Irena clean energy body takes historic step

The International Renewable Energy Agency chose elected its director general during meeting.

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ABU DHABI // History was made this week as the world's first clean energy body was transformed from a preparatory commission into an international organisation.

Founded in January 2009, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) was realised in the capital on Monday and Tuesday.

A day earlier, Irena's 149 member states selected the UN official Dr Adnan Amin as director general. The development economist from Kenya had been filling the position on a temporary basis since October last year when Irena's first chief, Helene Pelosse, departed suddenly.

Dr Amin said: "We are excited with the challenge we have ahead of us and we are excited to go to work."

One of Dr Amin's priorities is to run an efficient and transparent organisation. This comes against the backdrop of an inquiry into how Ms Pelosse performed.

Delegates have been presented with two audits, from Ernst & Young and, more recently, the Office of the Auditor General of Norway, examining how funds were used while the former French official was in office. The second audit cited a lack of documentation in expenses and employee payouts, as well as "other benefits significantly higher than the UN scale used as a benchmark".

"We cannot confirm that all transactions undertaken by the Commission for the year 2010 are valid," the document read. Member states will need about a month to reach a conclusion, Dr Amin said.

Despite the inquiry, diplomats gave positive accounts of the Abu Dhabi meeting, saying that with key decisions taken, Irena was ready to press ahead with its tasks.

"It was very successful," said Kerri-Ann Jones, the US assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. "It is an important agency, giving what its objective is - to help the world achieve more renewable energy."

Other important decisions taken included an agreement on Irena's key objectives - to help address energy poverty, provide policy advice for national leaders and facilitate research and development into renewable technologies.

Delegates also negotiated the membership of the organisation's council, which will have the tasks of holding consultations among members, initiating inquiries and preparing documents to inform decisions taken at Irena's assemblies, held once every two years. A total of 21 countries, including the UAE, made it to the council.

"Everybody wanted to be on the council," said Ms Jones. "There was a lot of negotiation but it was finalised."

Dr Amin attributed the successful completion of the negotiations to Dr Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, the UAE special envoy for energy and climate change, chief executive of Masdar, and president of the session.

Another victory for the country was the formal confirmation on Sunday that Abu Dhabi was to host Irena's headquarters. The capital was chosen to do this in June 2009, but it was not until this week that the decision acquired formal status.

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