“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – how a global think tank network helps drive the sustainable energy transition

At COP28 in Dubai, all parties to the Paris Agreement adopted a breakthrough decision on transitioning away from fossil fuels and accelerating renewables, while 118 governments pledged to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030—in line with what the International Energy Agency says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As the electricity sector is the world’s largest source of planet-heating emissions, transitioning to wind, solar, battery storage, and other clean energy sources is imperative to preserving a safe climate.

But none of this will happen without well-designed policy. Governments must not only set bold renewable energy targets; they must also create the regulatory framework that can support the rapid build-out of a clean, reliable, and affordable power system, while guaranteeing a just transition off fossil fuels. 

The support of independent analysis and technical expertise is critical to getting the policy right in the short timeframe we have to act. In 2020, the International Network of Energy Transition Think Tanks (INETTT) was founded to facilitate information sharing and support policymaking to help deliver on the Paris Agreement climate goal.

With its secretariat hosted by Agora Energiewende, the network currently includes 17 members from 14 countries across the globe: Germany, France, Poland, Turkey, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil, as well as the regional Southeast European network

INETTT members conduct research and design policy proposals that can turn energy transition debates into implementable action. Proposals are fact based, stress-tested with energy stakeholders, and designed to facilitate major policy breakthroughs. At the national and international levels, INETTT think tanks provide a trusted dialogue space for stakeholders to get their questions answered and access unbiased information. As a network, the think tanks share best practices, technical expertise, and lessons learned to accelerate the spread of smart clean energy policies across the globe.

INETTT brings together some of the finest organizations from around the globe working toward a just energy transition. Its members discuss ideas, cooperate, utilize synergies, and support each other.” – Markus Steigenberger, Agora Energiewende

For instance, together with Agora Energiewende, Forum Energii in Poland analyzed the potential for a coordinated phaseout of lignite coal in Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Known as the “lignite triangle,” this region produces most of Europe’s coal-based electricity. The 2020 study assessed a potential phaseout’s impact on energy security, electricity reliability, affordability, and carbon emissions, finding that an accelerated and well-managed lignite phaseout by 2032 would be technically and economically feasible if lignite were substituted by renewable energy sources. Shortly after the study was published, one of Poland’s major lignite regions, Wielkopolska Wschodnia, decided to completely phase out coal by 2030, and in 2022 it advanced the phaseout date to 2024.

In 2021, another major lignite region around the Bełchatów power plant announced its plans to end lignite mining and power generation by 2038. Forum Energii is now working with Polish and European officials to plan for a just transition.

Being part of a network allows Forum Energii to share these experiences with other countries. Forum Energii is now collaborating with Agora Energiewende and Energy Foundation China to exchange lessons with counterparts in the Shanxi region of China—the country’s largest coal mining region. During a recent visit to Poland, Forum staff and Chinese partners discussed common challenges and how to address them, for instance through smart labor market policies.

“In INETTT, we believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to knowledge important for climate action. This is why we bring together diverse views reflecting different historical, economic, and social contexts.” – Rabia Ferroukhi, INETTT Director

INETTT members work at the national level and with regional governments. This year, the Iniciativa Climática de México (ICM) developed a net-zero mitigation pathway to inform climate policy at both the national and subnational levels, demonstrating the economic benefits of renewables. In addition, ICM worked with five Mexican cities to propose energy-efficiency improvements, provided technical assistance to the government in Sonora to develop a solar program for rural communities, and collaborated with the municipality of Hermosillo to replace 220 combustion-engine police vehicles with electric ones and to set up a solar-based system for vehicle charging.

In September 2023, INETTT members gathered for their annual meeting in Johannesburg co-hosted by South African think tanks GreenCape and the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI). The meeting included a site visit to the Komati power plant in Mpumalanga province, which is transitioning from coal to renewables. GreenCape is supporting policies in the region that leverage the transition away from coal to create clean energy manufacturing jobs and to improve access to electricity through new local renewable energy sources. INETTT members were able to see a just transition in action and share valuable lessons with their home countries.

INETTT members visit Komati power plant in South Africa

Last year, PARI also published a groundbreaking report, demonstrating that universal access to clean electricity may be the single most important tool for reducing poverty and inequality in South Africa, along with a clear policy roadmap for achieving that goal. Based on that work, PARI is now leading a new “INETTT energy poverty working group” to identify, share, and cross-reference research on energy access and poverty from different countries.

INETTT members in Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam are also sharing lessons from their countries’ Just Energy Transition Partnerships—multilateral funding agreements for the net-zero energy transition. This collaboration helped ensure that civil society, businesses, and local organizations were included to enhance equity in these plans. 

Toward the end of 2023, INETTT welcomed new leadership as Dr. Rabia Ferroukhi became INETTT’s Director after serving for 12 years at the International Renewable Energy Agency. Rabia joined the members of INETTT at COP28, where they had a chance to discuss the next phase in the network’s development. COP28 was also an important venue to connect with other energy transition stakeholders. The participation of E+ Energy Transition Institute (E+) in more than 15 events at COP28 was particularly significant given that the country will host the G20 in 2024 and COP30 in 2025. E+ is planning for an increasingly active role in shaping the energy transition agenda to bolster Brazil’s global climate leadership.

INETTT’s policy expertise helps accelerate the energy transition while delivering immediate, tangible benefits for communities in the form of cleaner air and economic security. As a network, INETTT ensures the best policy practices are disseminated around the globe, while adjusted to local context, so no country needs to reinvent the wheel. Transforming energy systems to clean and sustainable power is no easy task, but the policy support provided by networks such as INETTT makes that task a whole lot easier.

INETTT’s work is complex and challenging, yet powerful and rewarding. The network has a solid foundation to build on, and we are committed to expanding its work and utilizing its full potential to accelerate the clean energy transition globally.” – Markus Steigenberger, Agora Energiewende



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