It is the only source of energy which could meet the needs of 10 billion human beings in 2050.
Historically, energy has been the cause of numerous conflicts. Access to petrol has generated deadly wars and a schism between producer and consumer countries, incarnated since the past 30 years by the rival organizations, OPEC and IEA. As far as nuclear energy is concerned, there is no such global organization.
Founded on 26th January 2009 in Germany, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is a real breakthrough. IRENA is the agency of reconciliation of all countries to form a sacred union for a global fight: the transition to clean energy. As of now 136 countries have agreed to develop renewable energy together. This is the first time that this kind of energy has reached such a consensus. And this has occurred at a time when the IPCC, presided by an eminent Indian scientist, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, has launched works that will conclude with the publication of a report on renewable energy within a year.
Today, renewable energy represents 18 per cent of global energy consumption. This is mainly constituted of traditional biomass — women in developing countries who use wood for cooking — and hydraulic energy. But other forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, have witnessed very strong growth rates: more than 20 per cent per year over the past 10 years for the former, and an even higher growth rate for the latter. Should it not be recalled that, in 2009, no new nuclear power station has been installed, whereas the installation of wind energy facilities has been increased by 27 GW?
Renewable energy is a major solution for fighting climate change. And it is the only source of unlimited energy which could meet the needs of 10 billion human beings that we shall number in 2050. Its potential is not only immense but also well distributed, unlike fossil fuels: let us not forget that 65 per cent of oil is concentrated in the Middle East. Be it the sun, the wind, rivers, the sea, the heat of the earth, the forest and agricultural and industrial residues, each country on Earth has resources.
In India alone — the only country in the world to have a ministry dedicated to renewable energy and a founder-member of IRENA – the potential is immense. Electricity from renewable energy already accounts for 9 per cent of installed capacity. Globally, India is the 5th largest producer of wind energy; national champions, such as Suzlon, have been created and the resources are far from having been completely exploited. Today, exploiting the potential of solar energy - “Solar India” – constitutes the next challenge. I am pleased with India’s ambitious solar energy plan, which targets a 20GW capacity by 2020. New norms and regulations will be incorporated in it. Well gauged and effective, they could serve as an example for other countries.
With India and all member-States, IRENA will work hand in hand to develop renewable energy. Together, we will pool expertise for laying down the most effective regulations which will help increase the share of renewable energy. Together, we will interconnect research centres in the world and create a global database so that each country may be aware of the resources at its disposal. Together, we will invent new products so as to render solar technology accessible to the poorest. Together, we will finance exemplary cooperation projects and meet the vast existing training needs.
But we must also accomplish a Copernican revolution together. For years we have been living with a centralised energy system; we will now move towards a decentralized system wherein there will be numerous production sources. We are used to a rigid, non communicating electricity network, which should instead be made flexible and intelligent. We had thought that electricity could not be stocked – tomorrow the batteries of millions of electric vehicles will drastically reduce the need for large stocking capacity. The energy transformation supported by IRENA will also be that of a change in mindset.
(Helene Pelosse is Interim Director General of IRENA.)