Energy is the cornerstone of sustainable development. The question of how to address increasing energy demand, the prevalent energy poverty, and transition to sustainable energy development in an environmental friendly, socially sound, and economically feasible approach presents a challenge for countries in Asia and the Pacific.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers a global blueprint for development that is guided by social, economic and environmental considerations. With a dedicated goal on energy Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7), it provides a framework to guide energy sector development.
ESCAP is committed to achieving the regional vision of a sustainable energy future, guided by the SDGs. Within this scope, the ESCAP’s objective is to enhance energy security and energy connectivity, as mean to support access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all in Asia and Pacific.
ESCAP promotes and develops a number of programmes aimed at advancing energy access, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Furthermore, ESCAP fosters the transition to a sustainable energy system through regional cooperation and supports member States in identifying energy challenges and generating sound policy response measures by providing a platform for dialogue and knowledge exchange. The provided Report of ESCAP on Regional Cooperation for Sustainable Energy 2017 analyses a number of considerable challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and its efforts to accelerate the energy transition to achieve SDG 7.
ESCAP’s overarching 2014-2018 energy development agenda was also established with the guidance and backing of its member States, based on the outcomes of the ministerial level Asian and Pacific Energy Forum (APEF), convened by ESCAP in 2013. A review on the agenda implementation was developed and launched in the Second Asian Pacific Energy Forum in April 2018.
Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” and has targets to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, all by 2030.
The goal of energy access is wide-ranging, covering not only electrical services but also thermal energy needs for cooking and heating.
The A Global Tracking Framework 2017: Regional Assessment Report provided an evidence-based look at progress in three critical areas of sustainable energy at the regional and country levels, providing an overview of long-term trends since 1990, and focuses on progress achieved in the most recent period, 2012–2014. The key drivers behind progress are also reviewed and major challenges in achieving energy access, efficiency, and renewable energy objectives are identified.
Tackling the multiple energy-related challenges necessitates a transition in the way energy is generated, transmitted and consumed. Major components of this transition are enhanced energy efficiency, increased renewable energy in the energy mix, improved energy access and better
connectivity across the region. While the energy sector in many countries is slowly being transformed, the pace of the change needs to be accelerated.
Energy transition is not only essential in order to reach the targets of SDG 7, but indeed, many of the other SDGs can benefit from the spillover effects of affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Moreover, fulfilling the commitments made in the Paris Agreement requires a rapid energy transition in the Asia-Pacific region. Energy transition has the potential to contribute to energy security; it can reduce energy poverty, leading to a wide range of social benefits and it can drastically reduce environmental and health hazards.
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Energy efficiency is a key to the realization of sustainable development objectives that pertain to the energy sector, as well as to other sectors, offering numerous and substantial benefits. Increased energy security is supported through energy savings and reduction in investment needs for capacity additions, reliance on energy imports and vulnerability to fluctuations in energy prices. While energy efficiency for importing countries can boost currency reserves, energy efficiency for exporting countries increases their energy resources available for export. Energy efficiency also facilitates greater economic productivity and provides social and environmental benefits, including, among them, increased energy affordability, improved air quality, reduced pollution and global climate change mitigation.
Energy efficiency is also closely tied to the realization of universal access targets by enabling higher levels of energy services at lower consumption rates and costs. Synergies between efficiency and renewable energy are also strong, as lower overall energy demand contributes to efforts aimed at meeting renewable energy targets by making it easier to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix.
Energy intensity is the best available proxy measure for energy efficiency. It is being used to monitor progress as in achieving the objectives set out in SEforAll initiative and Sustainable Development Goal 7. Energy intensity is measured in units of energy per dollar of GDP, in which high numbers indicate more energy consumption per dollar of economic output, and declines in energy intensity are a proxy for efficiency improvements. The Asia-Pacific region has experienced a steep decline in regional energy intensity, from 9.1 MJ/2011 PPP $ in 1990 to 6.0 MJ/2011 PPP $ in 2014. With the further decoupling of GDP growth and total final energy consumption during the period 2012-2014, the region achieved a short-term annual average energy intensity reduction of 3.0 per cent, outpacing other global regions.
