Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

La lettre diplometque
Entretien exclusif
Diplomatie & Défense
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  Mme./Mrs Hélène Pelosse

50% women for a 100%
renewable energy agency

By Hélène Pelosse
Interim Director General, IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency)

The world will run out of oil by 2050 according to the latest BP report. Meanwhile, demographic growth and the demands of economic development will dramatically increase the energy needs of the 9.2 billion people on the planet. For example, China became an oil importer in 1993 and a coal importer in 2009.
Fewer and fewer resources on the one hand, larger and larger needs on the other hand: we must accelerate the deployment of renewables to meet this challenge. Renewables account for 18% of global electricity production  today, but they represent more than 50% of new installed capacity in Europe and the United States.
Initiating a shift in paradigm and securing the energy transition towards renewable energy were the reasons why 75 countries met in Bonn on January 26th 2009. On that day, IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, was created as the result of decades of lobbying from researchers, politicians and economists. Its Member States are oil consumers, oil producers, pro- or anti-nuclear: IRENA is the energy reconciliation agency and carries hopes of the 21st century for a renewable energy future.
The first hope is to reduce energy dependency and increase energy security: each country has a renewable energy potential and resources such as solar, wind, hydro, ocean, biomass and geothermal energy. The second hope is to curb greenhouse gas emissions, for the only emissions from renewables come from the production of what is needed to harness these energy sources, such as the cement of the dams, the wind turbines or the solar panels. The third hope is to enable economic and social development, because renewables can produce massive amounts of inexpensive energy while creating millions of jobs that cannot be outsourced, a major factor of the green growth promoted by the UNEP.
A year and a half on, the number of Member States have doubled: 148 countries and the European Union have signed the IRENA Statute and 30 countries have already ratified it. Such a record speed is unprecedented in the annals of diplomatic history. The IRENA Statute entered into force on July 8th.
IRENA embodies change in many ways. The Member States present at Sharm El-Sheikh in June 2009 chose Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, as the IRENA headquarters. With the 7th largest proven oil reserves of 98 billion barrels, and one of the highest carbon footprints in the world, Abu Dhabi set a target of 7% of renewable energy in 2020. The launch in June 2010 of the first concentrated solar power project (100 MW) in the Gulf region is the first step towards this objective; even better, Abu Dhabi invests 10% of its GDP in a project to build a clean city of the future, MASDAR.
At Sharm El Sheikh, the Member States elected me as the head of IRENA. Choosing a 39-year-old woman and a mother of three children to lead  the first international organisation based in the Gulf Region is a sure sign of change. At Sharm El Sheikh, I committed to reach gender parity at IRENA and hire 50% of women at all levels; this is now a reality.
IRENA has a clear mandate to promote renewable energy sources worldwide, and every one of them (biomass, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and ocean energy). IRENA is to become a centre of knowledge, sharing and giving easy access to technical and economic information.
Many people are not aware of the huge potential of renewable energy. Statistics for example focus on grid-connected electricity generation and miss the off-grid part, all the solar panels and mini wind turbines that power a house, a school or a village. Hundreds of thousands of these systems exist in Bangladesh. Second example, biomass is usually considered in statistics as renewable energy. But is it really renewable when women spend most of the day walking further and further to collect wood for their home, increasing deforestation in developing countries?
Dozens of countries know they do not have reserves of fossil fuels, but they do not know that they have an incredible renewable energy potential and how best to tap into it. By connecting laboratories worldwide, IRENA will make these data available to everyone and will tell the truth about the costs of renewable energy. Technologies such as hydro are mature and do not need subsidies; others like solar photovoltaic still need a little help, but costs are expected to drop sharply in the future. It is time now to redeploy the fossil fuel subsidies. They have been estimated for a long time in the low hundreds of billion dollars, but the International Energy Agency recently evaluated their cost at 500 billion dollars!
IRENA will be the place to exchange best practices, to share experiences on political and legal frameworks to put in place in order to promote renewable energy. IRENA will promote solutions and face the following challenges: integrate increasing shares of renewables in electricity grids, combine renewable energy sources to generate base load and peak load electricity, use the massive diffusion of electric vehicles and their fantastic storage capacity coupled with smart grids to ease the integration of renewables, organise the production of future biofuels for aircrafts, facilitate the training to renewable energy techniques by using the new information technologies.
IRENA’s governance will make it a 21st century agency with the use of the new information and communication technologies: Internet platforms, videoconferences, virtual working groups, teleconferences, etc. To be more efficient and move faster, Member States have agreed to form small working groups gathering countries with common topics.
And IRENA has already delivered concrete projects, for example with the kingdom of Tonga, which contacted me a few days after my election to ask for IRENA’s help. In 2009, diesel purchases accounted for 19% of Tonga’s GDP and 25% of its imports. We helped its government set up a roadmap for 2010-2020. The ambitious target is to halve diesel imports and to develop renewable energy production. Other small island states want to make this energy revolution. IRENA will assist them in this task. 
Retour en haut de page

La lettre diplomatique Bas
  Présentation - Derniers Numéros - Archives - Nos Liens - Contacts - Mentions Légales