The role of renewable energy as an enabler of island resilience and prosperity takes centre-stage at IRENA’s Small Island Developing States Energy Day

Small and strong was the theme for IRENA’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Energy Day, held during COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The day-long series of events held at the IRENA pavilion, followed by a high-level evening reception at the Kunst Museum were designed to mark progress, galvanise collective resolve and inspire further action on climate resilience and adaptation through renewable energy adoption across small islands.

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Here is what happened:

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and senior government and private sector representatives came together for SIDS Energy Day to remind the world that the climate threat is no longer on the horizon – for the people and communities who reside on small islands, the threat is becoming a reality.

“SIDS are on the front-lines of climate change, facing the most impact from its effects while doing the least to cause it,” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director General of IRENA in opening remarks. “The recent destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean are a reminder of this, and I want to extend my deepest sympathy to our friends there who are dealing with the aftermath of the storms.”

These opening remarks set the scene for a day that sought to hasten actionable solutions for nations already suffering at the hands of severe weather patterns.

One such important solution is the development of mini-grid and off-grid renewable energy installations, which can offer small islands a sustainable pathway to economic empowerment, as well as to climate adaptation and resilience. “In the energy sector, SIDS are hindered by a high dependence on imported fossil fuels, and the associated high costs in transitioning to sustainable energy and low carbon development,” continued Mr. Amin.

DG SIDS

IRENA’s Lighthouses Initiative aims to support the energy transition in SIDS by mobilizing US 500 million, to advance their renewable energy ambitions. It’s working. Today, islands are emerging as front runners in the pursuit of renewables based energy systems with more than two gigawatts (GW) of renewables is currently deployed on islands and a further six GW envisaged under nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Furthermore, several islands plan to go 100 per cent renewables. The Cook Islands, Cape Verde, Fiji, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Vanuatu and Samoa were all noted as aiming to increase their share of renewable energy in the power mix to between 60 – 100 per cent.

island pic with solar panel

Renewables make smart business sense for small islands said new Environment Minister for the Marshall Islands the Honorable David Paul during a SIDS Energy Day panel discussion – highlighting that energy security is strengthened through renewable energy adoption, because it liberates them from fuel imports and protects them from the impact of conflict.

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During the day, panels on transforming the energy landscape in SIDS, strengthening resilience to climate change and facilitating implementation of NDCs, and supporting SIDS energy sector transformation, took place at the IRENA stand, with attendance from leaders such as H.E. Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands and H.E. Tommy Remengesau Junior, President of Palau.

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But it was the message of small but strong – delivered by Minister of Sustainable Develop in St Lucia, Dr Gale Rigobert – that captured the moment and inspired participants.

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What islands are experiencing today, is coming to all of us concluded Adnan Amin. At SIDS Energy Day during COP23, this message was loud and clear.

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Taking place in Mumbai, December 5-7, Intersolar is India’s premier solar tradeshow and the place to be in this very exciting time for solar and renewables across India. For Enphase, this year’s Intersolar marks a significant milestone. 

Over the past 12 months, we have established our presence by signing with distribution partners and AC module manufacturers Redington, Sun-AP and Waaree. From 2018, Enphase technology will be used in residential and commercial applications across the entire subcontinent, bringing with it the intelligence, reliability and remote control capabilities that Enphase is known for.

Our "Made for India" catchcry describes our message to the Indian solar market. If solar is to provide a long term return in India's harsh and dusty conditions, reliable networked hardware, powerful software and a resilient AC architecture will prove to be essential to solar's success. To learn the ways in which Enphase is perfectly suited for the local market, installers and developers can learn more on the booths of Redington and Waree and join Enphase Strategic Account Manager, Venkata Mukundarajan as he delivers a presentation in the conference session, Residential Rooftop Systems – Design and Quality Go Hand in Hand. Alongside Venkata, our team in attendance at Intersolar will include Sunil Thamaran, VP Managing Director General & Administration, Nathan Dunn, Managing Director Enphase APAC, and Josh McLaren, Sales Operations Enphase APAC. Those attending Intersolar India, come and meet the Enphase team and hear about our exciting plans for the year ahead!

