Continent commits to renewables, will prepare readiness map

Thanks to IRENA’s intervention, more than 20 energy ministers from around Africa have issued a communiqué on renewable energy for accelerating Africa’s development. The document was prepared subsequent to a high-level consultation exercise lead by the Agency on 8 and 9 July.
Continent commits to renewables, will prepare readiness map

Around two dozen ministers of energy joined heads of delegations of African countries and the African Union Commission and the Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa (CEMA) in Abu Dhabi (UAE) just over a week ago to discuss the February 2009 African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government decision to: “develop renewable energy resources in order to provide clean, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy,” and the November 2010 Maputo Declaration of the Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa to “promote renewable energy in a joint effort with others to... address all issues relating to climate change...”.

Led by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the participants from 62 countries were also informed by the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as IRENA’s report, Scenarios and Strategies for Africa, which provide compelling evidence of the serious energy challenges faced by the region.

At a time of economic growth and opportunity in Africa, meeting energy needs and addressing the challenge of energy access and energy security is an issue of primary significance for Africa, in order to mitigate the negative effects of price volatility, supply insecurity and environmental degradation.

The energy ministers present at the consultation exercise recognised the significant potential of renewable energy to accelerate African low carbon development and address climate change mitigation and adaptation, and acknowledged that these outcomes will require existing conditions and needs to be identified, regional cooperation and national, regional and continental policy frameworks to be strengthened, and research and development on technology and innovation within the continent and through South-South cooperation to be expanded if the sustainable deployment of renewable energy is to be achieved across Africa.

IRENA-led renewables development

Thanks to IRENA’s efforts to bring African nations together to discuss the large-scale roll out of renewable energy capacity, the participants at this month’s event have agreed the following:

“We are launching a concerted effort among all participating governments, agencies, non-governmental bodies and the private sector to promote intensified utilization of Africa’s vast renewable energy resources for accelerating Africa’s development, considering the need to: a. ensure that IRENA's policy for Africa responds to the priority concerns of the continen;

b. ensure a well-integrated IRENA programme for Africa, which will cooperate closely with the AUC, CEMA, RECs, national governments and all other partners; and

c. develop a concrete and practical approach to supporting the knowledge, technology, capacity and policy needs of African countries.”

Need for renewable energy readiness map

“A crucial first step will be to better understand the opportunities and constraints in our countries and regions by mapping “Renewable Energy Readiness”, a collaborative process that will provide a rapid, objective assessment of the status of renewable energy opportunities, and identify pathways to address gaps. We urge governments and other stakeholders to participate in design and implementation of this initiative.

We will further engage with IRENA, as the key inter-governmental forum on renewable energy, in providing a platform for charting collaborative action strategies for accelerating implementation of African policies, and initiatives on renewable energy, focusing in particular on:

a. Improving policy frameworks to ensure investment grade public/private financing, while taking into account special measures needed to ensure social inclusion;

b. Brokering services in capacity building including for entrepreneurs in renewable energy;

c. Cooperation on technology and innovation to enhance endogenous human and physical capacity to accommodate expanded renewables deployment; d. Fostering regional and local level renewable energy technology production and service industries; and

e. Supporting communication campaigns to promote uptake of renewable energy”.

IRENA urged to build on communiqué

“Participants urged IRENA, in its messages to the international community at CoP-17, Rio+20 and other major events, to build on this communiqué and emphasize the following:

a. Providing strategic support for renewable energy in the context of the Green Economy, including assessment of the impact of market distorting subsidies that inhibit the deployment of renewable energy; targeted studies on employment implications of expanded renewables deployment, policies for employment creation through renewable energy and related themes;

b. advocating increased international support to Africa on technical capacity building, policy advisory services, investment financing tools and industrial strategies for accelerating renewable energy up-take, while ensuring adequate provision of domestic resources; and

c. Using the 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All to carry forward Africa’s renewable energy strategies.

We agree to work towards formalizing IRENA’s strategic presence in Africa and concretizing institutional arrangements for cooperation with African regional bodies and strategic partners in the sector; furthermore, we urge all African states who have not done so to become full members of IRENA.

We shall extend full cooperation and support to IRENA to ensure it fulfils its critical mandate to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy globally, and to work together to make Africa a lead region in the transition to renewable energy.”

First Meeting of IRENA Council concludes

Two days after the African meet, IRENA’s governing Council concluded its inaugural meeting involving 53 countries, marking a milestone in the Agency’s history. The Council is one of the two governing bodies of IRENA, reporting to the Assembly, and convenes twice per year.

IRENA’s Director-General, Adnan Amin, provided members with an overview of activities implemented since the Assembly, including operational and programmatic progress, and during a round table discussion on the Work Programme of the Agency, members expressed their desire to further position the Agency at the centre of renewable energy worldwide through strategic partnerships and further staff recruitment, and to engage in fruitful exchanges of views with private sector and academia.

The Council additionally endorsed and approved the membership and terms of reference of three Committees: Policy and Strategy, Finance, and Governance and Legal. It also approved the selection procedures for a $350 million partnership between IRENA and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Abu Dhabi’s government leading development agency.

The fund will launch at the second Assembly, 14-15 January 2012, and IRENA will immediately call to receive applications for funding. The fund was established in 2009 to disburse concessional loans for renewable energy generation and transmission projects located in developing countries that are signatories of the Agency. As part of the operationalization of the fund, the Agency will begin later this year a call for experts, who will lead technical review of the applications.

The Director General concluded the meeting by expressing his appreciation of the interest and support of member countries, adding “it has been an inspiring discussion, and it is impressive to see the strong commitment of countries in supporting IRENA’s work and way forward.”

[Photo: Courtesy of IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin]

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