30 Sep 2021 Workshop

Working-level dialogue between emerging and developing economies on commercialising clean energy innovations

The IEA estimates that around half of the emissions reductions needed for the world to meet net zero CO2 emissions in 2050 could come from technologies that are not yet commercialized, which calls for an acceleration of clean energy innovation. At the same time, global clean energy transitions will be significantly influenced by emerging and developing countries, where strong economic growth is driving up energy demand and the need for new energy infrastructure. The extent to which these large new sources of demand are met by low-carbon sources will shape climate outcomes. IEA analyses suggest that emerging and developing economies outside China would account for over 40% of global investments to shift the world onto a net zero pathway.

This presents a major opportunity for researchers and innovators in these countries to tap into clean energy value chains to satisfy their own local demand and also to participate in international supply chains. Clean energy technology markets could be worth over a trillion dollars in the next few decades, one of the biggest technology opportunities this century. However, global efforts are not always directed at solutions that are appropriate for all regions of the world. Emerging and developing countries have distinctive features compared to higher income countries, such as electricity grids, patterns of mobility, building design and climatic conditions, which are also specific to local contexts. Therefore, innovative and affordable solutions appropriate for different regions are needed, while creating space for all countries to find value in clean energy supply chains.

To discuss these issues, the IEA, in cooperation with AGNIi (Accelerating Growth of New India’s innovations – the National Technology Commercialization Program of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India), organised a working-level dialogue gathering relevant government entities from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Participants discussed possible collaborative activities to deepen global understanding of the ways through which the next generation of clean energy technologies could be effectively supported to reach markets beyond where in the world they were first invented.

This dialogue convened countries facing similar challenges and provided a forum for sharing experiences on:

  • Priority clean energy technologies and pressing challenges to be addressed.
  • Support programmes for energy innovators to bring energy products to market.
  • Interest in cooperation with other countries on topics including market development policies, investments in energy innovation and joint demonstration projects.

This working-level dialogue gathered around 50 online participants and featured presentations by seven countries – India, Indonesia, Oman, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco and Mexico – as well as participation from Egypt and Brazil.

In the introduction,Mudit Narain, Chief Technology Advisor in the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, emphasised that exciting innovation is arising today from a wide range of places. India is exploring approaches, including regulatory sand boxes and demand creation through public procurement, to address some of the specific challenges facing new technologies in the energy sector. At this critical time in the fight against climate change, Mudit Narain stressed that all countries will need to adapt, accelerate and support innovation.

Masatoshi Sugiura, Head of Division at the Office of Global Energy Relations at the IEA, and Araceli Fernández, Head of the Technology Innovation Unit at the IEA, set the scene. Masatoshi Sugiura highlighted that clean energy technology innovation and its enhancement are now at the centre of IEA work. The IEA supports dialogues, such as this one, that help the next generation of clean energy technologies to reach the market, regardless of where in the world they arise. Araceli Fernández stressed that major innovation efforts are vital in this decade to bring the technologies needed for net zero emissions to the markets as soon as possible. Without a major acceleration in clean energy innovation, reaching net zero emissions by 2050 would not be achievable.

Participants shared information about the activities that their respective countries have put in place to support a low-carbon transition, recognising the paramount importance of just, or people-centred, energy transitions. Technology is one means of helping countries and regions to move away from CO2-emitting fossil fuel use without slowing economic growth for economies dependent on fossil fuel exports and while improving equity and ensuring broad public support. Clean energy innovation can help all countries to actively contribute to technology improvements across global supply chains, and not be limited to being destinations for technologies developed overseas. In particular, technologies are needed that are suited to local markets and resources, while ensuring affordability to satisfy people’s needs and expand access to energy.

Presenters from participating governments shared information about their different clean energy R&D and innovation programmes. There was a strong focus on technology areas that can contribute to the global energy transition while creating local value and drawing on domestic resources – from biomass, waste and solar resources to critical minerals or hydrocarbons. Some participants highlighted programmes they are implementing to leverage existing skills in fossil-fuel sectors to support innovation and early deployment of clean energy technologies.

Among the shared technology interests, there are overlapping priorities between countries, including urban mobility (for example, electric 2/3-wheelers), stationary energy storage, use of local minerals such as lithium and nickel, hydrogen, smart grids and grid reliability, methanol, bioenergy, waste-to-energy, nuclear and renewables. Furthermore, there are similarities in countries use of, for example, public-private partnerships, incubation for spin-offs and start-ups, and targeted technology missions.

A fundamental issue common to many countries is limited financial resources. Participants discussed the need to enhance capacity building and give knowledge sharing a central place in international cooperation initiatives. There was a common perception that energy transitions in all countries have a higher chance of success if the countries can participate in the associated and potentially lucrative new value chains.

In closing the event, Mary Warlick, the IEA’s Deputy Executive Director, recognised the great efforts that countries are making to enhance clean energy innovation. She notes the appreciation shown by participants for the opportunity to interact with counterparts from other countries facing similar challenges and learn about areas of common interest. The IEA will continue to help connect countries to share experiences and deepen collaboration, including by convening expertise from across the IEA family.

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The IEA’s role as the co-organiser of this event was facilitated through the Clean Energy Transtitions in Emerging Economies programme, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 952363.