Energy Investment, Key to Meeting Asia’s Demand

Asia has made huge strides in developing clean energy over the last decade but the region must boost clean energy investment, energy efficiency, and innovation if it is to meet rising demand and cope with a changing climate, said Bindu N. Lohani, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

“Renewables are becoming more competitive as technology progresses,” Lohani said in an opening address at the 10th Asia Clean Energy Forum, which began here today, adding however “the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency is not being well picked in Asia.”

2015 is a crucial year for development and for the climate. In September, world leaders will finalize the new Sustainable Development Goals, which will target, among other things, access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030. Then from 30 November to 11 December, countries will gather in Paris, France to agree on a new global climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr. Lohani said a carbon tax will likely be discussed as one possible outcome of the climate talks at the end of the year, and said cross-border energy trading, such as in hydropower in the Mekong region countries and in South Asia, could help answer demand.

Since the first Asia Clean Energy Forum in 2006, clean energy investment in Asia and the Pacific has risen sharply to nearly $106 billion in 2013. In the People’s Republic of China, investment has soared more than eight-fold, exceeding $83 billion in 2014, making the country the largest global investment destination for clean energy. In India, clean energy investments have increased from $5.5 billion in 2006 to $7.4 billion in 2014.

At the same time, new mechanisms to spur clean energy have become more common, such as renewable portfolio standards that require certain levels of renewable energy production, feed-in tariffs, and concessional loans for clean energy projects. In 2006, only a handful of developing Asian countries had renewable energy policies. Today, 23 have clean energy policies in place.

ADB’s own financing has risen from about $280 million in 2005 to just over $2.4 billion in 2014, making it the largest lender for clean energy in the region.

However, 600 million people in Asia still lack access to electricity, and dependency on fossil fuels remains high. The region’s annual carbon dioxide emissions amount to 13.4 billion tonnes, or 37% of global emissions, meaning the region needs to simultaneously address energy poverty, energy security, and environmental issues.

The Asia Clean Energy Forum is gathering around 1,000 business leaders, energy experts, donors, financiers, academics, and senior government officials from 15-19 June to discuss all these issues. The forum is jointly hosted by ADB, the US Agency for International Development, the World Energy Council, and the Korea Energy Management Corporation.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

Image: asiacleanenergyforum