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Asean's energy planners can learn from each other

Published on May 7, 2014 3:36 PM

Climate change is a global phenomenon with global causes. This means that Asean countries also have a responsibility to ensure that continued economic growth does not come at the expense of further deterioration in the environment. For some countries, this may involve difficult political decisions. And while each of the Asean member states faces a unique energy landscape, this does not mean that Southeast Asian countries cannot learn from each other.

The Asean member states collectively registered a robust economic growth rate of five per cent in 2013, compared to the global average of just three per cent. Combined with their relatively high population growth rates, the result is surging energy demand.

 The 2013 Southeast Asia Energy Outlook report produced by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that Asean's energy needs will increase by 83 per cent between now and 2035. Demand will be met predominantly by fossil fuels, namely, coal, oil and natural gas. Naturally, this raises concerns about whether Asean is doing enough to minimise the accompanying pollutants.

In terms of power generation, the poorer countries, such as Myanmar and Cambodia (where more than 50 per cent of the population still lacks access to electricity) must make particularly hard decisions. These include decisions about the allocation of limited treasury funds and the need to provide the most affordable means of electricity generation to the poor. In earlier decades, several Asean countries adopted energy subsidy arrangements to minimise energy costs for the poor. Today, however, these subsidies are often criticised as being inefficient and working at cross purposes with energy conservation efforts.

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