A new global effort that aims to make renewable energy more
accessible to every country in the world will launch on July 1st.
Governments are lining up to join the first agency that will
advise them on how to make a renewable energy transition. The
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has attracted 108
countries, including the United States and China, which are both
expected to announce their membership this week, in a move that
experts say could boost the agency's credibility, since both
countries are leaders in renewable energy.
But supporters worry that IRENA could be undermined by countries
that are trying to promote nuclear power as a solution to climate
change and dwindling oil reserves. Today, members will meet in Sharm
El Sheik, Egypt to vote on a director general for the group and
decide which country will host the agency's headquarters.
Currently, a leading alliance between France and the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) is forming. French ministerial official Helene
Pelosse is a nominee for IRENA'S director general and the UAE is
lobbying to host its headquarters in Abu Dhabi. IRENA advocates say
if the alliance succeeds, the agency would become "nuclear tainted."
France pushes nuclear as 'low-carbon technology'
France generates nearly 80 percent of its electricity from
nuclear power. It's also one of the world's largest providers of
nuclear technology and expertise. Since 2008, French President
Nicolas Sarkozy has signed multibillion-dollar nuclear deals with
the UAE, Qatar, Algeria, Libya, and Morocco.
At the same time, France is promoting nuclear as a form of
renewable power because it emits low levels of carbon dioxide. When
the European Union defined its long-term target for renewable energy
production last year, it tried to include nuclear power in the
definition of renewable energy, a move that was rejected by EU
France is also advocating to power the Mediterranean region using
"low-carbon technology." IRENA supporters worry that under French
leadership, the agency will support both renewables and nuclear
Most discussions separate the two because renewable energy is
defined as naturally replenishing resources, like solar or wind,
which don't produce waste. Nuclear power is dependent on finite
uranium resources, and produces radioactive waste that has to be
isolated and stored for thousands of years.
"Advocates of nuclear try to avoid these essential differences by
linking these two forms of energy under the umbrella term 'low-
carbon technology,'" says Dr. Doerte Fouquet, Director of the
European Renewable Energy Federation. "People forget that emitting
zero CO2 is only one of the characteristics that defines a renewable
source of energy. …