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South Africa is organising the first ever International Renewable Energy Conference on the African subcontinent. Abbreviated IREC, the conference is in its sixth instalment with previous hosts including Bonn, Germany (2004), Beijing, China (2005), Washington, USA (2008), Delhi, India (2010), Abu Dhabi, UAE (2013).

SAIREC is a high-level political conference hosted by the South African government, together with the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), 4-7 October 2015.

The discussion will focus on the potential of renewables—within the country and the continent—that can be successfully implemented and the investment needed to boost the uptake of renewables in the coming years. SAIREC will address the two most important topics discussed around the globe: energy security and energy access.

Africa has a large untapped market potential and hence an opportunity to be the leading business destination for renewable energy. It is aided by the abundant natural resources with which the continent is endowed. Therefore, the conference’s agenda will introduce economically sound, policy-orientated initiatives that will significantly increase the presence of renewable energy not just within the continent but worldwide.

The aptly coined motto “Re-Energising Africa” only goes to show the significance of this event and its outcomes. Over the past decade these conferences have provided the motivation for several momentous initiatives and the hope is that the same holds true for Africa.


Over 3000 delegates will convene in Cape Town, for those of you at the conference, do not forget to join the twitter conversation with the hashtags #SAIREC2015 and #REenergisingAfrica.


“We are not far away from the climate talks in Paris and I’m frightened by the information overload that awaits people there. How will they cut through it all?”

This question, posed by Geoff Barnard at the Open Session of the Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Group workshop, cuts through to the raison d’etre of knowledge brokers. With so much climate information available, on a multitude of online platforms, how can end-users find what they need – when they need it?


The CKB Group, a network of organisations and professionals focused on improving the quality and use of climate knowledge in decision-making, is trying to answer that question. Now in its fifth year, the Group has refined its thinking into the concept of a Climate Knowledge Grid. This will be a series of interconnected tools and techniques (such as the Climate Tagger) that help to show where climate information is available, so that the many users of climate information can find what they need.

The Open Session, held at the energy-efficient UN City building in Copenhagen, was a chance to introduce the Grid and start gathering feedback – from the expert panel, the 50-plus participants in the room and the much larger audience watching via a live stream. But why, exactly, is this Climate Knowledge Grid needed?

One of the expert panellists, Jukka Ousukainen from CTCN, drew on his own experience to outline the challenges facing an important set of end-users: developing country government officers: “They need answers immediately, and about a range of different issues: new technologies, adaptation, climate strategy. But it’s so easy to get lost; if we just pour information out there, users can be flabbergasted.”

Ari Huhtala from CDKN agreed that this is a major problem, adding that knowledge brokers need to package information and evidence in ways that captures end-users’ attention: “People want information relevant to them; if they are Kenyan decision-makers, they want to know about Kenya. How do we make information relevant to each user, and each user’s individual reality?”

But it is not just government-level decision-makers who need to navigate their way through the ‘soup’ of climate information sources. Rob Cartridge, head of communications at Practical Action, asked a critical question about the Climate Knowledge Grid: will it reach down to other end-users, such as farmers in Bangladesh?

Florian Bauer from REEEP explained that this is exactly why a grid approach is needed. There needs to be a network of diverse organisations to meet the different users, not one agency that tries to reach all the users. In fact, the CKB Group moved away from the idea of a one-stop shop for climate information in its early days; the varying information needs out there are too diverse for one website to meet them all.

Indeed, websites may play less of a frontline role in the future, as the way people look for information changes. There is a new generation who are going to social media in the first instance, noted Ari Huhtala. Martin Hiller from REEEP agreed: “Many people use Twitter now [to get their information], not organisational home pages.”

The discussion raised yet more issues for the CKB group to consider. Helena Molin Valdés from CCAC questioned the role that the media will play in knowledge brokering, while Geoff Barnard asked the panellists for their expert advice on how best to fund knowledge platforms. These issues and more will give the CKB Group plenty to chew on over the next two days of the workshop, and in the coming weeks. And as Martin Hiller noted, “action on climate change is like Formula One. You have to move fast”.  The countdown to Paris has started; Climate Knowledge Brokers, start your engines…

– Tim Woods
Tim Woods is a Project Manager at Green Ink, an international agency specialising in communicating science and development issues.

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A contribution by Geoff Barnard from CDKN. Geoff Barnard is Knowledge Management Strategy Advisor for the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), and Chair of the CKB Steering Group. CDKN has supported the work of the CKB Group from the outset. Here, Geoff introduces the CKB Group’s latest initiative: a Manifesto on climate knowledge.

A quiet revolution is happening in the climate information world, in what feels like a remarkable outbreak of collaboration, innovation and joined-up thinking.

It all began at an exploratory workshop in 2011 to test out the appetite for collaboration between online climate knowledge players. “Surely we can do this job better if we are talking to each other,” was the hypothesis posed. At the time it was not obvious that initiatives would be prepared to work together, given that they were in many respects competing for attention and user ‘clicks’. But four years on, this hypothesis feels like a ‘no brainer’. If we are not combining efforts, how else can we crack the huge challenge of getting reliable climate information into the hands of all those who need it?

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Africa   Interested in contributing to REN21’s production of renewable energy and energy efficiency status report for southern Africa?  Let us know by completing this Expression of Interest  form. Don’t forget that the South Africa International Renewable Energy Conference (SAIREC) will be held 4-7 October in Cape Town. Applications for hosting a side event at SAIREC are now being accepted – deadline for submissions is 29 May so don’t delay!

If you are more interested in developments in Central and Eastern Europe how about submitting a tender to author, in cooperation with REN21, a status report for the region on renewable energy and energy efficiency?  For more information about the above or to read about interesting activities happening across the renewable energy sector give REN21’s latest newsletter a read.

Guest contribution by Tim Smith,

For some people, living off the grid is a conscious decision; given the choice between energy independence and an electricity bill, they get all the energy they need from a free, renewable, environmentally-friendly source. For others, living off the grid might be the only choice.

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Contribution from Victoria Arch, Angaza Design

What is the role of the solar lantern in energy access? In July of last year, I attended an Engineering for Change Webinar called “Off Grid Technology Perspectives, The Case of the Solar Lantern” that explored this question. The webinar included thoughtful, context-setting presentations from Guarav Manchanda of One Degree Solar, Ned Tozun of d.light Design, and Dr. Harald Schützeichel of Sun-Connect eG. The presentations were followed by a discussion that included an interesting exchange between Dr. Schützeichel and the webinar moderator Russell Sturm, who is Head of the Energy Access Advisory at the International Finance Corporation.

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