IRENA: Promoting renewable energy worldwide


Global challenges can only be tackled collaboratively: energy security, protection of the environment and climate and eradication of poverty are matters that no‑one can resolve alone. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) promotes the development of regenerative energy around the world.

Solar powered radio mast in Egypt
Solar powered radio mast in Egypt© picture alliance / zb

Germany – a prime mover for IRENA

The idea of establishing an international agency for renewable energy was first proposed in 1981, at a UN conference in Nairobi. It was developed further at various conferences run by organisations involved in the renewables field, such as EUROSOLAR, and Germany came up with concrete plans to help underpin it. The 2005 coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and SPD, the ruling parties at the time, cited founding such an agency as a government policy goal.

The Statute establishing IRENA was signed in Bonn by 75 countries on 26 January 2009. The agency’s Members convened for their first meeting on the following day. As the depositary of the Statute, Germany receives the instruments of accession and ratification. The Statute establishing IRENA entered into force on 8 July 2010, following the deposit of the 25th instrument of ratification with the Federal Foreign Office on 8 June. Today, IRENA has the support of 169 countries, and 149 countries plus the EU have joined the agency and ratified the Statute - including 27 EU member states, the United States, China, the Gulf States and most developing countries. As of 20 January 2017, a further 27 countries were in the process of joining.

IRENA’s activities

Germany – regenerative energy
Germany – regenerative energy© dpa/picture-alliance

IRENA is the first international organisation to focus exclusively on renewable energy. It is intended to act as a platform and a voice for renewables around the world. The agency supports its Members in adapting their policy frameworks for green energy, capacity building and improving knowledge and technology transfer in the field of renewable energy. It also advises its Members on funding options and engages in public relations to support their activities.

When IRENA was founded in 2009, only 118 countries had specific goals and/or strategies for developing and using green energy; today, 144 countries have set objectives for using renewables, and around 130 have drawn up strategies to promote the development of renewables and increase the proportion of green energy in their total energy consumption.

There is enormous potential in energy from renewable sources:

  • It bolsters energy security and sustainable economic growth.
  • Even considerable increases in demand can be met if we harness the enormous potential of the wind, the sun and other renewable sources.
  • As technology costs fall, renewable energy can contribute to low energy prices.
  • Renewables are a key component in mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
  • Renewable energy can supply the energy needs of the world’s poorest people. Everyone around the world can be provided with energy locally, with no need for expensive national grids.
  • Expanding and developing the green energy sector is creating more than 6 million jobs across the globe.

IRENA is intended to help close the gap between the potential of renewables and their share of the world’s markets as quickly as possible – for instance, by promoting the development of regional corridors for the use of green energy and enhancing access to modern energy services.

IRENA’s Centre of Innovation and Technology housed in Bonn

IRENA headquarters are located in Abu Dhabi, while Bonn houses one of its three specialised departments, the Innovation and Technology Centre (IITC).

The IITC was opened in Bonn on 7 October 2011. Supported by the German Government, it provides specialist analysis and information for the promotion of renewable energies in industrialised countries as well as in developing and emerging economies. In cooperation with the IRENA components in Abu Dhabi, the centre contributes to the global transition to resource‑efficient technologies. A technological pioneer, Germany supports the IICT to underline its key international significance to the development of renewable energy around the world.

The 12th meeting of the IRENA Council was held in Abu Dhabi in November 2016. The 13th meeting will be held in Abu Dhabi on 23 -24 May 2017. The 7th IRENA General Assembly took place on 14-15 January 2017 and included the first working groups’ meeting on the IRENA Medium-term Strategy 2018-2022.

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