As COP23 draws to a close, it offers an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by the UNFCCC and its efforts to address the issue of climate change. This year represents a quarter of a century since the adoption of the Framework Convention and 20 years for the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed at COP3 in December 1997.

In that time, global emissions have risen by over 50%, hardly a testament to thousands of hours of negotiation, millions of air-miles by COP attendees and many long nights as disagreement erupted. Further, after three years of global emissions seemingly at a plateau, the delegates at COP23 were reminded in stark terms that there is still everything to work for; 2017 emissions are likely to show a 2% rise over 2016. While large uncertainties in the final number remain, emissions in China appear to have risen by some 3.5% (but with arrange of 0.7% to 5.4%).

Although emissions are the truest test of success, bringing them down and ensuring stabilisation of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels was not going to be easy. Nevertheless, the UNFCCC process has persisted and resulted in a world that is slowly mobilizing around the need to act and in many instances is acting. Arguably the process has delivered on several fronts;

  • The climate issue has grown in profile and almost every international leader talks about it, which in turn builds further interest.
  • The media is captivated by the subject, although opinions can vary markedly across publications and programmes.
  • The global fraternity of economists have risen to the challenge, with much written about policy measures and particularly carbon pricing. In the case of the latter, some 20-30% (depending on how China is viewed with its staged implementation) of the global economy now carries a price on carbon dioxide emissions, albeit only around $10 per tonne.
  • Most national governments and many sub-national governments have greenhouse gas emission based policies active within their respective economies.
  • Measurement, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions has become a normal activity in much of the world.
  • Various carbon dioxide based trading units have evolved; from allowances in the EU ETS to project units under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Carbon capture and storage has become a commercial technology, although deployment remains limited due to the level of carbon pricing.
  • A wide range of new power generation, transport and industrial technologies have rapidly evolved in response to the need for zero emission energy services. Significantly, Tesla unveiled its electric semi-trailer in the closing days of COP23.

The above list is not meant to be comprehensive and it could also be argued that some of this is unrelated to the UNFCCC, but without a central focus the lens on climate change would be a very different one. Nevertheless, COP23 highlighted two key issues;

  • The Paris Agreement did much to minimise the difference between developed and developing countries, with all nations required to submit plans for managing emissions within their economies. But as negotiators began work on the detail of the Paris Agreement ‘rule book’, the issue of common but differentiated responsibilities emerged at many meetings. The core of the issue is that industrial development without fossil fuels, but coal in particular, is still not possible. While much attention is focussed on micro-grids and decentralised renewable electricity in Africa, this is not the same as industrial development. Steel, cement, glass and chemicals require much more; so do the primary means of industrial transport, notably planes, ships and trucks (although Tesla would now argue the point on the last one). As such, emissions in developing countries are still likely to go in one direction, i.e. up!
  • Financing remains a sticky issue. The Paris Agreement offers various mechanisms and measures to help finance low carbon development in least developed and emerging economies, with a transparency framework to offer insight on progress. As work progressed at COP23 on the modalities surrounding finance, tension grew. One problem here is the definition itself. For many, it means the overall flow of private sector energy investment into developing economies, triggered by national policy, good governance, carbon trade such as that emanating from Article 6 and the attractiveness of projects. But for some, finance is thought of as tangible government to government assistance.

The political sensitivity of both these issues is heightened by the expected departure of the US from the Paris Agreement. It is unlikely that heroics from the US sub-national actors can compensate for that political destabilisation.

These and other issues will need to be resolved in the coming year if the full Paris ‘rule book’ is to be finalised by the end of COP24. In all likelihood, resolution will not be complete, but the process won’t falter either and the ongoing mobilization of global effort will continue. Negotiators will meet again in Bonn around the middle of the year and then in Katowice, Poland for COP24. In the case of the latter, the biggest fight is most likely to be over hotel rooms.

