IRENA launch event — Innovation landscape for a renewable-powered future

Innovation is the engine powering the energy transition and the pace of innovation around the world is accelerating. A multitude of innovation solutions are being trialed and adopted in a wide range of countries for a wide range of applications across energy systems. The power sector has been leading the way with rapid cost reductions in key renewable energy technologies of solar and wind. The cost of electricity from solar PV fell by almost 75% in the years between 2009 and 2018, and the costs of onshore wind electricity dropped by almost 25% in the same period. Renewable power generation accounted for an estimated quarter of total global power generation in 2017, with an impressive growth in recent years in variable renewable energy (VRE), wind and PV technologies.

According to IRENA’s analysis, a decarbonization of the power sector, in line with the climate objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement, would require a share of renewable energy in total electricity generation of 85% by 2050. The share of electricity consumed in the total energy demand of end-use sectors - industry, transport and buildings - need to more than double from around 20% in 2015 to 50% in 2050. Therefore, the paramount importance to focus innovation efforts to the integration of high shares of variable renewable energy in power systems.

IRENA has conducted a comprehensive analysis of ‘the innovation landscape for the integration of variable renewable power’ mapping and categorizing the many examples of innovations and innovative solutions being created by pioneering companies, backed by far-sighted governments around the world. The ‘Innovation Landscape’ report, and its accompanying detailed online resources, will provide decision makers with a clear, easily navigable but comprehensive guide to the diversity of innovations in use or development in many countries across the globe. The report explains how those innovations in technology, market design, business models and system operation, which are being combined to create solutions suitable for a wide range of power-systems and will provide a clear framework to help decision makers make informed judgments on the most relevant solutions for their needs and what to explore further.

The launch of the IRENA report Innovation landscape for a renewable-powered future: Solutions to integrate variable renewables with the participation of IRENA's Director-General Adnan Amin, was hosted by the European Commission, represented by the European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action Miguel Arias Canete and Director-General for Energy Dominique Ristori.

Europe has become a lighthouse in showing successful pathways to a renewables-based energy future, being at the forefront in energy innovation. Renewable technologies developed in Europe are now being commercialised at scale all around the globe. Furthermore, the European Union has now agreed on a new set of regulations that foster innovation in technology, in market design and in operation of the electricity system. Innovations include short-term market and wholesale prices that reflect the real value of electricity in time, new dispatch rules, better demand participation to ensure flexibility, a better economic case for distributed energy resources, self-consumption and market coupling. Those innovations are expected to have a major impact in achieving the ambitious EU target of at least 32% renewables by 2030.

During the event, a panel of political personalities and representatives of some key stakeholders in the field of renewables shared their insights into the types of innovations emerging and discussed how those innovations are changing the ways in which energy system are configured and operate and how they are beginning to change roles for many actors across energy systems.