IRENA’s Year in Review 2016

02 January 2017| Articles

Entering 2017 presents an ideal moment to review IRENA's progress and what better way to do that than to take account of what has occurred in the year just finished— and so here we present to you IRENA’s year in review.

Before we start, in case you missed it, you can catch-up on what the Agency achieved in 2014 and 2015, in IRENA’s At A Glance.

But now without further ado, let’s travel through the last 12 months and take a look at IRENA’s activities and accomplishments in 2016.


The year started with a bang — in December, world leaders had arrived at a Climate Agreement, and IRENA’s 6th Assembly was the first high-level opportunity for climate leaders to meet since Paris. The Assembly, an annual event of all of IRENA’s stakeholders and the start of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, encouraged leaders to take action on their climate agreements, and IRENA and the African Union met with African ministers to discuss coordination of the continent’s energy transition. Photos from the 6th Assembly can be found on IRENA’s Flickr account.

IRENA released a report highlighting how increasing the share of renewable energy could boost global GDP by USD 1.3 trillion by 2030, and at the World Future Energy Summit pledged with the Terrawatt Initiative to establish proper conditions for the substantial deployment of competitive solar power generation.

A renewable energy market analysis revealed that the GCC region could save 11 trillion litres of water withdrawal (a 16 per cent decrease), save 400 million barrels of oil in power sector (a 25 per cent decrease), create more than 200,000 direct jobs and reduce the per capita carbon footprint by 8 per cent in 2030, by scaling up renewable deployment.


February saw Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, visit the IRENA headquarters in Abu Dhabi, to meet with Secretariat staff. The release of a report covering water use in China’s power sector, revealed that a combination of renewables and improved plant cooling technologies can reduce water-intensity in Chinese power generation by as much as 42%, while reducing emissions-intensity by up to 37%.


In March, IRENA expanded its outreach in the realm of social media with the launch of its irenaimages account on Instagram — a platform that focuses on image and video sharing.

The release of REmap 2016 at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue showed that doubling renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 is feasible and actually less expensive than not doing so. It can save up to $4.2 trillion annually by 2030 — 15 times more than the costs — all while achieving numerous economic, social and environmental goals.

A renewables readiness assessment of Mongolia found that output from the country’s solar and wind resources alone could reach 15,000 terawatt-hours per year, and could be used to help the country bolster energy security, reduce pollution, meet global climate commitments and develop regional electricity exports. The release of the report was closely followed by an IRENA technology brief on Wind Power, which focused on technological aspects that will continue to drive down costs.


In April, IRENA turned 5 years old, and to celebrate it, launched its first ever international photo competition. A report on sustainable pathways for biofuels described the huge potential of advanced “second-generation” biofuels to achieve greater energy security, while the release of the latest set of IRENA renewable energy capacity statistics — 13,546 data points from more than 200 countries and territories — found that renewable power generation capacity grew 8.3% in 2015, the highest rate ever recorded.

The second annual African Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Summit, towards the end of the month, brought together private, public, national and regional actors to help Africa build a climate-resilient infrastructure through strategic partnerships. IRENA used the platform to meet with regional stakeholders and further work on the Africa Clean Energy Corridor initiative — seeking to facilitate a steady flow of bankable renewable energy projects to attract long-term stable investments and create a larger regional electricity market.


The first ever IRENA Innovation Week  in Bonn kicked-off with a gathering of energy industry experts and stakeholders from more than 60 countries, discussing innovations in the renewable energy power sector and achieving higher shares of renewable energy worldwide, both on and off the grid.

Doubling the share of renewables by 2030 would decrease harmful emissions from pollutants such as ammonia, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and sulphur dioxide by 82%, 33%, 27% and 12% respectively, according to an IRENA report.

IRENA’s 5 years celebration was followed by the gathering of the 11th Council meeting and its release of the annual job report, which reported that a record 8.1 million are employed in the renewables sector. At the 7th Clean Energy Ministerial, IRENA and its attendees discussed a new initiative to boost corporate sourcing for renewables and support the global energy transition.


June saw the release of The Power to Change: Solar and Wind Cost Reduction Potential to 2025, Letting in the Light: How Solar Photovoltaics Will Revolutionize the Electricity System and End-of-Life Management: Solar Photovoltaic Panels, covering the significant reductions in cost of renewables and the potential business opportunity of retired solar panels.

A study by IRENA showed that almost all of Samoa’s electricity demand can be met with renewable energy, and at Intersolar Europe, held in Munich, IRENA and the Terrawatt Initiative led the Solar Energy Standardisation Initiative to boost global solar energy deployment.

June also saw the release of a report on using solar pumping technology to improve irrigation, and another on the role of risk mitigation and structured finance to meet the hundreds of billions of dollars needed in renewable energy investments annually.


In July the G20 discussed the progress made since the adoption of the IRENA-led G20 Toolkit of Voluntary Options for Renewable Energy Deployment, and Solar Impulse ended its epic journey around the world powered by the sun.

IRENA and the Inter-American Development Bank’s Sustainable Energy Marketplace for Latin America and the Caribbean, announced a USD 300,000 technical assistance award to advance the development of six renewable energy projects across Latin America and the Caribbean, and an IRENA renewable energy roadmap was released for the Dominican Republic.


In August, IRENA released its working paper on achieving more sustainable transport by 2030, proposing three main areas for action.


Global Green Growth Week 2016 in Jeju Island, Korea, highlighted IRENA research and the need for greater investment in renewable energy. Intersolar Middle East, held in Dubai, gathered the region’s top renewable energy experts and stakeholders to talk about plummeting solar costs and the technology’s ability to transform the energy sector.


Activities picked up again in October with IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin speaking at the World Green Economy Summit in Dubai. IRENA held its third International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference in Kenya, where it debuted reports on mini-grids and growing food and the economy using renewables.

IRENA was at the UN’s Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, where it held a forum RE-energising Cities: Renewable Energy in Urban Settings. The event can be viewed again in its entirety via IRENA’s YouTube channel.


The month started with IRENA’s 12th Council, followed by the Paris Agreement coming into force on 4 November. IRENA released its renewable energy market analysis for Latin America, and the IRENA/ADFD project facility opened its 5th cycle of funding.

November was also the month of COP22 — the UN’s annual climate change conference. IRENA was there, hosting events and providing coverage regarding renewables transformative role to reach climate goals, decarbonising the global economy, and the role of corporations. IRENA events also focused on renewables in Africa, Small Island Developing States, and a new initiative to help decarbonise the transport and industry sectors through modern, sustainable low-carbon biofuels.


December saw an announcement of the winner of the IRENA photo competition, and the addition of a new bioenergy simulator to the IRENA Global Atlas tool.

The IRENA Secretariat would like to wish you a happy New Year, and hope that you stay tuned to our channels for updates on IRENA activities and advancements in the field of renewable energy.