No Wonder

kristy Resource Efficiency

Renewable Energy
Thursday 29 March 2012

No wonder

When it comes to “the energy transition”, there are no simple solutions. Most people would agree that it would be desirable if we could switch from fossil fuels to “renewable energies”, if the costs can be limited. But those who know their numbers know that at the moment this is still a dream.

The term renewable energy can usually be translated, in the European context, into simply wind and solar power. Clearly the world can’t be run on wind power, however valuable a contribution it may make. Solar power seems to offer more potential – in the long run. And yes, there’s biomass, but technological breakthroughs in next-generation biofuels are needed to make this a feasible solution.

Nuclear power is low-carbon of course, but has a host of other problems that guarantee it is not going to save the world. And we have carbon capture and storage, which may be necessary, but can never be more than a fall-back option.

The fact is, fossil fuels were – and are – a kind of miracle solution to mankind’s energy needs. And it’s not easy to replace a miracle. The “energy transition”, if it succeeds, is going to be a long hard struggle.

This struggle may perhaps be led on a global level by IRENA – the International Renewable Energy Agency. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi and established three years ago to spread the blessings of renewable energy over the world, IRENA now has an impressive number of 157 states backing it. It may well be seen as the United Nations of renewable energy.

Yet this may be precisely one of its weaknesses, says researcher Thijs Van de Graaf, who specializes in the study of international energy institutions. Because of its large membership, IRENA may be less flexible and purposive than its “rival”, the International Energy Agency, which has only the countries of the OECD to reckon with. A lot will depend on IRENA herself and her (relatively) new top man, Adnan Amin, who took over from Hélène Pelosse after a very stormy first 18 months of the new agency.

In an article for EER, Van de Graaf sketches the turbulent short history of IRENA – complete with mythic hero, phone bugs, and diplomatic turf wars backed by large amounts of cash – and takes stock of what the future role of IRENA could be, especially in relation to the IEA. For now he does not expect miracles.

You can read Thijs’ intriguing story by clicking here.

Editor’s note

You may also be interested in checking out our section New Energy Publications on our homepage, in which we regularly highlight important new (and freely available) energy publications. This time, for instance, an interesting new report on carbon capture and storage (CCS) for gas-fired power plants from the UK Green Alliance.

Meanwhile, on our European Energy Blog you can find the latest energy news from the website and other items that may be of interest.

Thank you for joining us!

Coming up on European Energy Review

Banking on Saudi Arabia
The future of the EU gas market (and the “gas target model”)
Interview with Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE Innogy
Whither UK nuclear energy policy?
Vestas and the future of the European wind turbine industry
§ Interview with Jean-François Cirelli, President of Eurogas and CEO of GDF Suez

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