IRENA Innovation Week Focuses on the Future Energy System
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The second IRENA Innovation Week brought together throught leaders from more than 80 countries.

Participants concluded, among other things, that "motivating" the energy transition is easier than "convincing" decision makers since it avoids creating divisions and backlash.

They also stated that pursuing multiple goals related to renewable energy rather than a single goal-oriented path will serve transitioning to renewable energy better.

Participants also discussed linkages between energy access (SDG 7) and other SDGs, noting that and unreliable electricity access costs 2% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa.

5 September 2018: Leading companies, startups and policy makers convened in Bonn, Germany, for the second edition of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Innovation Week to explore breakthroughs in global energy transformation. The event focused on the disruptive technologies, business practices and policies that are driving the energy revolution.

Participants considered what a climate-safe future will look like if we scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency, finding that renewables are the fastest growing energy source in addition to being the most affordable in many parts of the world, and noting that costs will likely decrease further. They also stated that renewable energy is increasingly competitive with conventional fuels due to remarkable cost reductions, technological innovation, and encouraging environmental policies. However, participants indicated that, to achieve the Paris Agreement target and meet the SDGs, innovation is key to ensuring that all countries can benefit from low-cost renewable power and reliably integrate high shares of renewables in their power systems at an accelerated pace. Thought leaders also agreed to explore how digitization, decentralization and end-use electrification are changing the way that we produce, trade and consume power.

Governments should be more courageous and experiment more with renewable energy.

At a senior-level public-private round table, conversations were broken up into four perspectives: research and innovation; the energy industry; impacts and challenges of the developing world; and policy. Participants discussed the need for financing, stabilization of a disrupted system, simplification for policy makers, leapfrogging of ideas, and “boosting renewables to the market level.” They called for more adaptive policies for the energy transition and integrating the solutions are readily available, noting that there is also a need for continuous monitoring of best renewable energy practice to fill an information gap regarding solutions. Furthermore, governments should be more courageous and experiment more with renewable energy.

At a plenary session on perspectives on the transformative impacts of innovation, change management emerged as one of the biggest barriers to the energy transformation. Participants agreed that focusing on advocacy is not beneficial as it typically creates a schism and resistance to changing to renewables. Focusing on positive motivation is the better option but it is largely missing in states that are still behind transitioning to renewable energy sources. Participants also agreed that pursuing multiple goals rather than a single goal oriented path will better support transitioning to renewable energy. The session closed with leaders asserting that innovation is fundamental for a low-carbon future but the pace needs to expedite.

A plenary session on developing and deploying solutions for a renewable-powered future focused on the fact that we do not know when changes in the renewable energy sector will take place. Participants suggested that digitization can be an enabler for transforming the power sector by managing data, optimizing systems, and unlocking flexibility to integrate more renewable energy. Energy usage of data centers and cyber security, on the other hand, were raised as concerns. The plenary also agreed that energy access is key to achieving SDG 7 on access to affordable and clean energy for all and interlinked with many other SDGs. Linkages to SDG 3 on health and well-being, for example, are evident in millions of deaths due to indoor pollution from cooking smokes. Similarly, 300 million children at primary schools require access to electricity to achieve SDG 4 on education. In Sub-Saharan Africa unreliable electricity access costs 2% of GDP, participants reminded.

IRENA Innovation week convened from 5-7 September in Bonn, Germany, under the theme, ‘Solutions for a Renewable-Powered Future.’ [IRENA: Press Release and video recordings of key sessions] [Additional video recordings available on IRENA’s Youtube Channel]

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