewable energy sources by 2030. This would result in a wide array of socio-economic benefits in terms of economic growth, welfare, employment and energy access. It’s Possible”.

IRENA has been committed to supporting African governments in their quest for a sustainable energy future. The Agency has supported countries in building attractive investment frameworks for renewables to strengthen institutional and technical capacity. It has also supported the development and financing of renewable energy projects through project facilitation tools. 
“A lot remains to be done to address the key risks and barriers that hinder the scale-up of renewable investment in the region”, La Camera continued. “There is no shortage of renewable energy project proposals which are competing for investor capital. But they are not always financially viable. Many proposals fail to materialize due to high cost of capital, limited access to risk mitigation solutions and long delays in projects”.

By building on its extensive project pipeline in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 90 renewable energy projects, the Agency has showcased 10 renewable energy projects at the Investment Forum. Projects from Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo which have a total capacity ranging from 6 MW to 70 MW – covering technologies like wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower – were presented.

IRENA’s project facilitation platform provides project owners and developers with increased visibility for their projects among financiers and other market players. Project owners have access to wide range of financial instruments provided by multiple investors from development finance institutions, private companies, utilities, private equity funds, donor and multi-donor facilities, commercial banks and more, as well as access to different services for example legal and financial advisory, environmental, project development and Engineering Procurement and Construction contracting.

More information about IRENA’s project facilitation.

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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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