Why is IRENA based in Abu Dhabi?
Istanbul recently hosted a significant energy forum. With the organization of Sabancı University’s Istanbul International Energy and Climate Center (IICEC), the annual energy forum “Towards a New Global Energy Landscape: What Role for Turkey?” was held on May 10th at the Conrad Hotel Istanbul. During the forum, I had a chance to have a talk with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director General Adnan Amin.
I have two reasons to wonder about IRENA. Firstly, why is this renewable energy agency, which began its activities in 2011 after undergoing a rough period, based in Abu Dhabi, an oil-rich region?
Secondly, in a period in which Turkey is about to reach an agreement with Japan for its second nuclear plant, which will cost 22 billion dollars, I am willing to learn more about what’s going on in the renewable energy sector, which is the future’s energy source in my opinion.
To briefly talk about my belief in renewable energy, I want to remind you of the words of Professor Niyazi Serdar, who is the head of the Physical Chemistry Institute at Austria’s Linz Johannes Kepler University. “Why nuclear in the presence of solar energy?”
Since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled the plans for the third nuclear plant, our country has seemingly not lent an ear to Professor Niyazi Serdar Sarıçiftçi, who is currently developing an “organic solar battery technology” with Nobel laureate Alan Jay Heeger.
To return to my talk with Adnan Amin, he especially underlined the point that this Abu Dhabi-based agency, which consists of 109 members, is the world’s newest and most rapidly growing international organization.
“IRENA, which is the first international organization based in the Middle East, has a very flexible bureaucratic structure. The decisions are taken and implemented rapidly,” he said.
So, what does IRENA do?
“We are supporting governments to form renewable policies. We are recording what happened in the innovation field of this sector. We also observe how technological advances influence prices, and we lead new investments,” Amin said.
“Our aim is to increase the global share of renewable energy from 16 to 30 percent by 2030. We have made a plan for that,” he added.
The agency is working on a global map in the fields of wind and solar energies. It is particularly in cooperation with developing countries.
It also calculated that Africa, who made 3.6 billion dollars of investment in renewable sources in 2011, will allocate 57 billion dollars to this in 2020. China, India and Brazil, who recently joined the organization, are the countries constantly increasing their investments in renewable energy.
However, the most surprising part is that the Gulf countries, who are very rich in oil, embrace this energy wholeheartedly. Even Saudi Arabia is making plans to provide 25 percent of its electricity from solar energy by 2030.
After all, the oil-rich countries are aware of the fact that one day their sources will run out. So they take some measures and tend to renewable sources, which is the energy of the future.
According to Adnan Amin, this energy source is both the antidote of carbon emission and promotes employment.
The renewable energy sector, which has created 300,000 new employment areas within Europe over the last five years, is expected to provide jobs for 1.5 million people by 2020.
Let’s turn to the other question: Why is its headquarters based in Abu Dhabi?
There are various reasons for that. One is the Gulf’s strategic location as it lies between the East and West; and the willingness of oil-rich countries to invest in this sector is another reason.
But according to some claims, the reason why the U.S. and France support the Gulf against Germany, which came up with the idea of a “renewable energy center” and wanted to host the center, is that the region is a good purchaser in the nuclear and weapons industries.