Governments of Fiji, Germany and United Arab Emirates together with IRENA and Deutsche Post DHL Group, host ‘COP23 Renewable Energy Day’ to accelerate energy transition

A year on from the Paris Agreement coming into force, COP23 under Fiji’s Presidency and hosted by Germany, is firmly positioned as the COP for implementation and action on climate. With that in mind, more than 300 delegates attended COP23 Renewable Energy Day, organised by IRENA together with the Governments of Fiji, Germany and the UAE and Deutsche Post DHL Group, to accelerate the energy transition.

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Here’s a short breakdown of what happened during the day:

Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA welcomed delegates with this opening statement. “Renewable energy is good for climate and good for growth, which is the key message that we are bringing to this climate change conference,” setting the stage for address that made a case for strengthening renewable energy ambition in the pursuit of climate and economic goals. “If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need to decarbonise the energy sector,” he said. “We believe that energy transition is not only technically feasible but also economically attractive as it will fuel economic growth and create new employment opportunities.”

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The Energy Transition

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Investments will flee decline and flood to growth

The energy transition will be fast, dramatic and soon, said Trusted Sources energy strategist, Kingsmill Bond, to Renewable Energy Day attendees, explaining the inflection point for renewable energy and peak fossil fuels is just around the corner – which will result in private capital fleeing areas of decline and flooding to areas of growth, such as renewables.

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"The year 2020 will be the beginning of the end for the age of fossil fuels" -Kingsmill Bond setting the scene at #COP23 Renewable Energy Day #Renewables4Climate pic.twitter.com/RU5CL4d2Tx

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

"Incumbents don't see change coming until its too late […] We are surrounded by #tippingpoints" of global peak energy statistics, says #KingsmillBond from #TrustedSources #Renewables4Climate #IRENA #COP23

— Revolve Media (@RevolveMediaCo) November 12, 2017

Amani Abou Zeid, the African Union’s Commissioner for Energy and Infrastructure; Rainer Baake, Germany’s State Secretary for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; and Sebastian Kind, Argentina’s Undersecretary for Renewables, in the Ministry of Energy and Mining then discussed perspectives on the transition.

"Africa will not follow the path of Europe, it is leapfrogging w/ technological solutions. We don’t call it disruptive technology, we just call it technology because we are filling the gap with the latest tech" @HEDrAbouZeid of African Union Commission #Renewables4Climate #cop23 pic.twitter.com/YBZ7QG8Yjh

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

“The integration and harmonization of #Africa is key to harnessing the continent’s renewable energy potential”, says @_AfricanUnion Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Tourism, @HEDrAbouZeid #renewables4climate #cop23 pic.twitter.com/C7yawmrwjw

— @AU_IED (@au_ied) November 12, 2017

Rainer Baake, State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany – co-hosts of the event said renewables are central to economic growth and are key to the Paris Agreement.

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“Renewable energy is a key element for a profound and accelerated global energy transition that will not only fundamentally modernize our economies, create growth and innovation, but it will also help to successfully implement the Paris Agreement.”

"Our countries are important but in terms of numbers, #China and #India are in a different category" – German State Secretary Rainer Baake of @BMWi_Bund #COP23 #Renewables4Climate pic.twitter.com/JVOjd6zcOa

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

Co-host the UAE, offer further support to the economic case for renewable energy

His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment in the UAE said: “The rapid deployment of renewable energy has been the dominant force in the global efforts to address climate change, and the UAE is proud to be playing its part. The UAE firmly believes that renewables makes economic sense, which has been proven by the creation of jobs and industries. We will continue to scale-up renewable energy deployment through the region’s first national Climate Change Plan 2050 to meet our ambitious NDC targets.”

The United States remains committed to the Paris Agreement

Achieving the goals set within the Paris Agreement remains a key priority for the US too, said California State Governor Jerry Brown, who emphasised the climate action is taking place right across America.

