The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) outlined on 6 August the innovation priorities needed to accelerate the global transition to a sustainable energy system. A range of priority areas were identified including:

    • fostering a system-wide approach to innovation beyond research and development
    • advancing power system integration, and
    • supporting a portfolio of technology options to electrify and decarbonise end-use sectors.

Techniques to enable infrastructure, business models, system operation and technology are all key elements identified as part of forwarding a system wide approach. The potential for these elements to work in harmony is seen as “crucial for the transition” according to Dolf Gielen, director of IRENA’s Innovation and Technology Centre.

The uprise in renewable sources of production now makes them a direct cost competitor to fossil fuels. The need to integrate this green generation into power systems is clearly possible but also required to help to calm the stresses brought about by climate change. IRENA proposes the scaling up of renewable production by increasing the flexibility of power systems in supply and demand. In order to achieve full resource potential, they estimate scaling up from around 25% today, to approximately 85% by 2050.

With current end-use sectors representing close to 60% of energy related CO2 emissions, another priority area identified is consideration of options to electrify and decarbonise end-use sectors. IRENA indicated that pursuing electrification could double the share of electricity in final energy use in the coming decades. Francisco Boshell, Analyst at IRENA said: “Electrifying energy demand of end-use sectors represents a ‘win-win’ that can reduce emissions whilst supporting the integration of higher shares of renewable power.”

Through implementation of these priority areas, IRENA believes aims to meet carbon targets will be carried out much more effectively. They identify these areas as more than just improvements to current approaches, but as necessities in ensuring energy systems are sustainable in the near future.

IRENA