News from the desert: PPRE-EUREC experience at IRENA, Abu Dhabi
by Sonia Rueda, Colombia (PPRE 2015-2017) and Apoorva Satpathy, India (EUREC 2016-2018)
In 2017, The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) developed an initiative to collect data about off-grid energy production. Clearly, there is a lack of centralized and reliable information in the renewable off-grid sector, identified as a barrier for project development, mainly to access funding. Mr. Roy Emmerich from Infinite Fingers made it clear: “At www.infinitefingers.com we do a lot of pitching to investors and we find justifying our claims with reliable data sources to be the Achilles heel of all our pitches, because we can't really claim to know what is happening at ground level”.
Thus, the initiative aims firstly to demonstrate the real impact of off-grid renewables, measured not only in installed capacity but in the number of beneficiaries and secondly, to facilitate the deployment of off-grid renewable energy systems, key to increase clean energy access worldwide. The first results will be included in the IRENA statistics data base and in future IRENA publications.
In its early phase, the initiative included the participation of a team of interns from Russia, India, Rwanda and Colombia, focused on collecting information from different regions of the world and different RE Technologies. In the mentioned team, we, Sonia Rueda (PPRE 2015-2017) from Colombia and Apoorva Satpathy (EUREC 2016-2018) from India were involved.
Besides the use of conventional sources to collect information, we decided to contact the PPRE- EUREC community asking for relevant data, we got important contributions and very interesting suggestions to improve the initiative.
But the experience went further. IRENA headquarters are located in Masdar City, a project designed to be carbon neutral and zero waste in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The city combines smart architecture inspired on traditional Arab settlements and up to date technologies including renewable energy, autonomous electric vehicles among others. It also allocates research fields and plantations and the MASDAR Institute of technology.
Architecture inspired on traditional Arab settlements in MASDAR City.
Although its construction has taken longer than expected, it is already possible to perceive how the creation of such cities can to a certain extent, positively influence the mindsets of the habitants towards a more sustainable way of life.
During our tenure in IRENA as interns in Statistics team, we were privileged to get an opportunity to be a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). ADSW is the largest convocation in the Middle East dedicated for different spheres of sustainable development. During this week, IRENA had its Eight Assembly held between 12th to 14th January 2018 in Abu Dhabi. We attended the key discussions and meetings held by the global leaders about various topics such as ways to scale up renewable energy deployments and investments as well as critical topics such as various innovations accelerating the global transformation including E-mobility. The Assembly was dedicated in discussing about improving the off-grid sector in developing economies and islands and working on NDC implementation. It was a good platform to participate in the discussions, meet and interact with representatives of various organizations who are contributing to stir the energy transition.
From left to right: Gayathri Prakash EUREC 2014, Apoorva Satpathy EUREC 2016, Sonia Rueda PPRE 2015 in IRENA Headquarters Abu Dhabi.
IRENA’s Assembly had an artistic closure of its Assembly this year with one-of-a-kind art exhibition called Visions of Sustainability. This marked the beginning World Future Energy Summit (WFES) which featured art inspired by renewable energy and sustainability. We were fortunate to watch such an exquisite exhibition as well as the audio-visual effects of different forms of renewable energy sources portrayed by the award-winning sound artist, Bill Fontana. The inspiring talks by pioneering solar aviator Betrand Piccard and architect, designer and sustainability thought leader, William McDonough left a notable mark on our overall experience of our engagement with IRENA.
Mr. Adnan Z. Amin IRENA Director-General during Visions of Sustainability.
To conclude, the experience at IRENA opened us the doors to acknowledge the work of international agencies in the Renewable Energy field and allowed us to discover a new world in which, the immensity of the desert and the futuristic landscapes coexist and create a unique contrast