Qatar becomes 147th member of Irena

Gulf state joins world's green energy agency as Abu Dhabi, Irena's home, hosts meeting of the organisation's administrative committee.

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ABU DHABI // Qatar yesterday became the 147th and newest member of the International Renewable Energy Agency, with more countries expected to sign up. In the opulent surroundings of the capital's Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel, Dr Mohammed Saleh al Sada, the minister of state for energy and industry affairs, signed the Irena statute on behalf of the Qatari government.

"We are glad to be able to be part of the Irena international family," Dr al Sada said. "We have become number 147 in Irena's membership and my understanding is that other countries are also joining." Abu Dhabi won the right to be the home of Irena, the world's green energy agency, after a hotly contested battle last year with the German city Bonn and the Austrian city Vienna, withdrawing their bids at the last minute.

This week, Abu Dhabi has also been hosting nearly 150 delegates from 60 countries, attending a meeting of the organisation's administrative committee. Irena was formed last year to promote renewable energy. Six types of green energy fall under the organisation's mandate - bio-energy, geothermal, and hydro power, as well as ocean, solar and wind energy. Like other Gulf states, Qatar has a very limited renewable energy capacity. The country is the largest producer of liquified natural gas and has been vocal in promoting its key resource as a cleaner alternative to coal and other fossil fuels. "Qatar is a big producer and exporter of gas, which is cleaner energy," Dr al Sada said. Hélène Pelosse, the interim director-general of Irena, welcomed Qatar into the fold. She said she was optimistic about Qatar's membership and about the stance of Gulf governments when it comes to renewable energy. "Bahrain, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi have come up with targets on renewable energy," she said, explaining that the targets varied from five to seven per cent of generation capacity. "It is a huge commitment if you are starting from zero," she said. Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels, which are recognised as an important cause behind potentially dangerous changes to climate expected as a result of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Combustion of natural gas produces around 30 per cent less greenhouse gases compared to the burning of oil. Yet, environmentalists have pointed that if the world is to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases pumped each year into the atmosphere, even cleaner technologies need to be deployed. The sun could be a major source of power in the Arabian Gulf, proponents of clean energy have said. In the UAE, for example, Masdar City, the world's largest low-carbon development, will rely mainly on solar power to achieve its goals. However, yesterday Dr al Sada said that solar power had a modest role in his country's energy mix. Worldwide, renewable energy accounts for 18 per cent of electricity generation. Irena was formed in January of last year with the objective of speeding up the adoption of renewable energy by advising member states on the right policy frameworks and improving green energy financing and technology transfer. To become a fully fledged international organisation, Irena needs to have at least 25 of its member states ratify its statute. A total of 26 countries have already done this and the statute will enter into force on July 8.