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Increasing the use of renewable energy supports the development of energy and other sectors. It also offers social, economic, and environmental benefits. In recent years, greater focus has been placed on developing renewables in Asia and the Pacific to meet a number of objectives.
To meet energy demand and to temper growing import dependencies that raise vulnerabilities to global market shifts, some economies are also promoting the use of renewables to balance their energy mixes with indigenous resources. Renewable energy also offers options for energy access through decentralized applications. On-grid and off-grid renewable energy markets are expanding, as private sector participation increases.
The Asia-Pacific region has emerged as the global leader in renewable energy with more investment, installed capacity, and consumption than any other world regions. Large installations of renewables have been made across the region in recent years, with the installation of solar and wind power growing rapidly.
Renewables are a key component for decarbonizing economies. Under the Paris Agreement, countries have pledged to reduce carbon emissions largely from the use of fossil fuels. In 2014, the Asia and the Pacific region was responsible for 55.2 per cent of global emissions from fuel combustion, 66 per cent of which were from coal. Decarbonizing the energy sector by shifting to renewable energy, thus, supports efforts to achieve climate objectives, including nationally determined contributions.
Drivers for Progress of Renewable Energy Development
- Policy targets have set the direction of renewable energy development.
- There has been a shift in policy stance towards supporting renewables with the introduction of targets, financial incentives, public financing measures and regulations creating an increasingly favourable investment environment for renewables.
- Costs of the key renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind have declined dramatically over the past 10 years.
- Economic incentives have supported the development of the renewables market.
- Many countries are offering economic incentives, such as capital subsidies, grants, and rebates for equipment and services, to attract project developers to the renewable energy sector.
- Feed-in tariffs have encouraged investment, while auctions are lowering prices of renewables.
- Investment in renewables is outpacing conventional energy and resulting in rising shares.
- Sources of capital and financing instruments are growing and diversifying.
- Countries are investing in technology research and development.
- Renewables and battery storage are driving growth in distributed power generation.
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Electricity is a fundamental input to socioeconomic development. It is also an essential input to daily life for the majority of the global population. At the household level, electricity is critical for basic functions, such as lighting and the operation of appliances. It is needed to support livelihoods, education and well-being. Studies show that children in households with electricity spend more time studying than those without and complete more years of school. With electricity, men and women are increasingly engaged in productive activities and public lighting in communities increases safety at night, particularly for women.
Access to electricity also has implications for development at national and regional levels. As a percentage of total final consumption in Asia and the Pacific, electricity’s share has grown from 10.7 per cent in 1990 to 18.4 per cent in 2014, reflecting the growing role electricity plays within the region’s development. Electricity is increasingly essential for producing food for the region’s growing population and the energy intensity of agriculture is rising with more mechanization and a growing reliance on pumping for irrigation. Asia-Pacific industry and services sectors, with recorded value additions of $17.0 trillion and $20.7 trillion, respectively, in 2014, are dependent on a sufficient and reliable electricity supply.
Between 2012 and 2014, an estimated 93.1 million people gained access to electricity in Asia and the Pacific, as the region’s population increased by 84 million, leading to a rise in the rate of electrification from 89.8 per cent to 90.3 per cent. Urban access rates continued to rise, reaching 98.7 per cent, while access in rural areas was at 83.3 per cent.
Access to clean fuels and technologies – shortened here to “clean cooking” – is essential to modernize energy services, support public health, reduce gender inequality, and mitigate environmental impacts, particularly the poorest segments of the population. The use of traditional biomass in the form of wood, charcoal, and dung in open fires or inefficient stoves for cooking and heating compromises indoor air quality. Indoor smoke contains a variety of pollutants, with adverse health effects. To mitigate the adverse impacts, switching to clean cooking technologies and fuels, such as biogas, advanced biomass cookstoves, electricity, LPG and solar cooking, is necessary.
