Shifting solar sands as IRENA, U.S. ITC plans take shape

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The promotion of renewable energies took on a potentially new meaning when the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was officially initiated, with 75 nations signing the new Agency’s statute on January 26, 2009. Major countries already committed to solar energy signed at the conference, held in Bonn, Germany. Pro-renewable countries such as Spain, Italy, Denmark and Germany were notable for joining from the industrialised world, though the United States was not a signee at the conference.

A key goal for IRENA is to support the growth of renewable energy at the regional level but also on a global basis. Until now, there had been no international organisation that offered industrialised and developing countries support specifically focused on encouraging and developing renewable energies.

Importantly, IRENA is aimed at providing access to successful policies as well as state-of-the-art technologies and their possible transfer, both separately and in integrated approaches.

First Solar, one of the fastest-growing solar module manufacturers, has applauded the establishment of IRENA as a U.S.-based effort that is international in sales and manufacturing. First Solar urged the United States to join and actively support the initiative.

“The creation of IRENA sends a clear signal to markets worldwide that renewable energy will be a public policy priority for many years to come and shows that policy makers are serious about fighting global warming,” said Mike Ahearn, CEO of First Solar. “We encourage the United States and all other nations that have not yet committed to join IRENA and to actively support its vision of a more sustainable environment for future generations.”

Ahearn also said in a statement that he expected IRENA to become a serious force in identifying and promoting best practices, which will encourage renewed investments in renewable energies from governments through to the public.

President Obama of the United States has repeatedly described his vision of the country becoming the largest adopter of renewable energy. The U.S. joining IRENA would send a message to all industrialised nations that renewable energy would be a priority for economic and environmental reasons.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate proposed improved revisions to the stimulus package that tackled problems with obtaining lines of credit for renewable projects. Should these proposals be included in the ITC, Barclays Capital financial analyst Vishal Shah estimates that solar PV demand in the U.S. through 2011 could be as large as 5.5GW to 7.5GW.

“Even if the commercial solar PV opportunity turns out to be 50% below our estimate, the US solar market could still grow between 3.5GW and 5.5GW through 2011,” noted Shah in a report to clients.

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