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Better clean energy policy sought from Asian governments

Publication Date : 14-09-2012


Clean energy is desirable for countries striving to ensure sustainable development, but this requires clear policy direction from governments and successful partnerships with the private sector, said panellists at an energy conference in Bangkok.

During the Clean Energy Expo Asia yesterday, the panellists agreed that clean energy and efficient energy consumption were the smartest way to go.

"The Asian Development Bank believes in a clean-energy future for Asia and the Pacific," said Seethapathy Chander, director-general of the ADB's regional and sustainable development department. "Clean energy technologies can help pave the road to low-carbon development. It enables developing Asia to decouple its economic growth from increased greenhouse-gas emissions."

Chris Hartshorn, vice president for research at Lux Research, said 1.9 billion people now had no reliable access to energy, and renewable energy was the smart option.

However, countries will face the challenge of how to choose the method of going green. Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, said countries had been diversifying their fuel sources. Renewable energy now accounts for 17 per cent of the energy consumed globally, including biomass and modern sources such as solar and wind.

The cost of renewable energy has gone down while investment in it is up. Last year, investment in renewable energy totalled US$257 billion (7.9 trillion baht), a rise by 17 per cent from 2010.

Asia-Pacific countries have also followed this trend, with the investment in the region rising by 15 per cent in 2011 from the previous year. China is the leader,

accounting for $51 billion of investment. India saw its investment in renewable energy rise by 62 per cent thanks to government policy.

Lins said clear policy was the driver to push Asian countries. More than 100 nations around the world have policy frameworks to promote renewable energy, and half of these are developing countries.

She said 2011 was the solar year, with the investment in solar industry increasing by 52 per cent from the year before. Last year, turnover in the solar industry totalled $100 billion, 10 times as high as five years ago. There is a bright future and Asia is going to play a key role in development, she added.

Gwen Andrews, vice president for environmental policies and global advocacy at Alstom, a large French multinational conglomerate with interests in the power-generation and transport markets, agreed that sources of energy were being diversified.

For instance, 20 per cent of the European Union's energy investment is in gas, 10 per cent in coal and the rest in renewable energy. Two-thirds of the energy investment in developing countries in Africa and Middle East is in gas. In Asia, China's energy investment is split 50:50 between renewable energy and fossil fuels, while two-thirds of energy investment in India is in coal.

In addition, clean-energy policy requires cooperation between the public and private sectors. Andrews said it was important that the government provides a supportive environment for investment. The private sector has to take the commercial risk, so it would be helpful if the government could provide technology and such things as taxation policies that support green energy.

Wandee Khunchornyakong, chairman and chief executive officer of SPCG, a pioneer in the solar-power business in Thailand, said that four years ago, no one believed that she could make solar farms a business model. Wandee was in the solar business for 30 years but her expertise was in solar-based rural electrification, not the electrical grid system.

It was difficult for her to find equity partners four years ago. But now, her project has gone well, with 34 solar farms expected to be operational in the future on 6,000 rai (960 hectares) in several provinces.


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