For Asia to move towards a low-carbon economy, it must tap into its renewable power resource potential.
The Asia Pacific Climate Week (APCW 2019) in Bangkok concluded with the realisation that “long-term holistic planning would enable countries there to tap into the huge potential of renewable energy, and new technology while maximizing socio-economic benefits.” ( UN News, September 2019).
The APCW is a yearly event organised in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific. It is a venue for governments and other concerned parties to meet, discuss, and address climate issues. Its purpose is to harness the public and private sectors support in addressing climate change.
The speakers have presented compelling reasons to shift to low-carbon and resilience and in order to push this idea would need a ‘mindset shift’ from all members of the community from the government down to regions, indigenous people, academia, private and finance sectors. Policies are needed to for long-term resilience as well, says the UN report.
Demand for power increasing as population and economy grows in Asia
The world’s largest continent is growing. Countries like China and the ‘tiger cub economies’ like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are recognising the value of renewable energy to fuel its growth.
India is slowly following suit because of its growing demands for power. (IRENA Quarterly Report, 2017).
Population increase, urban growth, and economic and developmental needs will double the demands for energy by 2025.
While at the same time, there is still a large population in the region who do not have access to electricity, 95% of 1.2 billion, the IRENA report says.
Whether for the region’s growth or to provide energy to those who do not have access to it, there is a clear and rising demand for energy, the report concludes.
Asian countries will use coal before turning to renewable energy.
Coal use will have its peak in 2027 before it declines, a key point in the CNBC article stated. In 2040 coal will account for 36 per cent of Southeast Asia energy mix according to the Wood Mackenzie study, the CNBC article mentions.
Vietnam and Indonesia will be the highest consumer of energy at 60 per cent of the total power demand in Southeast Asia by 2040, says Jacqueline Tao, a research associate at Wood Mackenzie the CNBC news says.
Despite the universal criticism of coal use by environmentalist, the shying away of banks and financial institutions from coal projects, and the governments’ commitments to renewable energy investments, coal is still the dominant source of energy in Asia according to the article.
Renewable energy use from solar and wind resource will increase by 2040 and will account for 35% of Southeast Asia energy mix, and the total investment will be at $89 billion from 2019 to 2040 the article adds.
Asian countries are shifting to renewable energy
It is good to know that some Asian countries are taking steps to shifting to renewable energy use. We are sharing some developments from Thailand, India, and the Philippines.
Thailand imports 60% of its power supply as their oil and gas reserves is dwindling down and would not last for a decade. Demands for energy in the future will see them relying more on importation and will increase their energy spending.
To tackle the countries future energy demands, the government is making energy security its top priority and looking at alternative energy sources to enhance its energy mix. They have developed an integrated energy plan encompassing power development, energy efficiency, alternative energy, oil and gas plan.
Thailand government is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-25% by 2030 and set 30% of its total energy consumption to renewable energy by 2036.
Bioenergy is the main renewable source of power in the form of biofuels and biogas used for heating and transport.
Thailand recognising the potential of photovoltaic and wind resource, aims to increase its use of solar PV and wind, increasing the gigawatts production from 3 to 6 by 2036, with the potential to grow with increased installation of PV and wind turbines in the future.
Thailand is also exploring the use of electric vehicles which can also spur their demand for electricity.
Thailand’s transition to renewable power entails a long-term strategic development plan and infrastructure to cater to all these developmental goals according to the IRENA report.
‘Balancing economic growth and environmental protection, and energy security is a real challenge in India that can be tackled by enabling more renewable energy deployment’ says Dolf Gielen, Director of Innovation and Technology at IRENA.
Urban growth in India will increase its population at 600million by 2030.
Fossil fuel is still the main source of energy in India and its demand is increasing at 10% annually. Their sheer demand for power has opened opportunities for renewable energy. Their Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s has expressed commitment to renewables, that if seriously pursued, can have the potential to unlock India’s enormous renewable energy while meeting the Paris Agreement targets, the report says.
But this does not come without a challenge. Widespread poverty will make it difficult to meet its energy demands with an estimate of 80 million households and about 300 million people have limited or no access to power.
Surprisingly, however, renewable energy solutions like solar PV’s, off-grid, and mini-grid have provided some of their poor communities’ access to electricity.
According to a recent Remap country report for India, renewable energy use would allow 12x more savings for the Indian economy than it will cost them by 2030. It will also create jobs, reduce carbon emissions, result to cleaner air and water, and will allow savings on health-related costs, and will lower demand for coal and oil by 23% by 2030, the report says.
The Philippines like most countries imports oil for transport and coal for power generation. Amidst the country’s great potential for geothermal, hydropower, ocean energy, solar, and wind the goal to be energy-independent and having a reliable and secure source of power seems a ‘daunting task’, the report says.
Since 1977 the Philippines has been tapping into its geothermal resource, and by 2015 geothermal energy production reached 1.9 gigawatts, making it 2nd only to the United States according to the International Geothermal Association.
Renewable energy accounts for 14% of its national energy consumption, generating savings from its fuel importation budget. The Philippines is targeting a threefold increase to its renewable energy supply from its current use by 2030.
Solar PV’s and small-scale biogas digester can be off-grid solutions for their remote and isolated areas and communities and can supply to 4.2 million households that do not have access to power.
Transition to renewable energy comes with a range of challenges from technical, non-technical, maintenance and sustainability, battery storage know-how, and lack of tariff policies and guidelines in place making investors hesitant to finance these projects.
Overcoming these challenges would entail a relaxed regulation on off-grid projects, allow developers and local communities to determine tariffs, and for government to incentivise its use, the report says.
Asia’s transition to renewable energy source will not only solve the carbon emission but will allow them to use clean energy and supply its’ increasing demands for energy without the consequences of fossil fuel use.
Not only will it create opportunities and boost their economy as studies shows, but will be its long-term climate adaptation and resilience strategy to climate change through harnessing their renewable resource like geothermal, solar, wind, and tidal energy without causing damage to the environment.
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