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“Climate change is real, and it presents a threat to global security and prosperity that is beyond comprehension. At a state level, at a city level and at a business level right across the United States of America there is recognition of that threat, there is collective intention to fight it, and there is tangible progress in the pursuit of a sustainable future,” said Governor Brown.

“This conference has offered us (the US) a tremendous opportunity to communicate the fact that the US remains committed to the Paris Agreement and we look forward to building the alliances and partnerships necessary, across governments and industry, to accelerate sustainable solutions and help us avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

Under Governor Brown’s leadership the state is in the process of adopting one of the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the world: a new energy law will rquire California to produce 50% renewable energy by 2026, 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2045.

"If we do everything we can, human beings can solve this problem. I am confident of that" –
@JerryBrownGov #Renewables4Climate #COP23 #ClimateAction #ActOnClimate pic.twitter.com/uacW0AkhAy

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

Renewable Energy Day hosts Deutsche Post DHL Group, is a major German company with bold low-carbon targets of its own. Their CEO Frank Appel, shared how corporations have a responsibility to help reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy..

Dr. Frank Appel, Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Post DHL Group said:

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“Our commitment to be zero emission by 2050 requires a fundamental rethinking of our business activities. For Deutsche Post DHL Group, re-evaluating our business decisions through the prism of sustainability has resulted in us questioning our established way of doing things. More than ever before, we are harnessing the energies of our employees in creating a company-wide spirit of innovation and sustainability to provide solutions not only to benefit our customers but also to be a benchmark in our industry.”

Explorer and pilot of Solar Impulse — the world’s first solar-powered plane to circumnavigate the globe — Bertrand Piccard, spoke about the need to push the energy transition beyond existing boundaries. And Alexy Tarasov, Head of the Laboratory of New Materials for Solar Energetics at Moscow State University, described the future solar technology that will help transform the energy sector.

"When I was flying over the Pacific & Atlantic in an airplane that could fly forever…I thought, I am in the future. But not at all. I was in the present. I realized that the rest of the world is in the past"- @bertrandpiccard at Renewable Energy Day #Renewables4Climate #COP23 pic.twitter.com/6PEIszdYmd

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

‘[In just a few years] We could have perovskite solar cells that are ¼ the cost of what we are using today” -Alexey Tarasov, Lomonosov Moscow State University #COP23 #Renewables4Climate pic.twitter.com/rxngDtyu22

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

China – the world’s largest renewable energy market – is at the forefront of the global energy transition. The Chinese energy industry is also making enormous strides in addressing the country’s environmental challenges. A special address by Shu Yinbiao, Chairman of State Grid Corporation of China, and a presentation by Zhang Lei, CEO, Envision Energy, shared their insights on the ongoing paradigm shift in China.

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“If we are to meet Paris Climate Agreement, it is time to shed off the old forms of energy and move to green energy” – Shu Yinbiao, Chairman State Grid Corporation of China #Renewables4Climate #COP23 pic.twitter.com/hZKrlBEJrG

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

"Renewable energy is not about energy it is about technology. Not driven by supply and demand, it is driven by technological availability" -Zhang Lei, CEO of Envision Energy #Renewables4Climate #COP23 pic.twitter.com/a9rWjJoxQy

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

It was a day of optimism for the future of our climate, and bullishness on the trajectory for growth in renewable energy and as the programme wound to an end, Monika Jones, Deutsche Welle presenter and the event’s moderator, reminded us that…

"Doing a nightly TV news broadcast is interesting. Because news means bad news. And at the end of a news week you feel very depressed. But after today and hearing all of these stories, I realize there is hope" -Monika Jones of @DeutscheWelle #Renewables4Climate #COP23 pic.twitter.com/jDsEC8YgQW

— IRENA (@IRENA) November 12, 2017

A stream of the afternoon sessions can be re-watched on IRENA’s Facebook page, or on this page below.

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