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Published December 15, 2008 02:27 PM

New agency to be global 'voice of renewables'

A new agency to be launched next month (26 January) in Bonn, Germany, aims to promote a swift transition towards the use of renewable energy worldwide.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which was initially driven by Denmark, Germany and Spain, will be the first worldwide agency solely dedicated to promoting renewable energy, acting as the "voice of renewable energy", according to its website.

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IRENA's activities will include providing consultancy to governments of both developed and developing countries on renewable technology transfer, including technical options and cost. It will collect and evaluate new information on applied technology and best practices, process this information and foster its exchange and dissemination.

It plans to support projects in biomass, hydropower, wind, solar and geothermal energy and biofuels.

Given the large-scale impact of climate change, particularly in developing countries, European countries will embark on a global renewable energy revolution, by replacing carbon-driven economies with renewable energy economies, Elena Espinosa, Spain's minister of the environment and marine affairs, said at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, last week (11 December).

"We have to overcome barriers to harvest the full potential of renewable energies, not only to tackle climate change but to switch to a more secure, lower-carbon energy system that does not undermine economic and social development," she said.

These barriers include low public awareness, ineffective political frameworks and governments continuing to subsidise conventional energy sources. 

According to Sigmar Gabriel, federal environment minister of Germany, the shift to renewable energy has created some 250,000 new jobs in Germany in less than ten years.

Gabriel said the German government will collaborate with India next year to explore renewable energy and energy efficiency through solar power.

"We intend to help them power up the grid in the rural areas so they can improve productivity of solar power," Gabriel said. "And with a decentralised renewable network there would be no need for expensive grid solutions."

Denmark's minister for climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, told SciDev.Net that in 2007, more than US$100 billion was invested worldwide in renewable energy technology, and that many renewable technologies and industries have been growing at rates of 20—60 per cent year on year.

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