Remarks at the First Session of the Assembly of IRENA

Kerri-Ann Jones
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Head of Delegation, United States of America
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
April 4, 2011

Thank you, Mr. President.

First I would like to express my country’s deep sorrow and condolences to our colleagues and friends in Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people.

Today is an important day for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a day to acknowledge the hard work that has gotten us here and a day to celebrate the official launch of this very important global organization. It is a day to recognize the UAE and thank them for their extraordinary commitment and hard work in hosting IRENA headquarters.

The timing of this new organization could not be more propitious. Each of us here in the Assembly is confronting, both domestically and internationally, a range of challenges that are tightly linked to energy. The challenges of sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation, security, local and global health issues, and global climate change are all affected by how we generate, transmit, and consume our energy resources. How we’ve done so in the past will surely not be how we will do so in the future.

We are standing on the threshold of an energy revolution equal to and as momentous as the one ushered in by Thomas Edison on September 4th, 1882 when the switch was thrown on a power plant in downtown Manhattan. Now the entire suite of renewable energy technologies is rapidly approaching the price point where they can compete with all other energy resources. Renewable energy holds enormous promise for all nations in all of its applications, in particular for the much-needed off-grid rural communities.

We are also fundamentally redesigning our entire transmission and distribution system along the lines of the smart grid architecture. This new power system, fueled by renewable energy, sustained by energy efficient technologies and practices, and organized through more intelligent and interactive information systems, will help us address the social, economic, and political challenges that surround us. This new system will help us to better reach those currently without electricity; it will improve security and reliability and lower costs; it will also allow consumer participation in the daily and even hourly decisions on energy use. The Obama Administration believes in this dramatic movement towards a cleaner energy model. We are investing in this model. The recent stimulus package provides 80 billion dollars for clean energy efforts.

IRENA is a very different kind of international organization. Its topic, its structure, and its mission will be dramatically different from the international organizations of previous generations. From its administrative procedures to its programmatic portfolio, we have all worked diligently with the Secretariat and its highly professional and experienced staff to develop innovative and creative solutions to its operations. We applaud the tireless and unwavering dedication of the Secretariat.

IRENA will do things differently. Instead of prescribing top-down solutions, IRENA will work across sectors and across technologies to build capacity and foster innovation. IRENA has also set a precedent of using merit as the primary basis for choosing its personnel and its projects. The United States believes that a merit-based approach will be a more productive and successful system.

Over the past 18 months we have also seen a remarkable level of commitment from the members themselves to engage in and participate in the organization in a manner that is as unparalleled as it is refreshing and healthy. We all need to continue this energized participation to ensure the relevance of IRENA’s activities and the success of its actions.

IRENA’s mission is to promote the broad, deep, and sustainable use of renewable energy around the world. By focusing on creating energy systems that are both technically feasible and economically sustainable, by focusing on the finance and policy questions, IRENA will help us create solutions to long-term energy security, climate, and development problems.

We are looking forward to working hard in this organization. We congratulate each of you on your manifest accomplishments and commit ourselves to actively and earnestly working with all of you to ensure our collective success in ushering in a cleaner energy future.