IRENA marks anniversary in Bonn with discussions on innovation and technology


One year after the official opening of its Innovation and Technology Centre (IITC) in Bonn, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) concluded a successful week of discussions on technology and innovation from 20 to 26 October 2012. The week highlighted the often rapid progress in renewable technologies. The implications for policy-makers of the latest developments in renewable technology standards, intellectual property rights, and cost reductions were the focus of the discussions. These themes are central to IRENA’s mandate to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy worldwide.

The week started with Bonn’s International Organisations Day on 20 October when hundreds of local citizens were able to meet IRENA staff and learn about the activities of the Agency.

On 24 October, IRENA’s Deputy Director-General Frank Wouters opened the workshop “Needs and gaps on standardisation for Renewable Energy”, jointly organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and IRENA, thatbrought together leading experts from the International Standards Organization, the International Electrotechnical Commission and other organisations to discuss the role of standards and certification in accelerating the deployment of renewables. “Wider application of existing international standards is a priority, for example in the field of off-grid PV systems” said Mr Wouters.

A workshop on patents and intellectual property rights (IPR) on 25 October highlighted how IRENA’s work can help to foster innovation and remove barriers to the trade and deployment of renewable energy technologies. Experts from patent offices, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Trade Organization, industry and academia discussed how IPR, and in particular the wealth of knowledge in patents, can help policy-makers assess trends and policy priorities for innovation. Participants agreed on the need for a better understanding of the role IPR play in the deployment of renewable technologies in different markets. Up to 1 million patents already have a bearing on renewable energy technologies and these could become a much more important source of information for developed and developing countries alike.

Finally, on 26 October, IRENA and the International Energy Agency’s Renewable Energy Technology Deployment Implementing Agreement (IEA-RETD) jointly organised a workshop on the impact of recent cost reductions on the policy framework for renewable energy. As the costs for equipment and project costs are falling for many renewable technologies (the cost of photovoltaic modules has fallen by around 60% in the past two years), proper and timely planning is becoming critical to ensure systems-integration costs remain low. A special session highlighted the role of electric vehicles as one part of the overall strategy to raise the share of renewables in the energy system. “As the share of renewables rises, it will become increasingly important for renewables to work together, and the policy focus will need to shift towards a more system-oriented approach” noted Hans-Jørgen Koch, the Chair of IEA-RETD.

“The response to IRENA’s week of discussions on technology and innovation was very positive,” concluded Dolf Gielen, Director of the IITC. “The synergies between the different topics that were discussed this week are evident, and IRENA can play an important role in connecting them and the experts working on these topics”.