Policymakers and Experts Discuss Sustainable Energy and Connectivity in 2nd East Asia Energy Forum
Bangkok, 2 September 2019: Energy ministers and researchers from ASEAN countries gathered in Bangkok on 2 September 2019 to attend the 2nd East Asia Energy Forum (EAEF) and shared their perspectives in many insightful discussions under the theme ‘Towards Sustainable Energy Transition and the Role of Connectivity in ASEAN’. The event was hosted by the Ministry of Energy Thailand in cooperation with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and ERIA’s Energy Research Institutes Network (ERIN).
H.E. Kulit Sombatsiri, the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Energy of Thailand, welcomed all participants whilst giving an overview of ASEAN countries’ energy sector challenges in general and those of Thailand in particular. He emphasised the importance of renewable energy which is included in ASEAN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Afterwards, three keynote speeches were delivered by the Minister of Energy, Manpower & Industry of Brunei Darussalam H.E. Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Md Hussein, the Minister of Energy and Mines of Lao PDR H.E. Dr Khammany Inthirath, and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Cambodia H.E. Dr Ty Norin. They each presented their views on the current situation of their countries’ energy sector, future challenges, and opportunities, using ASEAN’s perspective. Among the most importance issues revealed by the three country representatives were the diversification of energy sources and the cross-border energy and power connectivity. Closing the keynote speech session, Mr Atsushi Taketani, the president of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Bangkok and Chief Representative for ASEAN, summarised the role of Japan in the G20 meetings where the term ‘innovation’ is gaining importance. Mr Taketani assured that Japan would continue its role in assisting ASEAN countries to improve energy stability and security.
After the photo session, Prof Jun Arima, the Senior Policy Fellow on Energy and Environment of the Energy Unit of ERIA, delivered a speech to set the scene for further discussions of the forum. Focusing on ASEAN energy security and sustainability, Prof Arima highlighted several key messages. First, the importance of distributional justice in the energy sector, for example by preventing the most marginalised populations from paying disproportionately more than the less marginalised. Second, the need to improve the energy mix in power generation through energy diversification should focus not only on the use of renewable sources, but also on the use of natural gas. Third, the need to make progress on the ASEAN energy interconnectivity plans and projects. Fourth, the need to relativize climate change targets, since the use of fossil fuel to generate electricity is currently still the most economically feasible practice in the region. Coal use, for example, is often stigmatised as a bad practice from the climate change perspective. ASEAN and East Asian countries need to speak up about this reality and at the same time consider that the current use of coal is a mere bridging phase towards a low carbon power generation.
The theme of the first discussion session was ‘Renewable Energy Development Strategy for ASEAN’. The session chairman, Dr Shigeki Sakurai from Kyoto University, delivered opening remarks as an introduction to the discussion. Dr Peerapat Vithayasrichareon, from the International Energy Agency (IEA), delivered a presentation on the suitability of the high penetration rates of variable renewable energy (VRE) sources with the ASEAN integrated power system plan. After Dr Vithayasrichareon’s presentation, Dr John Crowley, the Director of Technology and Sustainable Development of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), explained the urgent need to progress toward grid integration in the ASEAN region which should be accompanied by an elaboration of inclusive policies at all levels. Dr Sutharo Takeda from Kyoto University ended the session by discussing the problems of electrical grid stability and the relatively low electrification rate in some parts of ASEAN which should be solved by the development of the integrated ASEAN power grid completed with storage/DSR in parallel with the development of mini power grids. He concluded that renewable energy-based power generation such as solar photovoltaic (PV) shall attain grid parity in many ASEAN member states before 2030. The ASEAN integrated grid should be the most economically solution for ASEAN electricity system.
A roundtable discussion was organised after the three presentations moderated by Dr Tetsuo Tezuka and Mr Go Okui, respectively professor and researcher from Kyoto University. Two more experts were invited as panelists, namely Dr Tharinya Supasa, the Senior Energy Analyst, ASEAN - German Energy Program (AGEP) Phase II of the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and Ms Nguyen Thi Thuy, Official, Electricity and Renewable Energy Authority (EREA), Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) of Viet Nam. The discussion revolved around the role of academia and international organisations to support the policymaking process, the process itself, as well as the basis requirements for policymaking.
The Session Two discussion was organised by the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) and ERIA, taking the theme of ‘Policy Dialogue between LNG Exporting and Importing Countries’. Prof Jun Arima, as the session moderator, gave an introduction to open the session. Dr Hussein Moghaddam, Senior Energy Forecast Analyst, Energy Economics & Forecasting Department of the GECF, presented the outlook of natural gas sector. Prof Jun Arima delivered the second presentation on the current situation of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand and its use in the ASEAN and East Asian region whilst pointing out some important issues on the LNG trade, market, trend, potential and developing some policy recommendations. Mr Masaomi Koyama, the Director of Overseas Energy Infrastructure Office, Commissioner’s Secretariat, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan, explained Japan’s long historical roles in promoting LNG especially in the Asian region. An important issue that was raised in the discussion was the position of LNG itself as an alternative option that can be viewed as a ‘clean’ fossil fuel, despite its relatively high price.
The last session on ‘Power Connectivity in ACMECS’ was jointly organised by ERIN and ERIA. Moderated by Mr Shigeru Kimura, Special Advisor to the President on Energy Affairs, Energy Unit, Research Department of ERIA, the first presentation was conducted by Dr. Shutaro Takeda, Assistant Professor, Kyoto University. Dr Takeda explained the different energy source fluctuations as well as their complementary effects that can be solved and optimized by the realization of the integrated ASEAN power grid. Mr Keisuke Ueda, Senior Policy Adviser, Energy Unit, Research Department of ERIA delivered a presentation on the importance of adopting and building a high spec transmission line as the backbone of the future ASEAN power pool.
Closing the session, a panel discussion was held with several expert panelists: H.E. Mr Victor Jona, SOE Leader, Director General, General Department of Energy, Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) of Cambodia; Mr Tan Sokun, Director, Department of Energy Development, MME of Cambodia; Mr Souksavart Sosouphanh, Director, Investment Division, Department of Planning and Cooperation, Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) of Lao PDR; Mr Somsanith Sadettan, Deputy Manager on Study and Design Projects for Transmission and Substation, Electricity Du Laos of Lao PDR; and Mr Le Anh Duc, General Director, Electricity Regulation Authority, Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) of Viet Nam. Country experts gave their opinions on the issue of the power connectivity including the installation of high voltage transmission lines, i.e. assessment of the current situation, needs, future challenges, and plans.
Prof Hidetoshi Nishimura, the President of ERIA, closed the forum by summarising the most important findings of the forum. At the end, Prof Nishimura reiterated again the need for ASEAN and East Asia region leaders, policymakers and experts to remain realistic, especially in the climate change and fossil fuel use matters. The main priority of the region should be on the sustainable financing of their energy sector.
The forum generated key policy messages as summarised in the ‘Reflections from EAEF 2, Bangkok’, which emphasised a balanced discussion on energy-related financing issues, recognising ASEAN energy reality, and does not rule out the important role of coal in energy transition. ERIA presented the results of this forum and 'Reflections from EAEF 2, Bangkok' at the 13th East Asia Summit Energy Ministers Meeting.