The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the intergovernmental organization supporting countries in their transition to sustainable energy, has just wrapped up IRENA Innovation Week under the 2016 theme ‘The Age of Renewable Power.' IRENA's work on energy innovation is actively supporting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all).
With so much happening in this sphere, Innovation Week had a packed agenda.
In fact, the rate of new developments makes it hard to keep up.
Aside from IRENA, many other actors have recent announcements that contribute to SDG 7.
The following is a rundown of some of the latest news on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy access tools, resources, technologies and initiatives stemming from intergovernmental efforts.
13 May 2016: The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which seeks to support countries in their transition to sustainable energy, has concluded its ‘2016 Innovation Week’ following a series of activities that addressed the theme ‘The Age of Renewable Power.’ IRENA’s work on energy innovation aims, in part, to support Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all). In addition to IRENA, many other actors have made recent announcements that are expected to contribute to SDG 7. The following update shares some of the latest news on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy access tools, resources, technologies and initiatives stemming from intergovernmental efforts.
IRENA Innovation Week, held 11-13 May in Bonn, Germany, featured deepdive sessions, group discussions and plenaries led by innovators, policymakers and researchers on, inter alia: the future grid; energy systems planning and modeling; energy storage and electric vehicles; new market designs; decentralized systems and rural electrification; utilities of the future; and systemic, technological and operational innovation. Discussions centered on opportunities and challenges, relevant innovations, priority areas for policy development, and gaps in international cooperation. The outcomes will feed into a ‘Global Innovation Agenda’ document. [IRENA Innovation Week 2016 Website] [IRENA Press Release]
During Innovation Week, IRENA released a report explaining the role of grid codes, which govern power systems and energy market operations, in managing increasingly larger shares of variable renewable energy (VRE) in a country’s electric grid. The report argues that the proper design of grid connection codes can encourage successful interconnection of VRE generators, in support of a country’s energy policy. The report provides detailed guidance for developing and implementing these codes as well as case studies from Australia, Barbados, Germany, Ireland and the Philippines. [IRENA Publication Webpage] [Scaling up Variable Renewable Power: The Role of Grid Codes]
In another recent publication, IRENA posits that both food and fuel production can be scaled sustainably, paving the way for biofuels to support climate change mitigation, economic development and energy security. The report outlines ways to unlock this potential, such as by: boosting yields of food crops and residues, thus freeing up farmland; reducing losses and waste in the food chain; freeing up pastureland through better livestock management; afforestation with fast-growing trees; and algae cultivation from organic waste or carbon dioxide. [IRENA Publication Webpage] [Boosting Biofuels: Sustainable Paths to Greater Energy Security]
Also on sustainable transport, the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) is working toward decarbonizing the sector through hydrogen-powered vehicles. A partnership of 20 industrial companies under the auspices of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport, CEP is demonstrating hydrogen mobility’s suitability for daily use and is working toward deploying the requisite infrastructure and supporting “green” production of hydrogen. CEP will showcase its fleet of fuel cell vehicles at the 44th session of the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Bodies, taking place 16-26 May in Bonn, Germany. CEP partners will also present at a Technical Expert Meeting (TEM) on mitigation at the session. [UNFCCC Press Release]
The UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, whose goals mirror the SDG 7 targets, has launched national SE4All processes in Zambia and Cameroon, which will include the development of country Action Agendas and Investment Prospectuses. In partnership with the World Bank, SE4All also launched a new energy access online platform that aims to connect stakeholders from around the globe and disseminate knowledge from experts and practitioners. According to Malcolm Cosgrove-Davies, Global Lead for Energy Access, World Bank Group, the community’s “unique mix of content and diverse members” provide both a source of information and a repository of professional development tools for its users. [African Development Bank (AfDB) Press Release – Zambia] [AfDB Press Release – Cameroon (French)] [SE4All Press Release] [SE4All Energy Access Online Forum]
Also on tools for energy access, Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) announced the development of an electrification modeling tool, titled ‘Access to Universal Electricity,’ that accounts for local characteristics to discover the best, lowest-cost combination of technologies that can deliver universal energy access in a given country. [UN Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) Press Release on Electrification Tool]
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and World Resources Institute (WRI) collaborated on a guide outlining eight actions urban leaders can take to accelerate efficiency improvement in buildings. The guide was launched at the 2016 Energy Efficiency Global Forum in Washington DC, US, on 11 May. [GEF Press Release] [WRI Press Release] [Accelerating Building Efficiency: Eight Actions for Urban Leaders] [Energy Efficiency Global Forum Website]
Also at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum, The Climate Group launched a new global campaign, EP100, with a goal of securing commitments from leading businesses to double their energy productivity. Highlighting ambitious climate action from these private sector leaders, Rachel Kyte, SE4All CEO, called energy productivity “a critical component of our new energy future.” She welcomed the businesses’ public commitments to boosting energy productivity, saying that these actions not only “cut energy costs, enhance profitability and avoid fluctuating energy shocks,” but also help “achieve the world’s shared goals of sustainable, efficient energy for all.” [EP100 Webpage] [The Climate Group Press Release]
Further evidence released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that economic growth and increased energy production do not have to be accompanied by increased energy consumption and emissions, thanks to both energy efficiency and renewable sources of power. Among member States, IEA statistics show that energy production rose four percent in 2014 while carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption fell. This news complements earlier released findings on the continued decoupling of CO2 emissions and economic growth in 2015. [IEA Press Release] [IISD RS Story on Decoupling of Energy Emissions, Economic Growth in 2015]
Energy Indispensable to Other SDGs
Beyond the clear climate change mitigation benefits, which support SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts), clean energy has the potential to support the achievement of many SDGs. For instance, the interrelationship between clean technologies and health (SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) was highlighted by Bertrand Piccard, Initiator, Chairman and Pilot of zero-fuel plane Solar Impulse and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador. In his UNEP guest post, Piccard identifies interlinkages among access to energy and access to water, food and medical treatment, among others. “Using clean energy,” he argues, “would encourage political leaders to spend more time and resources on improving social benefits in the form of medical facilities and schools.” [UNEP Guest Post]
Others highlighted the linkages among energy, water and agriculture. Energy’s role in supplying irrigation to crops means it is integral to achieving SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture). Chief Minister of Gujarat, India, Anandiben Patel, recognized Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali (DSUUSM), the world’s first solar irrigation cooperative, for creating risk-free climate-smart income for its members through energy sales. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) of the CGIAR Consortium and CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) helped develop and support the project. [IWMI Press Release and Pictures] [CGIAR Press Release]