Opening remarks by Scott Morris, ADB Vice-President (East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific), at the Pacific Regional Session on Energy Transition Challenges, Opportunities, and Way Forward, Asia Clean Energy Forum 2024, 6 June 2024, ADB headquarters, Manila, Philippines

Distinguished Guests and Colleagues,

Welcome to the Pacific Regional Session on Energy Transition Challenges, Opportunities, and Way Forward. Thank you for your presence this afternoon, and special thanks to all the speakers and panelists who will share their valuable insights and experiences. While I regret that I couldn’t be there in person, I know this session will provide a valuable platform to discuss the challenges and opportunities to accelerate the clean energy transition in the Pacific region.

Each country in the Pacific region has its own pathway towards the clean energy transition and carbon neutrality. And most countries have set long-term energy plans with ambitious net-zero emission targets. At the same time, it is clear that the region’s countries will need to work together to achieve their goals. Intra-regional collaboration is essential to enable economies of scale, increase private sector investment and reduce technology costs. It is also an opportunity for sharing of knowledge, innovation and lessons learned. This is the very reason we are here today.

Pacific Small Islands Development States (SIDS) have been undertaking a structural shift away from fossil fuel-based power generation towards renewable energy and greater energy efficiency. Some countries have highly dispersed populations and continue to face critical challenges in providing electricity to remote islands and rural populations. Other countries have more concentrated populations but experience high generation costs linked to diesel dependence and associated import costs.

No matter their circumstances, all countries can look to energy efficiency and renewable energy, combined with energy storage, as key solutions to address energy issues.

But we also must recognize that these countries confront energy challenges against a backdrop in which the region is facing increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Frequency of weather associated disasters in the Pacific recorded a three-fold increase for the last five decades. Chronic cyclones have damaged associated power infrastructure such as fuel storage tanks, overhead transmission and distribution lines, and substations, which resulted in power interruption and outages. By one estimate, annual economic losses in the Pacific due to disasters have accounted for 5% of combined gross domestic product (GDP).

In the face of these challenges, energy planners in the Pacific have a clear mandate to increase renewable energy penetration into the transmission grid and to build climate-resilient energy infrastructure. However, the power system in Pacific SIDS continues to face challenges in integrating variable renewable energy power into the grid. Specifically, there is a need to (i) to expand and strengthen the transmission grid, (ii) build reserve capacity including battery energy storage system (BESS), and (iii) enhance institutional and operational capacity to manage variable renewable energy.

Addressing these challenges across the region will require strengthening inter- and intra-regional cooperation not only in mobilizing finance, but in mutually enhancing institutional and organizational capacity.

We hope that this Pacific Regional Session will mark a productive step forward in that sort of cooperation. Let me close by emphasizing that ADB remains a very committed financial and technical partner in supporting clean energy transition initiatives in the Pacific region and across all our regions of operation.

Thank you.