22 January 2019

New IRENA report on ‘the geopolitics of the energy transformation’ to be presented at PSI Conference 2019

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has published a new report on the geopolitical implications of the global energy transformation driven by renewables, which argues the transition is likely to diffuse power and reduce energy-related conflict.

‘A New World’ is the culmination of ten months’ deliberations by an independent Global Commission convened by IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin, who will present the findings himself at the PSI Conference 2019 in The Hague. The session will be convened by Dr. Daniel Scholten, a member of the expert panel that supported the Commission, and Assistant Professor at TU Delft.

The Commission, comprising a diverse group of interdisciplinary and distinguished leaders and chaired by former President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland, argues that energy – along with its availability, production and transportation – is at the very core of our civilizations. The recent steady increase of renewable energy as a share of world energy production poses several challenges as well as opportunities to meet the energy needs of countries, corporations and citizens within an economically attractive and sustainable strategy.

The report highlights the geopolitical implications steaming from changes in power relations in the energy sector as potential root causes of instability and conflict. Proactive preparation and long-term choices are crucial elements to address such changes and ensure prosperity and sustainability. Most importantly, renewable energies have an extraordinary potential in improving human welfare by encouraging local empowerment, improving public health, advancing gender equality and educational opportunities and reducing oil- and gas-related conflict.

More specifically the “considerable imprint” of fossil fuels on patterns of conflict during the last hundred years is predicted to diminish. Armed conflicts within states will be less likely to be aggravated by competition in fossil fuel production and distribution, while international strategic chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz will become less critical. Militaries will also benefit from reduced dependency on “costly and dangerous” fossil fuel supply lines for operations.

Regions in which large proportions of GDP are spent on fossil fuel imports will benefit from timely adaption, particularly those vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The Planetary Security Conference will feature also a separate workshop on ‘Just Energy Transitions in Caribbean SIDS’ which will consider this regional perspective.

The Commission also recognises the geopolitical challenges in this transition in the form of cybersecurity, demand for minerals and metals used in renewables and instability in fossil fuel-exporting countries which fail to adapt.

By integrating the development agenda into the energy agenda, this report aims at creating further awareness of the systemic change characterising our time. ‘The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation’ will be held on Day 2 of the Planetary Security Conference, on 20th February 2019.