Asia and the Pacific is home to over 4 billion people in more than 60 countries. It is also the source of more than half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. How does a place so diverse — from Pacific small island states to densely populated cities in Southeast Asia and mountainous landscapes in Central Asia — tackle climate change and accelerate the much-needed transition to clean energy?
Start by addressing the distinct challenges in each area, said ADB Energy Sector Group Chief Mr. Priyantha Wijayatunga. “Each country must first work on distinct economic and developmental challenges to fast-track their energy transition – distinct problems call for tailored solutions and integrated approaches,” he said.
Traditional energy infrastructure and institutional systems must be adjusted to give way to innovative solutions, he said. In 2021, ADB approved a new energy policy promoting a just low-carbon transition in Asia and the Pacific while supporting universal access to inclusive, reliable, and affordable energy services.
“Aligning financing flows with the Paris Agreement and ensuring that these channel directly to country-driven climate and energy transition actions will deliver results,” said Mr. Wijayatunga.
We asked some of ADB’s energy experts how each region in Asia and the Pacific can fast-track their shift to low carbon energy sources. Here are their views.
Energy Specialist, Central and West Asia
Central Asia is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as rising temperatures, water shortages, and extreme weather events. The region’s energy sector, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, needs to shift away from carbon-intensive energy systems before it’s too late.
Integrated solutions that promote advanced technologies and innovative financing strategies can catalyze a clean energy transition in the region. In Uzbekistan, ADB is helping increase the renewable energy share by providing a one-stop shop solution to enable private-funded renewable energy projects and lower the cost of electricity to sustain economic development. In the Kyrgyz Republic, ADB is helping procure battery-electric buses and enhance transport infrastructure in the capital Bishkek to improve air quality, cut carbon emissions, and reduce traffic congestion. We are also supporting the development of innovating renewable energy solutions like floating solar energy panels throughout the region.
Director for Sustainable Infrastructure, East Asia
Asia has experienced some of the largest migrations from rural to urban areas. This trend will increase, resulting in growing demand for space heating and cooling. Current technologies are not sufficient to sustain such demand growth and are harmful to the environment.
One way East Asia can speed up its transition to clean energy is to employ energy efficient district heating and cooling technologies in its continuously growing urban cities. We need to look into sustainable and low carbon heating and cooling technologies that reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions while providing the same level of comfort. In the northeast of the People’s Republic of China for example, ADB helped expand and upgrade district heating systems to make them more energy efficient and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
Principal Energy Specialist, Pacific
Climate change and natural hazards threaten the security and survival of low-lying island countries in the Pacific, many of which are affected by conflict. Extremely land constrained and isolated, they rely heavily on imported fossil fuels and food, and are exposed to external price shocks and global supply chain disruptions.
The Pacific Ocean covers about 15% of the globe and has enormous untapped reserves of renewable energy and food. It therefore needs to be protected and harnessed in a sustainable and regenerative manner. Combining climate mitigation and adaptation, ADB will deploy, starting in Kiribati and Tuvalu, near-shore floating solar plus projects that include applications of this clean electricity for freshwater production, aquaculture, electric vehicle charging, reef regeneration and coastal protection. Advanced technologies and integrated interventions like these climate-adapted floating solar systems address insecurities beyond energy, or energy++. These innovative solutions will enable the Pacific to shift from traditional energy sources to clean energy, and transition from fragility to resilience and prosperity, while preserving critical habitats and resources.
Principal Energy Specialist, South Asia
Extreme summer heat in parts of South Asia results in increasing demand for electricity and shows the need for more sustainable energy sources. We believe that an enabling environment including policies, technologies, and financing for renewable energy integration can help speed up the clean energy transition in the region.
We need to further establish suitable policies to develop flexible solutions that will help accelerate uptake of the best combination of technologies to help manage grids, balance different infrastructure requirements, and improve overall energy systems. In Nepal, for example, ADB’s Electricity Grid Modernization Project has been helping install smart meters, automate substations, and enhance distribution control systems to deliver more reliable electricity and improve energy efficiency. We also need to mobilize public and private capital to increase the flexibility of energy systems and integrate more variable renewable energy into the grid.
Senior Energy Specialist, Southeast Asia
Climate change mitigation, renewable energy development, and energy efficiency are all vital in achieving a sustainable energy future. ADB has been working closely with our developing member countries in Southeast Asia to promote integrated solutions and implement innovative approaches.
This includes introducing the Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) in countries like Indonesia to lower emissions through early retirement of coal-fired power plants, and unlock new investments for sustainable, renewable energy. We are also scaling up solar power and energy efficiency in Cambodia, helping implement multisectoral approaches for climate change and economic development in the Philippines, and supporting energy efficiency in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Energy experts and other stakeholders will discuss innovative and integrated solutions in the different regions through regional sessions and more at the Asia Clean Energy Forum, to be held virtually on 14-17 June 2022. Find out more about ACEF and register now.