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USP Academic Attends IRENA Meeting

13th February, 2012

A University of the South Pacific academic was recently invited to a high level meeting organised by a newly established global renewable energy organisation at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Atul Raturi, the Head of the School of Engineering and Physics (SEP) attended the second International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly as an observer and expert. The assembly was held from 13 – 16 January 2012.

IRENA – the first global organisation of its kind is an organisation for all renewable energy work. The main aim of the IRENA assembly, which included representatives from 155 countries around the world, was to approve IRENA’s 2012 work programme and budget.

Since its formation in 2009, IRENA has strengthened its presence in the renewable energy field and is already being earmarked by experts to be a major player in the future.

According to Dr Raturi, IRENA will become very important in a few years time and since USP does a lot of work in the area of renewable energy, it is essential for the University to associate with the international body from the beginning of its establishment.

“USP is a regional organisation and being represented in an international set up assures us that our work is being recognised so we are very interested in having collaboration with IRENA,” Dr Raturi said.

In a lead up to the IRENA assembly, a workshop was held in Sydney, Australia for the Pacific region in October 2011. A number of experts including Dr Raturi made presentations related to the theme of the workshop, “Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment on Islands with Emphasis on the Pacific Islands”.

On 13th January 2012, a day prior to the IRENA assembly, a high level Pacific leaders’ meeting was held in Abu Dhabi to discuss the outcomes of the Sydney workshop. Leaders from 11 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) came together to discuss possible ways in which IRENA could support renewable energy deployment in their respected countries, and provided guidance on the proposed work programme in the region.This high level meeting was attended by the Prime Ministers of Fiji and the Cook Islands, the President of Nauru, senior government officials, along with other senior energy officials and the outcomes.

“The IRENA assembly was where all the member countries met and discussed what to do, how to take the process further and what needs to be done in different parts of the world,” Dr Raturi explained.

A major highlight of the assembly was the announcement regarding the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). The $US50 million annual fund will help renewable energy projects in developing countries.

Dr Raturi pointed out that IRENA membership is limited to countries that are members of United Nations and also Regional intergovernmental economic integration organizations (such as EU). A handful of other organisations can be invited to be present at the assembly as observers/experts.

The final part of the IRENA assembly was a Capacity Building Workshop, which according to Dr Raturi is the key area where regional educational organisations like the USP, will play an important role in training and education.

“At the capacity building workshop, we discussed on what USP can do, the type of training courses we can run, the teaching facilities we have, and the things we can do to make people aware about renewable energy in the region to build capacity," he explained.

“IRENA does not have any regional presence and our suggestion for strengthening the training capacity of regional institution such as USP, emerged as one of the priority areas for IRENA,” Dr Raturi stated.

He further stated that USP is joining hands with the sustainable energy industry to develop a renewable energy training programme and other countries also showed interest in taking up such initiatives. The detailed work plan for IRENA is still being worked out and Dr Raturi says USP is expected to play a major part in the scheme of things.

The assembly was officially concluded by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, who stressed that, “Renewable energy is a central element in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to poverty alleviation, environmental sustainable development and health.”

A number of side-events were held during the assembly including the development of a Global Solar and Wind Atlas and competitiveness of renewable power generation.

The IRENA assembly was followed by the World Future Energy Summit, which allows the private industry to show its latest renewable energy products. 2012 has been declared as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All and the UN Secretary General kicked off the global rollout on 16th January 2012.

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ENDS

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