Meeting Asia’s Sustainable Energy Needs Is a Huge Challenge

Meeting the energy needs of the Asia and Pacific region in a sustainable manner presents a huge challenge, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President told a seminar recently. Concerns have grown about energy security in the wake of the recent volatility and upward movement in oil prices, Geert van der Linden said, leading to new ways of thinking about sources and use of energy.

“Thus, we see renewed efforts to reduce energy intensity, and to develop renewable and new alternative energy sources,” he said. The ADB Vice-President, responsible for the bank’s knowledge management and sustainable development operations, was speaking at a seminar on Sustainable Energy Development in Asia: The Next Frontier. It was part of ADB’s Seminar Series at its Annual Meeting, which closed this week at the Hyderabad International Convention Center. Adopting biofuel, hydrogen-fuel and hybrid technologies used in automotives would go a long way to putting developing Asia on a more sustainable footing, he said. “Another major challenge is to improve access of the poor to modern energy supplies at affordable prices,” he added. But the environmental impacts of conventional energy and traditional fuel use are becoming unsustainable at both local and global levels, the Vice-President pointed out. “Clearly, the region will need to take a comprehensive approach to ensure a reliable and economic energy supply while, at the same time, minimizing its contribution to climate change and environmental degradation,” he said. “Addressing these challenges effectively will require collective and coordinated action by governments, producers, consumers, regulators, and the development community.” “Given the diversity of supply and use of energy resources in different countries, there is also growing recognition of the benefits of a regional approach to developing electricity markets, promoting energy trade and creating regional power grids,” Mr. van der Linden said. Examples of these regional efforts are the ADB supported Power Transmission and Nam Theum 2 hydroelectric projects in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Overall, ADB has strongly supported the development of the energy sector in Asia and the Pacific. By the end of 2005, ADB had approved 311 public sector loans worth $22.35 billion to the energy sector — 20% of ADB’s cumulative lending. ADB has established several trust funds to support activities in renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Energy Efficiency Initiative is promoting greater energy efficiency from both the supply and demand sides to reduce the pace of greenhouse gas emissions without affecting economic growth. ADB is also developing a carbon market initiative to increase the supply of projects that are beneficial for the climate. The initiative utilizes the Clean Development mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. The seminar featured distinguished experts on different areas of the energy sector, including R. K. Pachauri, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi, and the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who moderated the seminar. Participants included Yo Osumi, Head, Non-Member Countries Division, International Energy Agency, who provided global perspective on the energy needs of Asia. Ashok Basu, Chairman, Central Regulatory Commission, India and Chairman, South Asia Forum for Infrastructure Regulation considered strengthening the legal, administrative and regulatory frameworks as a critical issue in energy cooperation in South Asia. The way forward includes using bilateral, sub-regional and other established channels of negotiations, he said. Adoption of cleaner, low or zero emission technologies and regional energy trade in South Asia was considered a priority issue by two other participants, Nori Yamamoto and G. R. Bhatta, of Global Infrastructure Fund, Japan. Article courtesy of Diwesh Sharan, an ADB Principal Sector Specialist
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