Renewables Can Decarbonise Energy Sector, Improve Lives of Billions, Says new Report

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A new report, ‘REthinking Energy 2017’ that was released, last week, at the seventh International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly, says falling costs, driven by innovation in technology and policy, is spurring renewable energy deployment and with it a myriad of socioeconomic benefits. Bennett Oghifo reports

The new comprehensive publication released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) details how renewables can decarbonise the energy sector and improve the lives of billions of people around the world.

IRENA is mandated to be the global hub for renewable energy cooperation and information exchange by 150 members (149 States and the European Union). 27 additional countries are in the accession process and actively engaged. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.

Rethinking Energy, now in its third edition, was released last Sunday at the seventh Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), held in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., from January 14 to 15, this year.

The Assembly is the Agency’s ultimate decision-making authority and Nigeria was represented at the meeting by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu.
“Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure. Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

Investment in renewables…
The publication highlights how global investment in renewables has steadily grown for more than a decade, rising from less than USD 50 billion in 2004 to a record USD 305 billion in 2015. Despite this enormous growth, current investment and deployment levels are making headway to meet international carbon reduction targets.

“As we advance deeper into a new energy paradigm, we need to pick-up the pace of our decarbonisation efforts. Policies and regulations continue to remain crucial to this end and to develop the renewables market,” explained Mr. Amin. “We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take-on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale. Heating and cooling, and the potential of renewables for transport, are areas where future efforts are needed.”

Innovations, policy and finance…
The publication provides insights on the innovations, policy and finance driving further investment in sustainable energy system, including that: Renewable energy auctions are gaining popularity in developed and developing countries, generating record-breaking low energy prices; Demand for battery storage is increasing rapidly and playing a larger part in integrating variable renewables; New capital-market instruments are helping increase available finance by offering new groups of investors access to investment opportunities; Institutional investors are moving into renewable energy as it offers stable returns over the long term; and New business models promise new ways to finance renewable energy.

Growth of solar PV…
The publication states that solar PV will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation. IRENA estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030.

Off-grid renewables provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide, and enable people to climb the energy ladder. They are cost-effective and can be installed in modular fashion, linked to grid extension plans. REthinking Energy describes how off-grid solutions can provide modern energy access to hundreds of millions of more people and achieve development goals.

“Achieving universal electricity access by 2030, will require us to boost global power generation — nearly 60 per cent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” said Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity. Making needed changes and accelerating deployment will allow countries to address global issues in sustainability, education, gender equality, health, water and food.”

REthinking Energy was released at IRENA’s seventh Assembly, which this is gathering 75 ministers from over 150 countries, to advance the global renewable energy agenda and make concrete steps to accelerate the global energy transformation.

Concrete action…
The Assembly brought together energy leaders to set the global renewable energy agenda and take concrete action to accelerate the ongoing global energy transition.
“2016 was a remarkable year for renewable energy. The falling costs of solar and wind power in markets around the world highlight the increasing cost-competitiveness of renewable energy which has become the preferred option for new power generation capacity in many countries around the world,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “In addition, innovations in technology and new business models are bringing renewable solutions to people who previously had no access to energy. These developments, coupled with the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underscore growing momentum for renewable energy and give fresh impetus to the case for transitioning to a sustainable energy future. Efforts now need to turn to scaling-up renewables in end-use sectors such as transportation, industry, and heating and cooling.”

Notable events…
The seventh Assembly, which took place 14-15 January at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, with a day of preliminary meetings and discussions on 13 January, focused on the critical role of renewable energy in powering economic growth, combatting climate change, expanding energy access and meeting global sustainable development goals.

Notable events throughout the three days include: The 2017 IRENA Legislators Forum on 13 January where legislators from around the world discussed the key role of legislators in accelerating the deployment of renewables; A high-level meeting on renewable energy in South East Europe on 13 January discussed the opportunities and challenges to expand the share of renewable energy in the region’s energy mix; and a high-level event on renewable energy in islands settings also on 13 January discussed pathways for renewable energy deployment on islands and the enhanced efforts needed to support them.

There was a Ministerial Roundtable on 14 January, ‘Towards an Economy Fuelled by Renewable Power: Innovation for the Next Stage of the Power Sector Transformation’. Participants discussed the innovative models and technologies needed for power sector transformation to inegrate higher share of renewables.

There were three Programmatic discussions: Plenary discussions amongst Members on ‘Enabling the private sector to accelerate renewable energy deployment – Corporate sourcing of renewables,’ on 14 January and on ‘Driving the decarbonisation of the energy sector through innovation’ and ‘Investment pathways towards advancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on Sunday, 15 January.

“IRENA is now the recognised leader for authoritative and objective knowledge resources on renewable energy costs, resource potentials and employment,” said Amin. “The Agency has also developed practical tools to enable countries to better plan their energy transition. Our annual Assembly provides a critical opportunity for high-level engagement with our Members and partners to examine how international cooperation can speed the transition to a sustainable energy future through concrete action and initiatives.”

Officials said, “The Assembly marks the opening of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and precedes the World Future Energy Summit, a global gathering of thousands of energy leaders. IRENA will participate in a number events throughout the week, covering topics ranging from the decarbonisation of energy systems to the scaling up of variable renewable power.”