IRENA, IISD Hold Media Workshop on Energy Access

5 December 2011: The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) organized a workshop for journalists regarding "Access to Energy – What Role for Renewable Energy?" Participants at the event, which took place on the sidelines of the Durban Climate Change Conference, considered the role renewables could play in providing access to energy.

Noting the continued fall in the costs of renewables, Adnan Amin, Director-General of IRENA, stated that they were becoming an increasingly viable source of energy. He mentioned the case of Africa, where half of installed capacity in 2010 had been renewable, emphasizing that in some contexts, renewables could outperform fossil fuels. Amin underscored the contribution to climate change mitigation of finding a diversified energy mix, including through the increased roll-out of renewables projects. He indicated that IRENA operates at three levels to assist developing countries, namely it: helps build a knowledge base for decision makers, including through its renewables readiness assessments; provides information on the latest trends in innovation and technology; and provides capacity building to developing countries. He concluded by calling for the removal of over $500 billion in fossil fuel subsidies, and urged governments to put a price on the negative externalities of oil, coal and other fuels.

Eva Oberender, REEEF, discussed the importance of renewables for energy access in remote areas, highlighting the case of outlying villages in Pacific Island countries such as Solomon Islands where there was a small market and large distances. She emphasized that renewables are becoming increasingly competitive and affordable, but that fossil fuels benefit from being the traditional source of energy. She stressed the need to work on the policy and regulatory structure, and find solutions for financing in the renewables sector, noting that up-front costs and returns on investment were very different to the traditional energy sector.

Dolf Gielen, IRENA, highlighted challenges associated with the use of traditional biomass as a source of energy and discussed the difficulties of bringing electricity to the 1.3 billion people who did not have access to it. Recalling the UN goal of achieving universal energy access by 2030, he emphasized remaining obstacles to energy delivery. He concluded by highlighting the potential role of renewable energy, in particular in the context of off-grid electricity, to reach this target.  [IRENA Website on the Media Workshops] [IISD RS Sources]