ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
AIT conference advances ‘Green Energy for Sustainable Development’ transition in Asia
By Shawn Kelly
In the 21st century, modernization, industrialization and urbanization processes all translate into an insatiable thirst for energy. But as demand for traditional power grows, so too do greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to global warming. Developing clean, efficient green energy to fuel sustainable development has been identified as one the key challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.
International experts attending the ICUE 2014: Green Energy for Sustainable Development Conference organized on March 19-21 in Thailand by the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) considered a raft of options for moving the planet away from carbon-based fuels towards renewable energies.
The three-day conference assessed social, technological, financial and investment aspects for achieving low-carbon growth, as well as national and regional energy development policies geared towards achieving sustainability for the planet. In Pattaya, leading scientists exchanged research ideas, experiences, and the latest technical innovations in green energy utilization.
Energy professionals, policy makers, researchers and academics from around the world agreed that green growth must play a key role in raising living standards, providing access to modern energy services and protecting the earth’s environment.
“A low-carbon based type of economy will help mitigate environmental pollution and CO2 emissions caused by fossil fuel use, help reduce reliance on dwindling fossil reserves, and encourage technological innovations,” said conference director Dr. Shobhakar Dhakal, Associate Professor of energy, AIT.
At the same time, renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal present countries with significant financial opportunities, particularly in Asia, the experts said.
Still, keynote speaker Dr. Piyasvasti Amranand, Chairman, Energy for Environment Foundation, maintained that the enormous potential for solar energy in Thailand is hampered by sclerotic government processes that inhibit development of a smart energy grid.
The former Thai Minister of Energy called for independent regulators to eliminate the red-tape and dubious practices which present obstacles to growth of the domestic renewable energy sector.
By freeing up the energy market pricing system, enforcing transparent permitting processes, and introducing efficiency standards and financing mechanisms “Thailand can realize its 25% target for renewable energy by 2021,” the senior official said.
Calling the region a “lack of energy hotspot” Yale University’s Prof. Arnulf Gr?bler said 800 million of the world’s 1.4 billion people without access to electricity reside in Asia. The region also lags OECD countries by approximately 100 years in terms of primary energy inputs, he said.
Tapping into the enormous US$ 1-5 trillion global market for diffuse green investments – such as retrofitting buildings for higher energy efficiency – phasing out fossil fuel models, and correcting the misalignment of public policy and investment are necessary steps to take in the journey from non-renewable to renewable energy, Gr?bler said.
And while there is no single “silver bullet”, Gr?bler, who is Lead Author and Contributing Editor of the just released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, recommended development of a green energy and innovations “ecology” that addresses areas of underinvestment and responds to market demand. Here, fast-growing Asia has an opportunity to maximize energy efficiencies in public transportation, ITC, and electrical and gas infrastructure sectors, he said.
Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, Senior Research Advisor at Japan’s Institute for Global Environment Strategies raised the bar further, suggesting that with climate change as the main trigger
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