IRENA’s 14th assembly underscores role of geopolitics, urgent need for action


The opening of IRENA‘s 14th assembly by its president, Francesco La Camera, emphasized the urgency of implementing specific strategies to make the world comply with the 2030 target set by the COP28 conference in Dubai last year. The aim is to triple global solar capacity by the end of this decade.

“We have to triple capacity for all renewable energy sources by the end of this decade,” La Camera said. “This requires concrete and immediate action.”

However, he noted that this ambitious target must be achieved in a global energy landscape that is currently dominated by polarization and geopolitical turmoil.

Need for speed

“Around 87% of all new power in 2023 was from renewables,” La Camera said. “However, these global numbers hide important nuances. Investments remain concentrated in a few technologies such as solar and wind, while achieving the triple target requires harnessing all renewable sources. A worrying trend is also persistence in geographical concentration.”

The African continent is expected to become the key to filling this gap, with its capacity rising from around 26 GW at present to 300 GW by 2030.

“We need a master plan for the continent,” said Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union's commissioner for infrastructure and energy. “At the COP28 we said enough – now it is time for real action and real implementation.

Access to financing is one of the biggest challenges that the countries of Africa face, as do many other emerging economies.

“The problem comes with the cost of capital,” said Barbadian Minister of Energy and Business Lisa Cummins. “We need to accelerate timelines and support climate finance.”

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EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson stressed the need to address such issues ar the upcoming COP29 event in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“There should be a monitoring framework that allows us to follow what is happening, since 132 countries agreed to triple renewables and double energy,” said Simson. “We are done with strategies, ideas, processes and decisions. It is only time for implementation.”

Political concerns

The “Ministerial Roundtable: Geopolitics of Energy Security” discussion at the assembly underscored the importance of geopolitical considerations in the current political debate on energy. Such concerns have become particularly important since the start of the war in Ukraine, as well as the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

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“Geopolitical risk is not an argument for inaction – quite the contrary,” Hans Olav Ibrekk, Norway's special envoy for climate and security, said as the panel opened.

Elizabeth Press, director of planning and program support at IRENA, noted the urgency of becoming more energy-independent for many countries throughout the world.  She said that “86% of the population lives in the next importing country … but everybody has something.” She added that all countries have a certain amount of renewable energy resources to exploit.

“We have replaced a significant share of natural gas with renewables and we have been able to stabilize markets in Europe,” said Simson. “Last year, 70 GW of renewables and 3 million heat pumps were installed across Europe last year.”

In addition, Anna Shpitsberg – deputy assistant secretary for energy transformation at the US Department of State – stated that “diversifying investment is crucial to mitigate energy risks, not create new ones.”

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