By Dave Lew
A small increase in investment will set Southeast Asia on a sustainable pathway, said Mr Toshiyuki Shirai, a senior energy analyst from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Mr Shirai was speaking ahead of the first panel session “The Energy Investment Challenge in Asia – Powering Growth while Financing the Clean Energy Transition” at the inaugural Singapore-IEA Forum, which seeks to address the investment gap in the region.
Dr Ir Saleh Abdurrahman, Secretary General, National Energy Council, Indonesia, shared the country’s plans for renewables to comprise 26 percent in its energy mix by 2055 but said that finding investment sources and financing solutions remains a “roadblock”.
Strong consistent regulatory frameworks are essential for investor confidence, said Mr Luca Tonello, Joint General Manager and Head of Project & Export Finance, Investment Banking Department Asia, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC). He added that regulation, economic competitiveness (of renewables) and disruptive technologies are the three key areas underpinning investment decision in clean energy.
Of these, disruptive technologies could be the catalyst renewables need. Mr Keisuke Sadamori, Director of Energy Markets and Security, IEA, said that demand-side solutions and advancements in storage solutions could potentially address issues of baseload and intermittency.
ASEAN as a region can come together and offer their different strengths. Singapore, for example, despite its size, is a knowledge hub that can offer technological and financial solutions for the region. Public and private players in ASEAN can collaborate in R&D and funding initiatives to accelerate developments of new technologies and to future-proof energy infrastructure and systems.
Electricity interconnectivity across countries in ASEAN is another key area. Dr Daovong Phonekeo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Mines, Lao PDR – who comes from a country which relies mainly on hydropower for electricity generation – pointed to the recently signed power purchase agreement between Lao, Thailand and Malaysia, as an example of interconnectivity.
Mr Yoshihiko Kimata, Representative in Southeast Asia, Osaka Gas, reminded the floor not to write off natural gas, which is too valuable to be limited to power generation usage. Natural gas has other applications that can contribute to economic growth in the region, such as industrial heating and cooling needs.
Until energy storage solutions and technological disruptions can address the issues of frequency regulation and intermittency of renewables, gas will play a critical role in the deployment and adoption of clean energy options.