In the Asia-Pacific region, almost 2.1 billion people – nearly half of the region’s population and more than a quarter of the global population – remain without access to clean cooking. In 2014, the regional rate of access to clean cooking reached 51.2 per cent, up from 39.8 per cent in 2000.
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Energy connectivity has a crucial role to play in overall regional economic cooperation and integration. It can realise mutual economic benefits for member States and increase the use of more sustainability energy sources such as gas and renewables.
Regional integration of power grids in particular is a long process and has to be built up over stages. So far, the Asia Pacific region is in early stages of energy connectivity.
ESCAP promotes energy connectivity and regional cooperation by providing a platform for dialogue, and hosting workshops and expert group meetings designed to delineate and address the principal barriers to energy connectivity from national, subregional, and regional perspectives. See Expert Working on Energy Connectivity at Policies and Implementation.
Importance of Energy Connectivity
- Expansion of sustainable energy solutions. There are often greater choices for renewables beyond country borders. For example, exploitation of Bhutan’s hydro resources has been enabled through agreements to supply power across the border to India. In addition, power system interconnection helps address the problems experiences when incorporating larger shares of variable renewable energy resources such as solar and wind. For example, the single electricity market of Ireland has been able to introduce wind power as a major source of energy in part due to interconnection of the Irish grid with that of Great Britain. Energy integration will thus afford possibilities for many countries to diversify sources of power generation, including more sustainable solutions. The Region can use the large solar and wind potential that exists in many countries.
- Economies of scale and scope. The European Union and some countries have integrated their power networks, which leads to augmenting national supplies and significant energy system cost savings due to economies of scale and scope. Major savings occur due to capacity cost savings for additional generation capacity through complementary demand profiling across countries, reserve margins, improved load factors, increased load mix, and coordinated maintenance schedules.
- Sustainable energy for all. Regional energy connectivity also contributes to global goals of sustainable energy for all. Especially for countries that have low access rates, regional energy connectivity will increase energy supply and present multiple opportunities for connecting individuals, households and remote regions to energy.
See reports on energy connectivity Towards A Sustainable Future - Energy Connectivity in Asia and the Pacific 2016 and Integrating South Asia’s Power Grid for a Sustainable and Low Carbon Future 2018
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Policies and Implementation
Plan of Action
Plan of Action on Regional Cooperation for Enhanced Energy Security and the Sustainable Use of Energy in Asia and the Pacific
Under ESCAP’s support, in accordance with Commission resolution 67/2 on promoting regional cooperation for enhanced energy security and the sustainable use of energy in Asia and the Pacific, adopted in May 2011, the Asian and Pacific Energy Forum was convened in order to discuss — at the ministerial level — the progress achieved in the region in addressing energy security challenges at the regional, national and household levels, and to facilitate continuous dialogue among member States with a view to enhancing energy security and working towards sustainable development.
The first Asian and Pacific Energy Forum was held in 2013 and deliberations at the Forum raised the profile of energy within the sustainable development agenda, and reflected global energy priorities, placing them appropriately within the regional context, consequently, the outcome documents were adopted: Ministerial Declaration and the Plan of Action (2014-2018) on "Regional Cooperation for Enhanced Energy Security and the Sustainable Use of Energy in Asia and the Pacific".
The main objectives of the plan of action:
- To enable States members of ESCAP to address energy security challenges at the regional, subregional, national and household levels through regional cooperation.
- To facilitate continuous dialogue and cooperation among member States with a view to enhancing energy security and working towards the realization of sustainable development.
