New IRENA report details how renewables can decarbonise the energy sector and improve the lives of billions

New IRENA report details how renewables can decarbonise the energy sector and improve the lives of billions

Falling costs, driven by innovation in technology and policy, is spurring renewable energy deployment and with it a myriad of socioeconomic benefits, according to the new comprehensive publication released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). REthinking Energy, now in its third edition, was released today at IRENA’s seventh Assembly, the Agency’s ultimate decision-making authority.

“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.

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.”

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;

New business models promise new ways to finance renewable energy.
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 Mr. 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.

Government officials from more than 150 countries and leaders from international organisations, the private sector and civil society gathered on 14-15 January in Abu Dhabi for the Seventh Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to chart a pathway to a sustainable energy future. The Assembly, the Agency’s ultimate decision-making authority, brings together the international community to advance the global renewable energy agenda and make concrete steps to accelerate the global energy transition and a decarbonisation of the global energy mix.

“An unprecedented transformation of our energy system is underway. Plummeting costs and rapid innovation have spurred investments that are positioning renewable energy solutions at the centre of energy discussion today,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “It is no longer a question of whether or if, but of how we can accelerate this change to move towards a global, sustainable and affordable low-carbon energy future.”

Taking place 14-15 January at the St. Regis Saadiyat Hotel in Abu Dhabi, following a day of preliminary meetings and discussions on 13 January, including the second IRENA Legislator’s Forum, the Seventh Assembly will focus on IRENA’s strategic and programmatic direction to support countries accelerate deployment of renewable energy, and in doing so, meet climate goals, boost the economy, and increase energy access and security.

Highlights of this year’s Assembly include: two ministerial roundtables covering innovation in the power sector and catalysing off-grid renewable energy deployment for development; programmatic discussions on scaling-up private sector renewable energy uptake and driving energy sector decarbonisation through innovation; the announcement of projects in developing countries receiving loans worth USD 44.5 million under the fourth round of the IRENA/Abu Dhabi Fund for Development Project Facility.

The Assembly will also feature the launch of ‘REthinking Energy 2017’ which examines the latest trends in renewable energy and the dramatic changes in the energy sector in many countries.

“The speed and scale of the energy transformation calls for, more than any time before, a strengthening of global cooperation, through concrete action and initiatives, to grapple with the multiple changes and challenges ahead,” added Mr. Amin. “IRENA’s Assembly is the meeting point for such international cooperation, and the next two days will address a range of issues central to the energy transformation underway.”

The Assembly also marks the opening of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and preceeds the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), a global gathering of of energy leaders and decision makers. Throughout the week, IRENA will host and will participate in a series of events, covering topics ranging from the decarbonisation of energy systems to the scaling up of variable renewable power.

Marshall Islands, Niger, Seychelles and Solomon Islands selected to receive funding for transformative, replicable and innovative renewable energy projects through IRENA/ADFD Project Facility

Four renewable energy projects in developing countries in the Pacific and Africa have been identified by Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to receive USD 44.5 million in funding. ADFD’s funding will support a diverse set of projects including a hybrid micro-grid project employing solar PV and advanced lithium-ion batteries, a hydropower project, integrated wind and solar, and a combination project consisting of micro-grid and solar home kits. The announcement of this fourth round of funding by the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility was made today at the Seventh Session of the IRENA Assembly.

“Over the course of the last four years, the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility has identified path breaking renewable energy projects that are helping to expand access to energy, bolster energy security and provide sustainable, affordable energy for those who need it most,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.“Importantly, this Facility is also putting in place an innovative process which supports transformational and replicable projects that can potentially bring sustainable energy to millions of people around the world.”

For his part, His Excellency Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of ADFD said: “ADFD is committed towards steadfast development in the renewable energy sector; it’s a crucial industry for sustainable continuity, long-term growth and constructive evolution of developing nations. Over seven funding cycles, our USD 350 million partnership, IRENA/ADFD Project Facility, aims to support and enhance the developing world’s energy needs by tapping into their abundant renewable energy sources. This collaboration further exemplifies ADFD’s mission and commitment to provide governments with the financial resources, tools, methods and instruments to safeguard against future unknowns, grasp opportunities and seize desired development goals.”

“The UAE’s commitment to advancing sustainable energy transitions in countries around the world has been unwavering. “ said His Excellency Ali Al Shafar, the Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA. “Our renewable energy development aid has been growing significantly to more than USD 900 Million. This is a testament of our belief in the vital role of renewable energy in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal access to modern energy.”

Through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility, ADFD provides consessional loans ranging from USD 5 million to USD 15 million per project. Finance is offered at 1 to 2 per cent lending rates with a 20-year loan period, including a 5-year grace period. Loans for each project cover up to half of the estimated project cost, leveraging additional funding from other sources. To help facilitate additional sources of funding, project developers can register and seek financing sources from IRENA’s Sustainable Energy Marketplace.

The projects selected in this funding round are:

Marshall Islands: A 4.6-megawatt (MW) hybrid micro-grid project, using solar PV and advanced lithium-ion batteries, that will provide renewable energy access to over 16,000 people. It will essentially eliminate fossil fuel based generation on three outer islands and reduce it by more than a third on a fourth island.
Niger: A project focused on rural electrification for over 150,000 people, using 2.1 MW solar PV micro-grids and solar home kits. 100 schools will be electrified, drinking water supplies will be improved, and several thousand jobs will be created.
Seychelles: A government supported solar PV utility scale project will integrate a 5-MW solar PV plant into an existing wind farm, demonstrating an innovative space-saving solution for this small island nation. The project will reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, create almost 300, and supply renewable power to over 1,800 households — benefiting the entire population of 90,000 people.
Solomon Islands: A government-backed 20 MW reservoir dam and hydropower facility will diversify the country’s energy mix, provide renewable energy access to 5,000 people, create around 400 jobs, and avoid 44,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Applications were evaluated by an international panel of experts who reviewed the projects based on their technical feasibility, economic/commercial viability and socio-economic and environmental benefits.

Since 2013, through the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility, USD 189 million has been allocated to 19 projects, and has attracted over USD 387 million in co-financing for a total of USD 576 million in new investment inflow. Selected projects thus far have included off-grid, mini-grid and on-grid projects using wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass sources. Selected projects over the first four cycles will bring more than 100 MW of renewable energy capacity online, and improve the livelihoods of over a million people.

Applications for the next rounding of IRENA/ADFD Project Facility funding will be accepted until 15 February 2017.

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