The proposal for an international agency dedicated towards renewable energy was made in 1981 at the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in Nairobi. The idea was further discussed and developed by major organisations in the field of renewable energy, in particular Eurosolar.
Since then, the global interest in renewable energy has been increasing: Several international meetings such as the World Summit for Sustainable Development 2002 in Johannesburg (WSSD) or the G-8 Gleneagles Dialogue addressed renewable energy, and the 2004 Bonn International Renewable Energy Conference in Bonn, as well as the 2005 Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference were a response of Governments towards the increasing demand for further international cooperation on renewable energy policies, financing, and technologies.
It is important to recall that the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Bonn 2004, supported by the International Parliamentary Forum on Renewable Energies called for the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its concluding resolution. Only a few years later, and through combined efforts of Governments across the world, the idea had come to life.
With a rapidly growing energy demand on the one hand, and climate change associated with current patterns of energy use on the other, the meeting of the ‘IRENA Initiative’ took place at a critical juncture. 170 representatives from 60 states expressed their overall support for the founding of an International Renewable Energy Agency as early as possible - the political momentum was with the ‘IRENA Initiative’ now. Whilst the basic instruments of such an Agency were to be agreed upon at a later stage, the objective was clear: IRENA should be become the very first intergovernmental organisation on a global scale dedicated towards the promotion of renewable energy.
Two parallel Workshops were convened in Berlin from 30 June to 1 July 2008, in order to prepare the groundwork. The workshops, attended by over 100 representatives of more than 44 states, discussed the founding treaty of IRENA (the ‘Statute’), the financing mechanisms, and the outline of an initial work programme. The workshops were yet another important step in the establishment of IRENA.
The final Preparatory Conference was held only half a year after the first Preparatory Conference, again underlining the strong commitment of Governments towards renewable energies. More than 150 representatives from 51 states gathered to discuss the key issues that would ultimately enable the quick-start formation of IRENA in January 2009: The draft Statue was agreed upon, important matters such as financing, and the criteria and procedures for selecting the Interim Director-General and the Interim Headquarters, as well as the design of the initial phase of IRENA, were resolved. The Final Preparatory Conference represented a milestone in the founding process of IRENA, and in the run-up to the Founding Conference further states became attracted to the idea of IRENA and joined the initiative.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was officially founded in Bonn on 26 January 2009. The founding of IRENA was a significant milestone for world renewable energy deployment and a clear sign that the global energy paradigm was changing as a result of the growing commitments from governments. At the Founding Conference 75 States from all over the world signed IRENA’s Statute.
Considering the magnitude and urgency of the tasks ahead for IRENA, it was important that IRENA commenced its activities as quickly as possible. To bridge the gap between the ratification of IRENA’s Statute by a quorum of 25 States which still was to come, and the urgent need for establishing IRENA and initiate first activities, a Preparatory Commission was instigated on the day following the Founding Conference.
The Preparatory Commission for IRENA, consisting of IRENA’s Signatory States and acting as the interim institutional body, had a key role in preparing the relevant institutional structures for this new intergovernmental organisation, ranging from the location of the headquarters and the appointment of the first Director-General, and administrative policies and procedures, to the implementation of first renewable energy projects.
Between 2009 and 2011, five sessions of the Preparatory Commission for IRENA were held. At the second session in June 2009, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) was selected to host the Interim Headquarters of IRENA, and Helene Pelosse, a French citizen, was appointed the first Interim Director-General of IRENA.
An Administrative Committee was formed to assist the Preparatory Commission in preparing its next sessions, support the necessary next steps, and ensure efficient internal and external communication.
Following the entry into force of the Statute on 8 July 2010 the preparations for the first Assembly of IRENA were started. On 4 April 2011, only three years after the very first conference regarding IRENA was held, the Preparatory Commission of IRENA ceased to exist, and the International Renewable Energy Agency was finally born.