The International Renewable Energy Agency, the first and only intergovernmental agency to focus solely on renewable energy development, was established officially one year ago. Enthusiasm appears to be waning. Only a handful of the signatories have ratified the treaty, which, as of Sep 2009, needs 25 more to come into force. IRENA is banking on a boost from its choice of Helene Pelosse of France as interim head and Abu Dhabi's very green Masdar City for the secretariat.
IRENA was founded to set the foundations for a global economy fully powered by renewable energy sources. Some 131 countries, including most European countries and the United States, have signed up. But only five -- UAE, the Republic of Kenya, Liechtenstein, Maldives and Sweden -- have ratified the statute. The others appear to be holding off until they see what direction IRENA will take. An article in the Huffington Post notes that IRENA supporters fear nuclear interests are trying to undermine the agency, and points to the possibility that it could become tainted by the nuclear camp. Many of the countries that signed on to IRENA are heavily invested in selling nuclear technology to the Middle East and elsewhere, and renewables could become a commercial threat. Both France and the United States supported the bid from the UAE, which is heavily invested in the agency, for IRENA's headquarters. Both governments are engaged in the signing new nuclear power cooperation agreements with the Emirates, according to the article. Pelosse is a high-ranking official in the French government. She managed the French negotiations for the European Union's Climate and Energy package. The French use of the term "low-carbon technology" at a recent IRENA meeting, according to the article, which has the supporters worried that under their leadership the agency will become an "International Low-Carbon Agency," supporting both renewables and nuclear options together. Masdar City, which is under construction, promotes itself as the first carbon neutral, zero waste city that is completely powered by renewable energy. Germany, Austria and Denmark also bid to host the IRENA secretariat. According to IRENA, the selection of Masdar marks the first time that a global organization has chosen a Middle East city for its headquarters. Sep/09
Date written/update: 2010-01-26