Clean energy is picking up in developing Asia but challenges such as reliance on coal and inefficient power infrastructure remain, the Asian Development Bank says
MANILA, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) kicked off its 10th Asia Clean Energy Forum on Wednesday, June 17, amid a strong global push forrenewable energy.
This is especially pertinent as world leaders will gather to develop a new universal binding agreement on climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris at the end of the year.
The 10th Asia Clean Energy Forum brings together energy ministers, policymakers, project developers, investors, and technical experts from across the region to discuss where the region stands on renewable energy.
“This is our 10th forum and over its 10-year lifetime there have been many amazing achievements in clean energy,” Bindu Lohani, ADB vice president of knowledge management and sustainable development, said in his opening remarks.
After 3 years of decline, clean energy investments rebounded in 2014 with $270 billion invested globally, and a record 95 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity installed.
This was especially true in developing countries based on findings from the “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015,” a joint project by The Frankfurt School and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report stated that 2014 was a watershed year for renewable energy in developing markets, with investment recorded at $131.3 billion, compared to developed economies at $138.9 billion.
Renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and other sources, also grew their share in world electricity generation to 9.1% in 2014, up from 8.5% in 2013.
The Frankfurt School-UNEP Center stated that this 0.6% growth is equivalent to saving 1.3 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide as a result of the new installed renewable energy capacity.
Clean energy or renewable energy investment in Asia has risen to nearly $106 billion in 2013, compared to $55 billion in 2006 based on ADB data.
In 2014, China and Japan invested a combined amount of $74.9 billion in solar energy.
China remained the top overall destination for renewable energy investment, attracting $83.3 billion of investments, thanks to its dedicated policy commitment to renewable energy development.
Developing Asia has also started to invest in renewable energy as continuing price drops in equipment and the operation and maintenance costs have made wind and solar technologies easier for developing countries to embrace.
Indonesia attracted more than $1 billion investment in renewables last year, and therenewable energy sectors of the Philippines and Myanmar saw investments in the $500-million range.
The number of developing Asian countries with clean energy policies has also increased, a report by the Paris-based Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century showed.
At present, 23 developing Asian countries have clean energy policies in place, including the Philippines.
Even more remarkable, these investments in renewable energy occurred during a time of low oil prices, ADB said.
New thinking to overcome old challenges
Despite this, Lohani said that “the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency is not being well picked in Asia.”
ADB estimated that by 2035, coal use throughout the region will grow by 50% from its 2010 numbers.
One way to combat this, is a carbon tax which might be a possible outcome of the climate talks in Paris, Lohani said.
Rehabilitation of power infrastructure in order to increase efficiency is also key, he added.
To facilitate this, ADB has supported cross border and energy trading projects across the region.
It has also increased its financial support for clean energy in the region, rising from about $280 million in 2005 to just over $2.4 billion last year.
One of its projects is IPEx Cleantech Asia, a new service to match buyers and sellers of low-carbon technologies to speed up the rate of technology transfer to developing Asia.
The pilot service will initially focus on clean energy and energy efficiency technologies with expected average transaction size ranging from $2 to 5 million in 7 priority countries, including the Philippines.
“The climate challenges facing us in the future are not new ones but require new thinking to address them,” Lohani said.