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From Bonn into the world: IRENA’s energy transitions journey

By Elizabeth Press, Director of Planning and Programme Support, IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was officially founded on 26 January 2009 in Bonn, Germany, a moment that presented a decisive milestone for renewable energy and a sign that the global energy paradigm was changing. Chaired by the Federal Government of Germany, the Founding Conference conveyed the vision that renewable energy, promoted through international co-operation, would play a key solution for the greatest challenges of our time. Three years after the founding conference, IRENA was officially established on 4 April 2011, and the first Assembly was held at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In the same year, IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre (IITC) was opened in Bonn where it continues to positively contribute to, as well as benefit from, the vast network of international entities based in the international city of Bonn.

Ten years on, IRENA family has grown to some 180 countries, including the EU as its Member.  Renewable energy technologies have moved from niche to mainstream and, around the world, deployment has accelerated far beyond even the most optimistic predictions. Worldwide, renewable power capacity has almost doubled within a decade. IRENA’s most recent Renewable Capacity Statistics shows the surge in renewable capacity expansion. Despite the difficulties, more than 80% of all electricity added in in 2020 was renewable, with fossil fuels and nuclear reduced to some 18% worldwide.  And while the world is grappling with the economic downturn, this investment is helping resolve the immediate challenges as well. Renewables are employing three times more people than other fuels, and IRENA estimates that 5.5 million jobs can be added in the coming years if recovery measures focus on energy transition. We cannot afford to miss these opportunities. 

IRENA’s key message is that we must do more and do it faster, as the sustainable future depends on the way the energy system evolves in the coming decade. As IRENA celebrates its ten-year anniversary in 2021, its central position in the global energy transformation landscape reaffirms the confidence that the vision encapsulated at its Founding Conference is within reach. 

IRENA sincerely thanks the City of Bonn and its citizens for the continuous support and cooperation since the inception of IRENA and as a host of IITC. As of 2020, IITC’s new home at Willy-Brandt-Allee in Bonn, has facilities to hold meetings and create a lifeline for discussions on energy system transformation in Germany and the global arena. IRENA looks forward to making this building a Bonn energy hub once it is safe to do so.

About the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is mandated as the global hub for renewable energy cooperation and information exchange by 163 Members (162 States and the European Union). Roughly 20 additional countries are in the accession process and actively engaged. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.