The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has unveiled the first world atlas on renewable energy, a resource that maps all countries' potential.
It answers such questions as:
What share of a country's energy mix can be supplied by renewable energy? Where are the resources located? What is the most cost-effective combination of technologies? What volume of investment does this represent and is there a market large enough to create a supply chain?
The Atlas combines data and maps from governments, leading technical institutes and private companies worldwide. It will inform policy development and energy planning, and support investors entering renewable energy markets.
"Assessing renewable energy resources is the necessary first step in answering these questions and in eventually creating an enabling market environment for deploying renewable energy. This first step requires large upfront investment in evaluation, and a high level of technical knowledge. That is why a global and open portal providing this information can make it easier to take this first step," says IRENA.
Currently, it charts solar and wind resources, and will expand to other renewable sources in 2013-2014. So far, 37 countries have contributed information to the atlas.
While renewable energy databases exist that display technical information such as wind speed and other conditions, and others feature supportive policies, ARENA's integrates all these aspects, including socio-economic data, policies and support mechanisms.
In the US, for example, a map developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) shows developers the wind energy generation potential of various sites they may be considering, and another resource helps wind developers locate endangered species and critical habitat data.
China announced it will join IRENA as a member this year, considered an important milestone for the international agency.
Over the weekend, IRENA held its annual conference, with representatives of 150 countries in attendance in Abu Dhabi. They gathered to chart the future of international renewable energy policy at the annual Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
IRENA is a global policy hub for renewable energy policy, headquartered in Abu Dhabi. The agency strongly supports the UN Secretary-General's Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, which calls for doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030.
At a recent workshop, countries' policies were identified as the most important way to rapidly scale renewable energy - more effective than subsidies. Establishing an enabling policy environment reduces investment risk.
Even in difficult economic times, governments can choose to "invest scarce public funds... to create the enabling environment to mobilise private finance" for renewable energy deployment," says Yannick Glemarec, Director of Environmental Finance at the United Nations Development Program.
Here's the atlas: