Looking ahead to 2021, REN21 has new reports, new staff, new perspectives, and shares all of this with you to inspire and motivate you!

In this Issue:

Quarterly Newsletter

17 December 2020

Connecting the right dots – a way to tackle some of the challenges in driving structural change?


Mainstreaming efficiency and renewable energy is a transformational process that is not only technological (our preferred silver bullet), but also political, economic and societal. All of them. Political, economic and societal. Overwhelming, right? …especially when you know that the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption is roughly 11%. Incorporating all three is not especially within the comfort zone of a deeply technical (not technological) global community of renewable energy experts. And to add: we only have 10 years left (well, its the end of December 2020, so actually 9 years) to make the shift happen in time, knowing that the 5th anniversary of the Paris agreement has reminded us that we are very far from being on track… Are you still breathing?

Stress and our automatic responses

In such moments of ‘stress’ part of our brain, the amygdala, triggers deeply anchored reflexes and we freeze, escape or attack. Personally, I observe that many of the players working on climate and development seem to attack and do even more of what they have already done – just think about the ever-increasing amount of communications, summits, alliances, analysis, meetings and webinars.  However, we only have 24 hours in a day and the human body and soul have boundaries to respect. Many players wonder how and if this increased activity will contribute to accelerating the change required, especially in an economic crisis and a polarized political environment.

What also happens in such moments of ‘stress’: we are not in a space where we are able to step back or tap into our creativity – this is neurological, the brain waves are at the opposite spectrum. Our habits kick in, we go into our comfort zones… and we do what we always do (admittedly, this is a bit simplified).

Often, especially as “technical” experts, our natural stress reactions lead to us closing in on the issue, putting our focused attention on the problem to solve, and going deeper (of course this is to some extent also required – the devil is in the details). By doing so, however, we can ignore relevant problems and also powerful leverages and solutions outside of our field of vision.

Choosing diversity to broaden the focus

Consciously deciding to broaden our focus and expose ourselves to other, even opposite, perspectives as well as diverse disciplines, is a real leverage to drive and accelerate change. And this new focus brings a wide range of opportunities to position renewable energy in the broader political and socio-economic context that, personally, I find not only exciting and stimulating but certainly one of the main reasons why I am more hopeful today.

In fact, we have been able to hear such diverse perspectives at the REN21 Academy in November. We deliberately decided to bring topics like driving change and leadership, and voices from outside the renewable energy sector – including from oil & gas – to the REN21 community. (To inspire you, some of the videos from the event are on the REN21 Academy Knowledge Library on our website.)

Here are only some of my personal take-aways:

  • Diversity is messy and complex, but diversity is strong. Choosing diversity, e.g. in interdisciplinary or multi-cultural teams, means developing a culture of listening, communicating and tolerance but also the readiness to confront yourself with other perspectives, norms and value systems (tough). Creating consultation processes and dialogues is not enough. We need to build spaces for real, deep exchange, ‘bonding’ and co-development.
  • Understanding change-dynamics to become strategic. Change does not happen in a linear way and, ultimately, it requires only a small number to reach the tipping point and make change happen. Three factors that power “social epidemics” (Malcolm Gladwell’s wording for massive social changes): people, the infectious agent and the environment.[1] Being strategic therefore requires strengthening all ingredients (individual skills, messaging, an enabling environment) and creating concrete opportunities and spaces to bring them together.
  • Connecting the right dots. Connecting pioneers and early adopters within the renewable energy bubble with sustainable development and climate pioneers and early adopters outside this bubble, is a way to overcome ecosystem-inertia and create systemic pressure. Also, though many announcements are not backed by an implementation plan, some really encouraging announcements and actions exist in various sectors, from governments, finance and corporations, and can be connected together for incremental yet exponential change.
  • Be the solution for somebody’s problem. Renewables might be a solution to problems that other problem-solvers, in their own bubble, might not yet have identified.
  • Diversify the skill sets. Complementing our technical expertise with soft skills is a way to broaden our perspective and build leadership. It is however difficult to be good at everything so, again, connecting and collaborating is key.

To end with, I would sincerely like to thank all ‘voices’ that crossed my path and have inspired me personally and our work at REN21.

Exhausted from this crazy year, but with hopeful perspectives, I wish you all a very good summer or winter break and look forward to connecting again in 2021.

All the best,


[1] Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point.

News from the Secretariat

Work with us!

The REN21 Secretariat has several hiring processes open right now for full-time positions, consulting positions and an internship. All details and application processes are indicated on our website.

  • Financial Controller
  • Communications Associate
  • Communications & Outreach Intern
  • Research Project Manager & Analyst
  • Research Support

Welcome to New Staff

Gwamaka Kifukwe has joined the REN21 Secretariat as Project Manager for the Renewable Energy Task Force. Gwamaka recently completed an executive Master's at Sciences Po in International Public Management and Intelligence. His professional background has been in in public sector leadership capacity building and sustainable development policy support. Completing his PhD in Geography, he served for almost 6 years in the Tanzanian civil service, leading the Sustainable Development Programme of the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development (UONGOZI Institute), under the President of Tanzania's office. Between 2013 and 2018 he was also the host of the 'In Focus' and 'Meet the Leader' TV shows (aired regionally in East Africa). Follow Gwamaka on Linkedin.

New Report! Renewable Heating & Cooling

Fossil fuels persist as the main fuel for heating and cooling, releasing harmful particulates, worsening air pollution and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Effective and ambitious policies are urgently needed to unlock the widespread benefits offered by renewables.

With this pressing need in mind, IRENA, IEA and REN21 have joined forces again to produce a report on the status and developments of policies for renewable heating and cooling. Read the full report and also read our summary article.

New Report!
Renewable Energy in Road Transport

A rapid and fundamental shift is required in transport to enable the decarbonisation required to meet the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, with actors in both the energy and transport sectors working together.

To that end, REN21 teamed up with the FIA Foundation to do an in-depth study: Renewable Energy Pathways in Road Transport. Read the full report and also read our summary article.

Save the date!

The Renewables 2021 Global Status Report (GSR) will be open for the first round of peer review from 5-19 January 2021. The GSR is published annually in collaboration with 1500 contributors, and it presents the latest information on renewable energy market and industry developments, policy and investment trends.

If you would like to contribute as an expert reviewer, please fill in the expression of interest form. All reviewers will be credited in the final report. 

Renewables in Cities – Global Status Report

Contributions for and peer review of the second Renewables in Cities Global Status Report (REC) are complete. Engagement with our community is at the core of everything we do at REN21: Thank you to all the reviewers, whose time and thoughtful engagement are very much appreciated!

We are currently integrating comments and recommendations into the final draft, with the full report to be launched in March 2021.

Key to Renewables: Grid Development

Demand for electricity will increase as we switch away from using fossil fuels, especially in heating and transport. This growth in electricity use will require expanding renewable energy, and improvements to the system that distributes all that electricity: the grid! Without civil society advocating for grid development, as well as investment in renewables, the energy transition will not happen quickly enough! Read our summary article and download the outreach document that you can share with decision-makers. Plus, on 12 January the PAC Consortium will publish a case study report on citizen involvement in grid planning efforts. Save the date!

2020's Virtual REN21 Academy

The 2020 REN21 Academy was a 4-day immersive virtual lab, creating an informal collaborative space where we explored strategies to make the structural shift to a renewables-based energy system.

Just as we have done at in-person Academies, we aimed to move out of our silos and into disruptive, enriching discussions. The REN21 Academy brought together the renewable energy community, both old and new players, to seize this critical time for change. Read the Academy outcomes on our website. and find inspirational videos and the event PPT presentations on the Academy Knowledge Library.

REN21 Connects with Young Professionals

REN21 hosted its first ever REN21 Young Professionals Day (YPD) on Sunday 22 November 2020 as part of the REN21 Academy, in collaboration with SDG7 Youth Constituency, Student Energy and YES-Europe.

YPD was the kick-off to the REN21 Academy, dedicated to enabling young people to engage with and champion renewable energy. The day was an opportunity for young people to learn and share knowledge, be inspired, and to create connections across sectors and regions. Read our YPD reflections.

Renewable Energy Task Force

The Renewable Energy Task Force (RETF) kicked off in May 2020, supported by REN21 community experts and will continue into 2021. The RETF's vision is to unify and amplify the renewables voice and enable renewables acceleration and energy system transformation for the sustainability of the economy, environment and society. As such, the RETF aims to influence decisions, improve markets and engage societies at large. Find out more about RETF on our website. 

Upcoming Events

IRENA Off-grid Renewable Energy Statistics Conference
Online event | 15-19 February 2021 | More information
*Call for papers deadline: 24 December 2020

Citizen Power for Grids: Case studies on collaborative infrastructure planning processes for the energy transition 
Report Launch | 12 January 2021 | Background information

Alliance for Rural Electrification – Technology & Innovation Forum 
Online event | 27-28 January 2021 | More information

REN21's key events appear on our Let's Meet Up webpage. 

News from the Network

The news highlighted below comes from REN21's Members. For more information, please contact communication@ren21.net

Renewable Energy Forum & Youth Employment

How can we boost the energy transition in Togo and the subregion, while effectively exploiting the demographic dividend for sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa? 

The challenges of production and access to electricity from renewable sources constitute a tremendous potential for youth in Togo and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The 3rd Edition of the Forum on Renewable Energy and Youth Employment in Togo (#FEEJ2020) showed that training young entrepreneurs is decisive in tackling challenges and achieving the SDG 7 by 2030. Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement (JVE) partnered with L’Organisation des Jeunes Engagés pour le Développement Durable (OJEDD), Affectio Mutandi and partners, to organise the online event, December 10-12 2020. The importance of inclusion, particularly in terms of social innovation, was discussed, along with the importance of accessible training centers or hubs to nurture expertise of young people to accelerate the energy transition, as well as other topics.

The program of the Forum can be found online

The Vienna Energy Forum Virtual Series 

The VEF Virtual Series is a sequence of virtual consultations assembled in anticipation of the 2021 Vienna Energy Forum, launched by UNIDO, IIASA and the Austrian Government.
Guided by the theme “Accelerating Energy Transition”, the first edition of the series explores the pathways that stimulate demand and promote economic recovery in three end-use sectors: food systems, industry and products.
The sessions kick off with a scene-setting presentation, followed by four breakout room sessions that explore the assigned theme under different lenses: global perspectives, country voices, enablers for progress and data and evidence.
To date, the series has gathered over 250 experts and 700 participants from around the world.
Our January session will be devoted to Equity, Youth and Gender, exploring themes related to enabling environments and future-proof skills. Following our success, we would like to invite you to follow and participate in the upcoming sessions of the VEF Virtual Series.

Growing Government Engagement for Energy Access

Peter Atkins Cell phone: +27 (74) 104 2944 peteratkins23@gmail.com