Jul 24 2015

IRENA and their Role in Renewable Energy Integration

Published by under Student blog entries

Renewable energy sources have been pushed by some governments and environmental activists around the world. However, regardless of these efforts, the United States and many other developed countries still use such renewable energies, namely solar and wind, for a very small percentage of their total energy needs. This is a bleak image of the future, considering the ever diminishing supply of fossil fuels and their negative effect on the environment. There are many barriers hindering the shift to a higher usage of renewable energies. These barriers include lack of awareness, economic and financial restraints, technical risks, environmental risks, permitting issues, and often public opposition. One organization working on the front for renewable energy is the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA advises “member nations”, or countries involved with their efforts, on renewable energy approaches and implementation and are working towards overcoming renewable energy barriers. Renewable energies face formidable barriers in trying to integrate to the current energy system. Despite this, IRENA strives to overcome these barriers.

IRENA

Although a movement towards a healthier energy future seems pretty straightforward, there are multiple issues that need to be addressed. Considering solar and wind power are currently the most popular renewable energy resources, this essay will focus on the barriers of these two resources. The main barriers presented by solar power are lack of awareness and info, economic and financial constraints, technical risks (such as a knowledgeable workforce to install and repair RE’s), institutional and regulatory factors (government policy), market barriers (the availability of RE’s), and behavioral factors (the idea that RE’s are not yet “popular”) (Reddy, 2004). Wind power also faces multiple barriers including land acquisition, lack of infrastructure, inadequate incentives, problems with government clearance, and changes in government policy. Anthony Owen even goes so far as to say market barriers are the cause of all of these issues, and that a movement towards a reduction in market barriers, or a market offering a higher availability and selection of renewable energies, would correlate to a reduction in every other barrier (Owen). He argues that as renewable energies become more readily available, the “invisible hand” of the market would lead to innovation, increase the popularity (reducing the behavioral factors), and ultimately lower price, which is currently on the forefront of the renewable energies debate. IRENA takes on a more rounded approach, simply providing the information and resources to countries, allowing a simpler transition to renewable energy starting at the small government level.

If a business decides to integrate renewable energies into their framework, the decision on which RE’s to integrate is still a difficult one. In the words of J.P. Painuly, the selection of RE’s must consider the availability of an adequate resource base, the available technology (affordably), substantial environmental benefits, socio-economic impacts (especially job creation), and both centralized and decentralized options. This is a lot of time and work considering the likelihood that using electricity supplied through the local electric company (likely from burning fossil fuels) is cheaper and more readily available. With the market being as competitive as it is right now, any “unnecessary” extra costs will be cut. A true green movement has to be demanded by everyone, a main reason why IRENA is working to unite countries all across the world.

Despite solar power being a main focus of IRENA, the effectiveness and use of wind power has grown significantly over the past ten years. According to Dolf Gielen of IRENA, wind power has been growing due to the introduction of small, mid, and large sized turbines. Furthermore, there are now onshore and offshore possibilities. Despite this, there continues to be huge opposition against wind power. Most people argue that huge wind turbines are an eyesore (see Cape Spin Documentary), which may be more or less true. However, the benefits far outweigh consequences. Most opposition for this comes into play for offshore wind farms, where wealthy citizens with beachfront homes do not want to look out their window and see a windmill on the horizon. Though they are currently not popular, organizations like IRENA are working towards making green energy positive in the public eye; a thing to admire rather than despise.

The Argument

Despite massive barriers to utilization of renewable energy resources, IRENA is compiling data while making renewable energies more readily available and attainable to countries around the world. With further research and innovation of technologies, renewable resources will further penetrate the market, causing a drop in price and a more reliable energy future.

 

Gielen, Dolf. “Renewable Energy Technologies: Cost Analysis Series.” Solar Photovoltaics5th ser. 1.4 (2012): n. pag. Web

Gielen, Dolf. “Renewable Energy Technologies: Cost Analysis Series.” Wind Power5th ser. 1.5 (2012): n. pag. Web

Owen, Anthony D. “Renewable Energy: Externality Costs as Market Barriers.” Energy Policy34.5 (2006): 632-42. Web.

Painuly, J.p. “Barriers to Renewable Energy Penetration; a Framework for Analysis.”Renewable Energy 24.1 (2001): 73-89. Print.

Reddy, Sudhakar, and J.p Painuly. “Diffusion of Renewable Energy Technologies—barriers and Stakeholders’ Perspectives.” Renewable Energy 29.9 (2004): 1431-447. Print.

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