An energy view – from Manila

 

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Last week Matthew Billson, Energy2050 co-Programme Director, spoke at the Asian Development Bank’s Clean Energy Forum in Manila, Philippines.

In the same week as Pope Francis published his Laudato Si, and the European Commission held their Sustainable Energy Week, I was in the Philippines speaking at the Asia Clean Energy Forum.  Organised by the Asian Development Bank – headquartered in Manila – the Forum brings together around 1,000 energy stakeholders from the region.

The Forum gave a fascinating perspective of the energy challenges which Asia is facing – a region where more than 100 million people still have no access to any electricity at all, but where there is also a determination to find innovative ways to finance and deliver clean energy.

In addition to providing access to electricity for remote villages –  which in countries like Indonesia still represents around a quarter of their population – another challenge is meeting the huge increase in demand for energy.

The Philippines already has more renewable electricity than the UK – at around 30%, compared to our 20%.  And since 2009 the government has implemented market incentives to encourage continued investment in renewables.  However, the growth in renewables will be outpaced by the growth in coal, in order to meet demand.  This month the Philippino Energy Minister said that his country will have 23 new coal power stations on line by the end of the decade, and the Asian Development Bank estimates that coal use in the region will grow by 50% from 2010 to 2035.

In my presentation, I spoke of the massive changes the UK is making to its electricity market in order to secure new investment in our clean energy infrastructure – and of the need to engage the public, to ensure they understand the cost of that investment, why it is needed, and the choices it entails.

So my week in Manila reinforced what we at Energy2050 and the University of Sheffield already felt – that our future energy challenges are myriad, but which underlines the need for our continuing investment and commitment to energy innovation.  And that those challenges can be solved with good science and excellent engineering, creating opportunities for the best universities and companies to deliver the technologies which are needed.