9 July 2009 – The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) got a new member last week – the United States. The membership increased the number of countries participating in the organization to 136.
IRENA was initially founded on January 26 with 75 member nations, and its membership now includes most of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as Australia, Greenland, India, Japan, and parts of South America. The new agency will engage governments around the world in promoting a rapid transition toward the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale. The U.S. participation is an important element of the Obama Administration’s effort to support clean energy technologies and the development of the low-carbon economies needed to address climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States will work closely with other signatories, IRENA’s leadership, and members of Congress to ensure that the new agency’s work augments and complements other renewable energy efforts. U.S. Ambassador Reno Harnish signed the IRENA statute at the second session of the IRENA Preparatory Commission in Egypt.
At the IRENA meeting in Egypt, the member nations made a number of decisions relating to the formation of the agency. The signatories designed Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, as the location for the interim headquarters of IRENA, while Bonn, Germany, will host IRENA’s center for technology and innovation and Vienna, Austria, will host a liaison office for IRENA’s cooperation with other organizations that are active in the field of renewable energy. Abu Dhabi is the site of Masdar City, a 2.3-square-mile district that will aim to produce no waste and emit no greenhouse gases, and that district will also host the IRENA interim headquarters. The members also chose Ms. Hélène Pelosse as the first head of the agency. Ms. Pelosse designed the renewable energy plan for France and was involved in renewable energy negotiations with the European Union.
While the United States is becoming more involved in worldwide renewable energy efforts, it is also expanding its international efforts closer to home. Last week, DOE hosted the first U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Roundtable at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The meeting brought together clean energy leaders from private industry and from the U.S. and Canadian governments to help decide how the two nations can work together to develop clean energy technologies and combat climate change. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue in February, with the specific goals of expanding clean energy research and development; developing and deploying clean energy technologies; and building a more efficient electricity grid. Specific areas for further bilateral cooperation under the Clean Energy Dialogue include renewable and energy efficiency technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, and smart grid technologies.