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This article reviews the literature on the geopolitics of renewable energy. The German Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway were particularly active, "Joining forces with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to support a major international analytical initiative from 2016 to 2017, leading on to the formation of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation under IRENA in 2018."
Today, the international community faces a new threat that has infected millions and killed 40,000 to date. It is shutting down commerce and wounding economies too. Great thinkers are wanted now more than ever: if a virus can disassemble livelihoods so too can climate change. “The pandemic shows that delayed action brings significant economic consequences,” says IRENA Director General, Francesco La Camera.
The International Renewable Energy Agency has devised a valuation framework to lay the foundations for successful storage deployment. As the technology matures and moves toward a projected fall in price, revenue stacking will be crucial to assess viability and properly value its benefits.
A shift from sugar-based feedstocks and biomass to the use of atmospheric CO2 for the bioproduction of fuels and chemicals. Source: Renewable Power: Climate-Safe Energy Competes on Cost Alone (IRENA 2018).
Renewable energy sources can be used in district heating and cooling systems without increasing citizens’ energy bills or heating plants’ and local governments’ costs, while at the same time significantly contributing to the quality of the environment, primarily by reducing air pollution, says Bojan Bogdanović, Principal Fund Manager for Renewable District Energy in the Western Balkans at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The EBRD is a financial institution, but it is very important to note that the bank does not just provide financing, but also builds partnerships with local and international organizations and institutions, such as the ministries in charge of energy in Western Balkan countries, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Serbian Association of District Heating Plants, or Euroheat & Power, a European network of heating plants and district heating professionals.
As home to over half the world’s oil reserves, the Middle East is fast establishing itself as a renewable energy hotspot as it embraces global energy sector shifts towards sustainability. The International Renewable Energy Agency said in 2019 that it expects planned investments to equal nearly 7GW of the Gulf’s power generation capacity over the early years of this decade. For context, 1GW can sustain 750,000 homes in energy-intensive areas such as California.
The power companies from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations are planning to further invest in the global $10 trillion renewables market, expanding outside their region as demand for cleaner energy gathers pace around the world. The gulf region could save 354 million barrels of oil equivalent from adopting renewable energy by 2030, according to a 2019 study from the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency.
The world’s largest oil traders are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into climate-friendly projects - including wind farms, cow manure plants and blue hydrogen - as they seek to match the profits they make from trading oil. “Per unit of energy, hydrogen supply costs are 1.5 to 5 times those of natural gas [...]. The development of hydrogen infrastructure is a challenge and is holding back widespread adoption,” a report by IRENA said.
Working in real estate, finance and renewable energy, I’ve seen how investors — from the biggest fund management firms to individuals — are taking note, and family offices are particularly well positioned to invest in this growing market. IRENA also released a report last year indicating that onshore wind and solar photovoltaic are now frequently less expensive than any fossil fuel resource, even without subsidies. The economic argument for renewable energy resources cannot be denied, and demand and growth are forecasted to continue in the coming years.
Another report by IRENA said that renewable energy could employ more than 40 million people by 2050. It said that total energy sector employment can reach 100 million by 2050, up from around 58 million today should the international community utilise its full renewable energy potential. “While solar jobs could be the answer in some coal mining areas, policymakers would need to focus on a variety of industries including both renewables and non-renewables to help coal miners make an employment transition locally,” the study said.
If the hydrogen economy is to advance, it must receive investment support of $70 billion by 2030. That’s according to the Hydrogen Council, which says that the cost to produce and distribute hydrogen from clean energy sources will fall by as much as 50% over the next decade. Hydrogen from renewable power is technically viable today, says IRENA, noting that its price will one day be on par with that of “grey hydrogen” from coal and natural gas. Green hydrogen is already more cost-effective than “blue hydrogen” that utilizes carbon capture technologies.
“It’s a pivotal time to be working in the industry,” said Women in Focus award recipient Bridget Ryan. The GreenSync Policy and Government Lead has seen great change in her two decades in the industry, but recognises there is still a way to go. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective report, renewables employ a larger share of women than conventional energy. However, as Rabia Ferroukhi, IRENA’s Acting Director Knowledge, Policy and Finance points out, “women still encounter numerous obstacles, from the lack of equal access to education, training, mentoring, professional networks and finance, to the glass-ceiling in companies or institutions.”
The last decade has seen dramatic growth of more than 16 per cent a year in the global consumption of electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind. That is all to the good, but Dolf Gielen and Emanuele Taibi of the intergovernmental International Renewable Energy Agency say that is not sufficient. Even if half of all final consumption was electrified, the other half - including heavy lorries, much of the heating sector and energy intensive industries such as iron and steel - remains overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels.
There will be more than enough batteries in electric vehicles by 2050 to support a grid that runs on solar and wind - if the two are connected by smart chargers, according to experts at the International Renewable Energy Agency.
IRENA hosted a conference in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where world leaders underscored the need for immediate and collective action to curb CO2. It is first and foremost a grassroots effort that is now possible because technology is advanced and affordable.
A team of legal advisors and renewable energy experts contributed to an Open Solar Contracts Initiative to accelerate the deployment of solar power worldwide. The open source project was initiated by the Terrawatt Initiative (TWI) and IRENA in 2016, “to streamline and scale up the global development and financing of solar projects, to contribute to meeting the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.”
Germany has said it will phase out coal by 2038 as it looks to renewable energy sources for its power generation. International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) figures for 2018 show around 284,000 people working in Germany’s renewable energy sector, the vast majority in wind energy.
Global political leaders from Sierra Leone, India and the United Kingdom, among others, at the tenth assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi in January discussed how parliamentarians, in their role as a bridge between government and communities, could drive the clean energy transition.
Transitioning to new fuels will be expensive in the short term. Up to $1.9 trillion in investments needed to fully decarbonize maritime shipping by 2050, only 13% is for ships. The remaining 87% would be for land-based infrastructure and production facilities for alternative fuels. IRENA says “any shift toward a cleaner sector will require important changes to port terminal infrastructure and operational equipment, as well as daily operational practices”.