Priority areas of the Plan of Action
- Establishment of a platform for facilitating continuous dialogue and cooperation among ESCAP member States on enhanced energy security and the sustainable use of energy
- Work towards universal access to modern energy services
- Advance the development and use of new and renewable sources of energy
- Improve energy efficiency and conservation and observe sustainability in the supply, distribution and consumption of energy
- Diversify the energy mix and enhance energy security
- Improve energy trade and investment opportunities to optimize the development and utilization of current and emerging energy resources
- Improve fiscal policy and financing mechanisms to incentivize and strengthen markets for sustainable energy
- Improve energy statistics and facilitate data and information sharing
- Minimize the environmental impact of the energy sector
- Promote more efficient and cleaner use of oil
- Promote the efficient and clean use of coal: In consideration of growing environmental concerns and commitments made under the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, limiting the use of coal when viable cleaner alternatives are available.
- Promote expanded production, trade and use of natural gas as a low-emission fuel
- Promote the development of advanced energy technologies
- Develop common infrastructure and harmonized energy policies with a view to increasing regional economic integration
- Promote capacity-building, education and knowledge- sharing in the field of energy
In 2018, the Review of the implementation of the Plan of Action on Regional Cooperation for Enhanced Energy Security and the Sustainable Use of Energy in Asia and the Pacific 2014–2018, was developed, in response to the request of the Commission in its resolution 70/9 that the secretariat periodically review the progress made in the implementation of the Plan of Action. The review contained information on the status of implementation, recent efforts and remaining challenges to implementation based on information provided by member States, as well as by collaborating international organizations.
Ministerial Declaration of Regional Cooperation for Energy Transition towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies in Asia and the Pacific
The Second Asian and Pacific Energy Forum, which was held in Bangkok from 3 to 5 April 2018, adopted the Ministerial Declaration of Regional Cooperation for Energy Transition towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies in Asia and the Pacific. In the Ministerial Declaration, the challenges in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 7 in Asia and the Pacific are recognized, and measures are identified to address those challenges through regional cooperation. The importance of energy connectivity and the potential contribution of cross-border energy trade in attaining Goal 7 are also recognized. The Ministerial Declaration contains decisions by the ministers as well as requests to the Executive Secretary to support its implementation through specific actions identified. The ministers decided to convene the third Asian and Pacific Energy Forum in 2023.
Expert Working Groups
According to the Commission Resolution (73/8) on Strengthening regional cooperation for sustainable energy development in Asia and the Pacific, a decision was made to create two expert working groups, in order to build upon the existing knowledge, information and policy research and closely coordinate with relevant international, regional and subregional organizations to avoid, to the extent possible, duplication of work while making further studies. Two expert working groups have been initiated in 2017;
- Expert Working Groups on Energy Connectivity
- Expert Working Groups on Universal Access to Modern Energy Services, Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Cleaner Use of Fossil Fuels.
Main objective of two groups is to provide expert input to the intergovernmental discussions at the Committee on Energy and Asian Pacific Energy Forum. The roadmaps of the groups have been in the process of developing for further consultations.
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Tools and Methodologies
Asia-Pacific Energy Portal
The Asia Pacific Energy Portal forms the core of the ESCAP's energy information and knowledge sharing initiatives and provides member States with a strong informational foundation that supports evidence-based policy-making. The Portal was also launched in order to facilitate the implementation of the outcomes of Asian Pacific Energy Forum.
It is providing data visualizations for an extensive set of energy statistics, full-text policies, and interactive infrastructure maps. The Portal offers a collection of more than 200 datasets from global institutions including UN Data, the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, UNComtrade, IRENA, and Bloomberg. More than 3,000 policy documents have been collected from hundreds of official websites. More than 6,000 power plants have been mapped.
Energy Statistical Overview of Energy
Statistical Perspectives 2018: Sustainable Energy in Asia and the Pacific is a statistical overview of progress on energy in the Asia-Pacific region created especially for the Second Asian and Pacific Energy Forum, and as a follow-up document to the Initial “Statistical Perspectives: Focus Areas for Realizing Enhanced Energy Security”, which was produced in preparation of the First Asian and Pacific Energy Forum held in 2013. Through the use of various charts and maps, readers can engage with key energy statistics such as: Energy Supply and Use, Energy Access, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Energy and Environment, Energy and Economics, Energy Trade and Investments.