Unlocking a clean energy future for Asia: Challenges and opportunities

  • Over the past decade, Asia has made huge strides in economic growth and poverty reduction accounting for 28.3 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011. While ongoing economic growth is expected to see developing Asia’s share of the world’s energy consumption rise from 34 per cent in 2010 to over 50 per cent by 2035, most of the increase in consumption will come from fossil fuels. This will lead to an emission level of greenhouse gases of about 20 billion tonnes out of a total global cap of between 22 billion and 30 billion tonnes which is the threshold to avoid a catastrophic tipping point in the climate system. Clearly, this level of emissions is not sustainable for the planet. Asia needs to change its development paradigm to use less energy per unit output, thereby requiring less primary energy overall, as well as to generate more renewable energy within that lowered energy requirement scenario, in order to further limit greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Also problematic is the ability of the region to deliver power to all. Despite impressive economic growth, some 600 million people in the Asia-Pacific region still lack access to electricity. If the policies of governments in developing Asia do not focus on affordable access, then around 330 million Asians could still be without electricity in 2035.
  • The challenge for Asia, therefore, is twofold. We must fuel the region’s continued economic growth to increase living standards, by engaging in an energy strategy that is low-carbon and environmentally sustainable. At the same time, to make growth sustainable and beneficial to all, Asia must increase its energy access investments. Asia can do this only by embracing the three “I”s – to become more innovative, inclusive, and integrated.