The International Renewable Energy Agency: a success story in institutional innovation?
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This article interprets the role and significance of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in global environmental and energy governance. First, we conduct a comparative analysis of IRENA and other recent innovations in global governance, showing that IRENA stands out with regard to the timing of creation, speed of ratification, and focus of the mandate. Second, we identify three mechanisms through which IRENA can promote the global diffusion of renewable energy: (1) by offering valuable epistemic services to its member states, (2) by serving as a focal point for renewable energy in a scattered global institutional environment, and (3) by mobilizing other international institutions to promote renewable energy. Finally, we reflect on the conditions that could make IRENA’s policies a continued success and on the lessons that the experience with IRENA holds for other attempts at innovation in global governance.
KeywordsGlobal energy governance IRENA Renewable energy Institutional innovation
International Renewable Energy Agency
United States dollar
Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries
Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century
United Nations Environment Programme
International Energy Agency
Carbon capture and storage
European Patent Office
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program
Global Bioenergy Partnership
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition
We are grateful to Frank Biermann, Jeff Colgan, Sander Happaerts, Timothy Meyer, and Sarah Van Eynde for commenting on earlier drafts. We also thank the editors of International Environmental Agreements and the anonymous reviewers for their advice. All interviewees are commended for their openness and contribution.
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