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Asia needs more investment in renewable energy, ADB says

Posted on June 17, 2015 09:58:00 PM

By Claire-Ann M.C. Feliciano, Senior Reporter

Speakers at the Clean Asia Energy Forum 2015 are pushing for more investment in light of the huge strides made by clean energy sector over the last decade.

“Renewables are becoming more competitive as technology progresses,” Bindu N. Lohani, Asian Development Bank (ADB) vice-president for knowledge and management and sustainable development, said in his speech in Mandaluyong City.

Mr. Lohani, however, said that “the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency is not being well-picked in Asia.”

Among the challenges in encouraging investment in clean energy, said Mr. Lohani, is the attractiveness of renewable energy given low oil prices.

“The oil market’s volatility is a matter of historical record,” adding “low prices will end even if we do not know when,” he said.Mr. Lohani said that the renewable energy sector, on the other hand, continues to experience rapid development even amid volatility in the prices of other conventional fuels like coal and oil.

He also cited various studies showing that coal will remain the dominant energy source, with usage expected to grow by 50% in 2035 compared to 2010 levels.

Mr. Lohani said also Asia should recognize that existing fossil-fuel based power generation is “far from cutting edge.”

“If we continue to use coal, we must do so with maximum efficiency and use only supercritical power generation technologies and perform extensive retrofits to minimize the coal consumption,” he said.

The importance of improving power supply in many developing countries in Asia was also highlighted.

“The rehabilitation of aging power infrastructure, such as power plants and transmission and distribution networks, would be a key area to work on,” said Mr. Lohani.

He also emphasized that Asia’s renewable resources are still under-utilized despite enormous demand for energy.

But the official noted cross-border energy trading, like hydropower in South Asia for instance, could help answer the demand.

Robin Dunnigan, deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy of the United States Department of State, for her part noted the critical role of energy security to support political stability and economic growth.

“Energy policies are the solution to the existing climate woes. Governments now are focused on energy policies and making commitments on climate-related goals,” Ms. Dunnigan said.

She added that given Asia’s continued economic growth, there is a need to “meet growth in a clean and sustainable way.”

She said this is achievable since renewable energy has become affordable and the region has made “incredible strides in energy efficiency.”

David Kim, co-chair of the World Energy Council, also called for solutions to address the impact of climate change.

He said Asia should “provide sustainable energy systems that promote growth and prosperity for all.”

“Renewables are critical enabler of economic development,” Mr. Kim said, adding that “investing in renewable energy compared to thermal plants” is the way to move forward.

ADB, in a statement released yesterday, said since the Asia Clean Energy Forum started in 2006, clean energy investments in Asia and Pacific rose to nearly $106 billion in 2013.

It added that new mechanisms to spur clean energy have also become more common. Among these mechanisms are renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs, and concessional fundings for clean energy projects.

ADB said its own financing for clean energy rose to $2.4 billion last year from only about $280 million in 2005.

But even with all these efforts, the institution said 600 million people in Asia still lack access to electricity and dependency on fossil fuel remains high.

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