[enviro-vlc] Clean-energy agency recruits its founding members
vern.weitzel at gmail.com
Sun Feb 1 05:30:13 EST 2009
The IRENA website is at: http://www.irena.org/
Note: Viet Nam, Cambodia and Lao PDR are not signatories. See attached.
Published online 30 January 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.70
Updated online: 30 January 2009
Clean-energy agency recruits its founding members
Nations have begun to hammer out the mandate for the International Renewable
Renewable energy — lost without its own agency?Getty
Earlier this week, 75 countries banded together to form the International
Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) as a way to promote clean-energy development
around the globe. Nature News takes a look at what the agency hopes to accomplish.
What would IRENA do?
Member states are still debating exactly how the organization will work, but its
duties could include coordinating information and research on renewable-energy
markets and promoting policies that will enable these technologies to spread.
The organization is planning to meet again in June, in which more of these basic
questions will be hammered out. But the first order of duty is getting member
states to ratify the founding treaty to create IRENA, which could occur as early
as this year.
Who joined and how big will the organization be?
Although 120 countries were represented at the founding conference in Bonn,
Germany, on 26 January, many of them elected not to become founding members. The
current list of signatories includes Spain, Denmark, France, Portugal and the
Scandinavian countries as well as various countries from the Middle East, Asia,
Africa and southern and central America. Right now IRENA is operating on
donations, but member states have so far committed US$25 million a year once the
founding treaty enters into force.
Notably missing from the current list are the United States, the United Kingdom,
China, India and Brazil. The administration of former US President George W.
Bush did not support the proposal, but Barack Obama's crew is thought to be more
amenable to the idea. Whether and when these and other countries will join is an
open question, but one thing is clear: the broader the support, the more
potential there is for IRENA to accomplish its goals.
We have already got the International Energy Agency and the International Atomic
Energy Agency. Is a separate organization needed?
Advocates argue that the International Energy Agency is too focused on fossil
fuels, particularly oil. And indeed, the agency was founded in 1974, largely in
response to the Arab oil embargo a year earlier, as a way to coordinate energy
statistics and bolster energy security in some of the major energy economies.
But fossil fuels and alternative energies are all bound together into one
increasingly globalized energy market, with prices and trends in one sector
affecting those in all the others.
The International Energy Agency has numerous renewable-energy experts and is
busy studying the entire system. But IRENA's supporters say renewable energies
may get overlooked without an organisation specifically dedicated to them.
The fact that nuclear energy has its own organization is cited as evidence that
a similar body should be focusing entirely on renewable energy. It is certainly
a valid point. However, atomic energy is different in that the spread of
advanced nuclear technologies pose unique hazards if they wind up in the hands
of the wrong people. Given the scale of the potential pitfalls, it is fairly
easy to make a case for maintaining a crew of nuclear experts who can monitor
the market and look for illicit activities.
Where did the idea originate?
IRENA is the brainchild of Hermann Scheer, a German parliamentarian and one of
the country's leading advocates for renewable energy. Scheer is the president of
EUROSOLAR, the European association for renewable energy, based in Germany, and
chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy. He proposed the idea in 1990
and has been pushing to make it a reality ever since.
The idea made it into the halls of the German parliament in 2002, when the
Social Democratic Party and the Green Party adopted IRENA as part of their
energy platforms. It plugged along until 2007, when the German government took
up the idea and began bilateral talks with various nations in an effort to get
it off the ground. Those talks culminated in two conferences last year,
ultimately leading to the founding conference on 26 January this year.
How soon will the agency be up and running?
Organizers hope to complete the ratification process as early as this year, and
are planning the first formal congress in 2010. There member states will adopt
bylaws and appoint a director-general to lead the organization. By then, the
organisation's mission should be clearer. But the agency will still have to
build up its staff before it can really get down to business.
UPDATED: Since the publication of this article, the Indian Parliament has
decided in favour of joining IRENA.
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