Economic and social development around the world hinges on the provision and distribution of energy. In the past, energy has mainly been harnessed through the large-scale use of fossil fuels and natural gas. Although it has driven economies all over the world, it has also led to problems such as climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, etc. and other volatile pollutants, which are the byproducts of fossil fuel use. Scientists estimate that a global temperature increase of over 2ºC will cause irreversible damage to the earth’s ecosystem, with adverse repercussions on all aspects of human life. It is therefore vital for all countries to take concerted action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately.
To combat the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment, countries around the world are transitioning towards generating power through Renewable Energy (RE). In the last few years, wind and solar energy have experienced remarkable growth. With advances in technology, RE prices are declining rapidly, and RE is emerging as an increasingly competitive alternative to fossil fuels. Additionally, renewables provide a wide range of market and public health benefits by reducing pollution, providing reliable access to energy in remote areas and creating jobs.
Importance of Renewable Energy in IORA Member States
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) consists of 2 developed countries, 12 developing/emerging economies and 7 LDCs. Demand for energy continues to rise in all of them. It is important to acknowledge that developing countries and LDCs are high-energy consuming nations and the continued use of conventional energy resources is not sustainable for their development. Therefore, adoption of RE and increase of its share in the total energy mix is of high priority for IORA Member States.
Marine based renewable ocean energy generated from diverse sources, including wind, solar, wave, tidal cycles, salt concentration and thermal power, is of particular interest to IORA Member States, as the grouping is based around the Indian Ocean. Most IORA States are also very well placed to harness solar, wind and hydel energy from non-ocean sources, and have already started taking measures to harness RE resources to meet the growing energy demand in the region.
Renewable Energy Trends in IORA Member States
The Indian Ocean Rim region, representing approx. 15% of global energy demand, is rapidly emerging as a cost-competitive market for RE. Countries such as Iran, Oman, UAE and Yemen use mostly natural gas and oil, with the contribution of RE being lower. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka mainly depend on coal. Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand meet their energy needs through oil, natural gas and coal, with bio-energy forming 15% of their energy mixes. The Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and South Africa depend heavily on coal (50%) and bio-energy (30%).
Even then, all IORA Member States have launched initiatives to add more RE capacity. IORA took its first steps towards harnessing the potential of RE in the region in 2014 when it held the 1st IORA RE Ministerial Meeting (titled The Indian Ocean Renewable Energy Ministerial Forum) in Abu Dhabi. This meeting was preceded by the 1st IORA RE Experts Meeting and resulted in the IORA Abu Dhabi Declaration on RE as well as a Next Steps document. This event was followed by the IORA/IRENA RE Technical Working Session on ‘RE in the Indian Ocean Rim region’ in January 2016.