Viewpoint: Energy Problems, Hydropower Solutions

In January 2007, the second East Asia Summit was held at Cebu in the Philippines. The proceedings signaled gathering momentum on energy issues in southeast Asia. A special session on energy resulted in the Cebu Declaration on Energy Security, expressing commitment by the leaders of the summit’s 16 participant nations to work cooperatively toward the goals of:

  • Improving efficiency and environmental performance in fossil fuels use;
  • Reducing dependence on conventional fuels;
  • Providing more open and competitive markets, geared to making energy available and affordable to all;


To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the declaration also aims at:

  • Energy efficiency and conservation;
  • Greater reliance on hydropower;
  • Expansion of other renewable energy and biofuel efforts; and
  • For some countries, development of civilian nuclear power.


Pursuit of these goals is good news for hydropower, in a region already strongly committed to hydro. Southeast Asia has one fifth of the world’s existing hydro, and eight of the summit nations are in the midst of building multiple major projects – constituting more than one half of all hydro currently under construction.

The additional hydro will directly help reduce long-term dependence on fossil fuels. Further, in relation to the Cebu summit’s goals, hydro has the benefit of avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.

Less obvious is hydro’s contribution to improving the efficiency, reliability, and environmental performance of electricity supply. Base load thermal plants cannot quickly respond to changes in system loads. These plants need to be complemented by the kind of responsiveness hydro can provide. Also, hydro’s ability to smooth out demands can reduce emissions from fossil-fueled plants.

In addition, hydro helps make renewable wind power practical. Because of its intermittent nature, wind power needs hydro to buffer – or “integrate” – the wind energy into the electrical supply.

The leaders at the second East Asia Summit clearly see what needs to be done to address their nations’ energy needs, and hydropower is a vital part of the solution.

Carl Vansant, MS, p.e.

Note: The East Asia Summit participants are all ten members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. ASEAN is comprised of: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The third East Asia Summit is to be held in Singapore in November 2007.

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