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Day-2 at the Renewable Energy World Asia 2013

(3 Oct 2013)

Another interesting day full of discussions and constructive debates at the Renewable Energy World Asia Conference 2013 held in Bangkok.

The day opened with a plenary discussion titled 'Utility Perspectives on the challenges & opportunities in the Asia renewable sector' that was chaired by Heather Johnstone, Chief Editor at PEi Penwell International. Unfortunately, 3 of the 5 speakers did not turn up and hence the session was a bit empty on worthwhile content that was planned. Dr Suthep Chimklai, Assistant Governor-Planning at EGAT Thailand, gave a rather long (time filling) overview of the renewable energy outlook and potential in Thailand and ASEAN countries. Notably Solar has got a strong push in Thailand with the Rooftop PV (200 MW) and community PV (800 MW) programs. He also explained that residential rooftop installations have fallen short behind targets (only 5% taken up), while commercial rooftop programs are fully subscribed. The second speaker, Er. Polycarp HF Wong from Sarawak Energy gave a perspective on hydro power in Sarawak region of Malaysia where remarkably a 52% of the electricity generation is by hydro power.  

The second session in the morning (in Track-1) was about “Money Talk- Financing Asia’s Renewable Energy Growth”. This session was chaired by Alan Dale-Gonzales, Executive Director at Full Advantage in Thailand. The first Speaker was Mark Fogarty, Director at REEEP International. He emphasized the importance of public-private partnership in meeting the financial goal for renewable growth and advocated that the private sector should account for 80% or more of the financial requirements. The next speaker Mr. Han Meng Chan, Founding partner at Nature Elements Capital from China, spoke about challenges for project financing inMyanmar. He described Myanmar as the “last frontier in Asia” in which the development has frozen in time for 30 years with about 25% electrification rate. There are large infrastructure needs in Myanmar that require large foreign investment as the private sector is not developed there and if there is no urgent foreign investment to tackle the power project financing, the country will take a very long time to catch up. The banking sector was represented by Mr Robert Todd, Director of Resources and Energy Group at HSBC in Hong Kong. He noted that regulations are the key enabler to mobilize finance and that can be seen to be going well recently in India, China (solar targets of 35GW), Thailand (renewable supporting programs), Japan (Feed-in-tariff last year) and Australia.  He also observed that solar has seen a good positive growth and there is a huge capital required to finance the investments. When speakers were asked to choose a country to go to for renewable investments, they chose India, Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand for various reasons such as strong regulatory support and growth potential.

The most interesting session in the afternoon was the plenary panel discussion titled “Asia Power- 2020 Vision”. The session was webcast live on the internet by Penwell and was moderated by Mark Hutchinson, Managing Director at IHS Consulting – Energy and Natural Resources in Singapore. He asked the panel and interesting question: “Think of the future from 2030 point of view and looking back at 2020- what would be the key success and challenges. The first panellist, Mr. Robert McGregor, Managing Director at Resources and Energy Group at HSBC in Hong Kong, remarked that Asia being the cheap factory for the world is not a sustainable proposition. He advocated that each country in Asia should have an energy plan of what should be implemented and how it will be paid, especially financing using private sector capital. He mentioned that the thing that bothers him most is how the insatiable demand for resources in China and India is going to be met. Mr Colin Tam, Executive Chairman at Crystal Vision Energy Ltd in Hong Kong, the second panellist and he observed that by year 2020 Asia would have a cheaper but high cost and reliable energy system but we still may not have solved the carbon-dioxide problem. He further envisioned that alternative energy generation (such as solar, wind, waste) will account for 50% of the generation capacity but probably not actual generation. He was worried about big energy wars coming up due to huge demand growth and lack of fuel sources in China and India.

Ms Yerim Park, Programme Officer- South East Asia at IEA was the next panellist who took a crack at the crystal ball gazing question.  She highlighted that with current situation and growth of electricity, it is predicted that 60% of the electricity will be coming from coal and probably 50% of the capacity will continue to be generated by coal until 2035. She remarked that countries are beginning to identify the issues and setting u targets, but the commitment for implementation and the policy support is also required. The next panellist Mr. Michael Thomas, Partner at Lantau Group (HK) Limited in Hong Kong, brought forth the point that it is difficult to reconcile with the cost of coal and comparative costs of other sources such as renewables. The final panellist Wouter van Wersch, Senior VP East Asia-Pacific and President at Alstom Power in Singapore, observed that electricity plays a key role in the stability of the world and it’s important to have stability and also clarity and consistency in policy implementation. He also highlighted the need for stronger cooperation between policy makers and industry with focus on technologies such as energy storage and carbon capture and other environment friendly technologies, while increasing flexibility and reliability of generation.

Mr. Jacob Klimstra from the audience brought up a topic that stirred up a debate in the panel by him commenting that probably by year 2030 the cost of electricity from Solar PV panels will probably be very low (4-5 cents/unit) and people might regret that they have invested in coal-fired power plants as they are inflexible and also in Carbon Capture. Mr Colin Tam remarked that if we find a solar technology that is cheap enough, it’s an abundant resource that can power most of the world’s demand. Mr Michael Thomas remarked that Solar does already urgently and commitments made by governments needs to use proven technologies rather than relying on future cost-efficiency of technologies such as solar. So coal-fired plants will still be built in the short term and they will be standing for the next 30-40 years. For the case of nuclear power, the moderator asked the panellist to pick a year and Asian location in future for a new Nuclear plant and most though about somewhere around year 2025 with Vietnam and Thailand as possible locations while not ruling out India.

The final panel discussion in the afternoon looked at the possible Future of Renewable Energy Policy in Asia. Panellist Ravi Krishnaswamy, VP of Energy and Environment Practice at Frost and Sullivan observed that policies have to be flexible as rigid policies locked in for long periods of time (e.g. FiT in Spain) can cause major issues in the market. Mr Ashish Sethia, APAC Lead at Bloomberg New Energy Finance remarked that policies have to be set with specific objectives depending on the need in the country and have to be realistic in their expectations e.g. expecting grid parity from Solar in comparison with marginal cost and fully depreciated coal-fired plants is not realistic.

So it was another insightful day at the conference with good debates and opinions coming from various experts in the field of Renewable Energy in Asia.         

See also: Day-1 overview

Recreated from original blog post authored by Nilesh Y. Jadhav at Solarika.org

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