ASEAN action needed to manage rapid growth in energy demand

With South East Asia's energy demand projected to grow nearly 50% by 2030, the member countries of ASEAN need to take bold action to manage energy requirements in a sustainable way, said panellists at the 4th ASEAN and Asia Forum organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Addressing the conference topic, Economy, Energy and Environment, Singapore’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, S Iswaran, told the 300-strong audience at the Capella Singapore hotel that the case for regional energy cooperation has never been stronger.

Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, pointed to the potential of shared gas pipelines when he noted that countries with access to a reliable energy supply had a competitive advantage. Cooperation on energy supply would boost regional investment and lead to new innovations and collaborations, he said, adding that ASEAN could collectively obtain better terms for imports.

Chou Siaw Kiang, Executive Director of the Energy Studies Institute, argued that although ASEAN governments may favour the idea of integrated power grids, the reality is still quite far off.

Raman Letchumanan, Head of the environment division of the ASEAN Secretariat, said that while regulation is needed to improve energy efficiency, rising consumer demand for energy efficient and environmentally-friendly products provides the biggest motivator for reducing energy consumption.

Hidetoshi Nishimura, Executive Director of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, suggested that Asia needs its own assessment for biomass energy use and sustainability.

The SIIA conducted a survey at the conference which found that 45% of participants felt that ASEAN was not prepared for the future rise in energy demand.

The big majority, 84% agreed that South East Asian governments should turn to nuclear energy as a last resort, after exhausting options for energy sourced from fossil fuels, renewable energy and biofuels.

The top concerns relating to nuclear energy were listed as the threat of natural disasters to nuclear power plants and the negative environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.

SIIA's Chairman, Simon Tay, concluded that the economy, energy and environment are “locked together in a dangerous triangle” and urged greater ASEAN cooperation to address the issue of sustainable growth.

A full report by Jenny Marusiak of Eco-Business is available here.