IRENA Innovation Week 2020

The 3rd IRENA Innovation Week took place online during 5-8 October 2020 under the theme “Renewable solutions for transport and industry” with specific technical sessions organised in partnership with other international organisations (Electric Power Research Institute, Hydrogen Council, Global Bioenergy Partnership, Mission Possible Platform, International Transport Forum, Initiative and SDG Youth Constituency). The 2016 and 2018 editions of Innovation Week had focused on the energy supply side, exploring zero-carbon power systems based on integrating high shares of renewables. This third edition broadened the discussion into the energy demand side and was informed by IRENA’s recent Reaching Zero with Renewables report.

Over 100 expert speakers participated, including Energy Commissioners from the European Commission and the African Union, Energy and Climate Ministers from four continents, panellists and facilitators from over 35 different countries, and an audience of over 1600 from circa 1250 organisations and almost 140 countries. The level and breadth of participation indicate the expanding recognition of the critical importance of decarbonising industry and transport and its significant implications for global economies.

Four days of discussion showcased many emerging solutions from around the world and explored the actions needed to fully unlock the potential of renewables in the end-use sectors. The discussions demonstrated an important shift in attitudes, with many companies in the industry and transport sectors now actively considering the implications of the zero-carbon goal. In general, the objective of decarbonisation by mid-century seems clear and broadly accepted. What is less clear, however, are the optimum strategies to achieve this. All parts of the energy system are in flux, with changes happening simultaneously on the supply and demand sides, and innovations such as digitalisation expanding their role and shifting business models. Changes on so many fronts make it difficult to chart a definitive course and increase the risk of negative consequences from poor choices, such as the risk of stranded assets. However, the broad pathway and key building blocks are becoming clear, with renewable-based solutions central amongst them.

Key takeaways from the discussions:

  • Perspectives are changing. There is now a general recognition across all sectors that deep decarbonisation is a must and that greater action is urgently needed.
  • A focus on renewables is growing. A broad and growing range of stakeholders are placing renewables at the core of the decarbonisation strategies for industry and transport.
  • Pathways are emerging. There remain uncertainties as to which combination of solutions is optimum; however, the broad pathways towards deep decarbonisation and the key building blocks are becoming clear.
  • Enabling conditions need to be addressed soon. For solutions to be deployed at scale in the next decade, a range of enabling conditions – including standards and infrastructure – need to be planned and implemented in this decade.
  • Policy making needs to be more creative. New policy measures are needed to price externalities as well as to incentivise “green” demand. Closer international collaboration is needed to promote sectoral agreements.

Findings from IRENA’s Innovation Week 2020 and subsequent work will inform the preparatory meetings for the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November 2020 as well as inform the energy transition investment included in post-COVID-19 stimulus packages adopted by IRENA’s global members.

Summaries, presentations and videos of each of the sessions are available here.