World must stop consuming fossil fuels instead of blaming producers, Irena chief says

Countries should introduce policies to shift demand to cleaner energy

Photovoltaic panels at Al Dhafra solar project in Abu Dhabi, UAE. AFP
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The world needs to stop the consumption of fossil fuels instead of “pointing fingers” at oil and gas producers, according to the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“When you say phase down or phase out, it seems like you are pointing the finger at the producing countries,” Francesco La Camera told The National at the Cop28 summit in Dubai.

His remarks come as the climate conference enters its seventh day and talks intensify about a potential phase out or phase down of fossil fuels.

However, he also said countries should introduce policies to shift demand from fossil fuel products to cleaner energy.

“If you put in the market 11 terawatts [of renewable energy] by 2030 … this means that you will decrease the supply [of other energy sources],” Mr La Camera said.

The GCC countries can use existing resources to develop renewable energy technology to tackle climate change as well as diversify their economies, the Irena said in a report on Wednesday.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) power, which costs less than $0.20 per kilowatt hour (kWh), is now the least-cost option for power production in the region, outpacing natural gas, liquefied natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear power, the Abu Dhabi-based agency said.

A significant drop in production costs alongside an abundance of solar and wind resources in the GCC create opportunities for the emergence of innovative energy solutions such as green hydrogen.

Oil-rich Gulf countries have built all their renewable energy capacity within the past decade, based almost entirely on solar power.

Installed capacity grew to more than 5,600 megawatts last year, from 191 megawatts in 2013, Irena said.

Despite substantial growth and improved cost competitiveness of solar energy, renewable energy's share in the electricity mix makes up only 3 per cent of the region's generation capacity.

The UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy, hosts more than 60 per cent of the region’s renewable energy capacity amid rising investment in new projects.

However, many countries in the region are planning to boost crude production over the next few years to benefit from higher oil prices, a move that some critics say is incompatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Mega solar power plant is inaugurated in Abu Dhabi

Mega solar power plant is inaugurated in Abu Dhabi

So far, 123 countries have signed the global renewables and energy efficiency pledge, which commits states to tripling renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts by the end of the decade, Mr La Camera said.

However, India and China – two of the world’s largest renewable energy markets – have abstained from the pledge.

“Probably, they are waiting to see how much finance will be in the final document before agreeing on that,” Mr La Camera said.

“Honestly, there are no issues in [them] joining because the pledge of the tripling renewable energy is just what is said in the Paris Agreement,” he said.

From a political standpoint, India and China want developed countries to make a more “engaged effort” to supporting the transition in emerging markets, the Irena chief said.

Total solar PV capacity in China, the world’s second-largest economy, is projected to pass 1,000 gigawatts by the end of 2026, compared with 500 gigawatts by the end of this year, Rystad Energy said in a report in September.

India, the world's fifth largest economy, aims to produce 500 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 to meet half of its energy demand through renewables.

Irena fund exceeds target

Financial pledges to the Irena’s energy transition accelerator financing (Etaf) platform reached $4.05 billion, surpassing its original target for Cop28 “more than fourfold”.

In the latest round, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development committed up to $1 billion to the platform, while the International Finance Corporation pledged up to $1 billion, and HSBC offered up to $200 million in support.

The platform, which was set up in 2021 with support from the UAE, aims to scale up renewable energy projects in developing countries, while also bringing benefits to communities through enhanced energy access and security.

“We have been calling for this Cop to get the financial institutions to give priority to the funding of the infrastructure needed, especially in Africa [and] in the developed world,” Mr La Camera said.

He also said that institutional capital as well as public support would be required to channel more funds into energy transition projects in developing economies.

Updated: December 06, 2023, 10:01 AM