The world is planning the next step for renewable energy, while Australia looks back

At the event of the World Congress of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi last weekend, Australia was mentioned frequently.

Representatives from around the world, with the notable exception of Australia itself, mentioned the forest fire disaster in the context of the need for urgent measures.

“In Australia, in recent weeks, more forests and land have been burned than three times Belgium and 40 times my country. We have to be aware that we are approaching the turning points of the climate, the era of the climate crisis. We have to act now, “the Luxembourg representatives said in the forum last Saturday. Australia is considered the canary in the coal mine, the country that faces the winds against global warming of the planet.

Australia is cited in this context because there is an incredible urgency in the air. Climate ambition needs to increase, and IRENA says that renewable energy can “reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by approximately 70%.”

In a series of new reports published during the World Congress event and the subsequent Sustainability Week in Abu Dhabi, they describe great employment opportunities worldwide.

They are approximately 11 million jobs today and are expected to grow significantly in the near future. They also claim that renewable energy and energy efficiency could boost global GDP by 2.5% or 5%, and that more renewable energy could eliminate $ 10 billion in subsidies, which could give back to taxpayers around the world. . IRENA’s message is of hope, in which new power generation technologies drive a transition that serves as a benefit, rather than an obstacle.

The countries that attended the Congress were eager to talk about their own efforts to keep these promises. Denmark, for example, wait Reach 100% renewable energy by 2028. Even small island nations strive to increase their ambitions for renewable energy, despite the incredible struggles they face with exposure to climate impacts.

“Small island states are the most affected victims of global warming. We live in fear of what will happen next. Apprehensions about the future of our island states have expanded. We face a threat to our own existence, ”said the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius. However, the session on small island nations presented a litany of countries declaring ambitions for a high penetration of renewable energies such as wind and solar in short terms.

Geopolitics, of course, complicates the pathways for the adoption of renewable energy on the planet and, more importantly, the way its benefits are distributed. “The energy transition fundamentally impacts the social and political situation worldwide,” said Ms. Kirsten Westphal, Senior Associate of the German Institute for International Affairs and Security.

These events are no stranger to the new challenges that are emerging in countries that strive to decarbonize their electricity supplies. Justice, fair transitions, equity and society were often mentioned as the main concerns, as they should be, but a great effort was made to discuss solutions too.

IRENA has also published a new report that examines technological considerations in a highly variable renewable energy network (wind and solar). They set a scenario in which 33 gigatons of CO2 emissions are eliminated from the global energy system through the use of renewable energy, electrification and improvements in energy efficiency.

It was a peculiar experience to attend an event like this. The discussions are not about whether renewable energy can contribute to most of the planet’s emission reductions in the near future; That question has been answered in a decade in which renewable energy has grown rapidly and its price has fallen just as quickly.

IRENA, and most of the countries present, are talking about what comes next: how to make the transition fair, how to make it geopolitically feasible and how to make it efficient and cheap from a technological perspective.

Meanwhile, Australia cites renewable energy as a key factor in its response to climate change. But this does not imply increasing the deployment of wind and solar energy together with firming technologies such as batteries and interconnection.

Rather, the government has cited 100 “new” technologies, including carbon capture and storage, as potential research areas. It is an old distraction, based on the idea that the deployment of existing technologies is too expensive or too unmanageable without research and development of new technologies.

The Australian government also cites a prediction that the National Electricity Market (NEM) on the east coast will be 50% renewable energy by 2030, although this prediction is evident. minimum, and would happen without any new political intervention.

This lack of ambition prevails despite the proven success of solar and wind power to date in Australia, and the incredible potential for not only dominate all of Australia’s electricity generation, but to generate much more than 100% and become in a to export.

Australia could easily be a pioneer in renewable energy technologies, could have a noisy and proud place in meetings like the IRENA world congress, and could easily reap the same rewards that IRENA is highlighting in its copious and detailed reports that have emerged from the meetings. an avoidable tragedy that the only presence he had in the world congress was an omen of the worst scenarios on the planet.

Ketan Joshi is a freelance writer of climate and energy. He traveled to the IRENA World Congress as a guest of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

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