The United States officially joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on June 29, 2009, increasing the number of countries participating in the organization to 136. IRENA was initially founded on Jan. 26 with 75 member nations, and its membership now includes most of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe as well as Australia, Greenland, India, Japan and parts of South America. The new agency will engage governments around the world in promoting a rapid transition toward the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale.

The U.S. participation is an important element of the Obama administration’s effort to support clean energy technologies and the development of the low-carbon economies needed to address climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States will work closely with other signatories, IRENA’s leadership and members of Congress to ensure the new agency’s work augments and complements other renewable-energy efforts.

At the IRENA meeting in Egypt, member nations made a number of decisions relating to the formation of the agency. The signatories designated Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, as the location for the interim headquarters of IRENA. Bonn, Germany, will host IRENA’s center for technology and innovation, and Vienna, Austria, will host a liaison office for IRENA’s cooperation with other organizations that are active in the field of renewable energy.

While the United States is becoming more involved in worldwide renewable-energy efforts, it also is expanding its international efforts closer to home. In late June, the Department of Energy hosted the first U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Roundtable at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The meeting brought together clean energy leaders from private industry and from the U.S. and Canadian governments to help decide how the two nations can work together to develop clean energy technologies and combat climate change. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue in February, with the specific goals of expanding clean energy research and development, developing and deploying clean energy technologies, and building a more efficient electricity grid. Specific areas for further bilateral cooperation under the Clean Energy Dialogue include renewable and energy-efficiency technologies, carbon capture and sequestration and smart grid technologies.