75 countries sign up to new clean energy agency

Posted: 30 January 2009

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the first multinational agency focused solely on spreading clean energy across the globe, was officially launched on 26 January

More than 120 government delegations from across the world attended the founding conference in Bonn and a total of 75 nations, a broad cross-section of developing and industrialized countries, signed the Agency's statute. Many others expressed their strong commitment to IRENA's goals and their intention to join in the near future.

IRENA aims to expand renewable energy
IRENA aims to expand renewable energy
IRENA aims to expand renewable energy installations throughout the industrialized and developing worlds. About 12,000 megawatts of wind power capacity were installed in 2008 alone. Photo courtesy US NREL
The expectations are that the agency will help governments and private industry to expand renewable energy installments throughout the industrialized world, where investments are already on the rise, while also assist the developing world acquire the expertise to establish its own clean energy industries.

"IRENA will help to remove the many obstacles which up to now have delayed the rapid expansion of renewables," said Sigmar Gabriel, the German federal environment minister, in a conference address. "The market is still distorted by subsidies for conventional energies, technological know-how is inadequate, information is not always correct."

Originally the initiative of Germany, Spain, and Denmark, IRENA now includes countries such as France, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kenya. The founding treaty becomes effective once it is ratified by 25 countries.

Conference participation exceeded the founders' expectations, but many of the world's largest industrialized countries have not signed the treaty, most notably the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China, and Australia. But these countries may still join after the agency further develops, observers said.

Although other bodies such as the United Nations and International Energy Agency also focus on expanding renewable energy installments, IRENA is the first global agency dedicated to this cause alone.

"[IRENA] will focus more resources on renewable energies than any other organization to date. But others need not worry - there is more than enough work for everyone," Gabriel said. "IRENA will cooperate with other organizations and institutions to exploit synergies."

Although the global credit crunch has slowed many renewable energy investments, wind, solar, and geothermal industries expanded worldwide last year.

About 12,000 megawatts of wind power capacity were installed in 2008 alone, bringing the global total to 106,100 megawatts, according to the World Wind Energy Association. In addition, 9,740 megawatts of cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and at least 6,000 megawatts of geothermal energy projects have been installed, according to the Worldwatch Institute and UN Environment Programme, respectively.