The Asia LEDS Partnership (ALP) under its Energy Community of Practice initiative, organised a session on “Fostering capacity and knowledge sharing among the Asian countries in the energy sector” at the 10th Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD), on the 30th of March 2023.
The COVID-19 pandemic, volatile political situations in different regions, wars and other factors have impacted the energy sector in the Asia region. At the same time, countries have committed to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy (RE) sources as part of their climate goals. Though achieving a greater use of RE while maintaining energy security and economic growth in the post-pandemic era is a challenge, several countries are performing well. During the webinar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Philippines shared their achievements/success stories in the energy sector. The session was organised in line with the APFSD theme for 2023, “Accelerating the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)” and was in alignment with APFSD’s focus on Sustainable Development Goal 7 to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all”.
Mr. Shah Zulfiqar Haider, Technical Adviser to the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), Government of Bangladesh, spoke about the policies and measures adopted in his country to achieve 100% electricity coverage. He mentioned that in 2009, there was massive load-shedding and only 50% of the country was electrified. This led the Government to take concerted efforts to achieve 100% electrification by 2022 and to develop an energy-efficient conservation plan, which included short, medium, and long-term measures. In the last 13 years, Bangladesh has reduced systemic energy losses from 16.85% in 2009 to 10.41% in 2022, and aims to further cut it to 7.5%.
At present, the primary fuels being used are oil, gas and coal, and more than 5% of the energy being consumed, including off-grid, are from clean sources. But Bangladesh aims to draw 40% of its power from clean energy sources by 2041.
Ms. Dechen Dema, Executive Engineer, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Government of Bhutan, highlighted the role of off-grid renewable energy in achieving 100% rural electrification. She said while Bhutan’s electrification rate currently stands at 99.97%, thermal energy powers 72% of the nation’s energy requirements and the share of renewable energy sources, including hydropower, is 28%.
Standalone solar home lighting systems and off-grid solar PV plants are the most suitable alternatives for providing electricity to the rugged rural areas in the country. So far, a significant number of solar water heating systems, biogas plants for cooking, and improved cookstoves have been installed across the region and have complemented the existing power system.
Some of the factors that contributed to the expansion of off-grid RE were government policies and the five-year plans that helped in maintaining a structured timeline. Further, donors provided timely and adequate support through financial grants and loans. However, various challenges in implementing and expanding off-grid projects continued to surface, including lack of financial resources, skilled manpower and expertise, access to international and regional markets, and lack of technological awareness. The absence of an ancillary market also poses a challenge for post-installation repair and recycling work.
Bhutan has been able to overcome these challenges by securing funds from non-conventional sources, leveraging local skilled personnel and firms, building capacities within the country through online courses and virtual platforms, creating adequate advocacy programmes on renewable energy technologies, and by availing helicopter services to ferry raw materials to project sites.
Ms Dema also mentioned that engaging with the local community and advising them on the attendant benefits were also key to the successful expansion of the use of off-grid solar PV plants.
On behalf of the Philippines, Gaspar G. Escobar, Ju., Chief of Technical Service, Department of Energy, presented the experiences, lessons and challenges in conducting the Green Energy Auction Programme. Gaspar discussed the fiscal and non-fiscal incentives that were being deployed by the Department of Energy to expand the share of renewable energy in the country. The National Renewable Energy Programme 2020-2040 aims to increase the RE share to more than 50% by 2040. The programme has developed a holistic approach that integrates different RE transition pathways and enables RE off-grid strategies and resource-specific programmes.
As a result of creating a conducive environment through the implementation of the Renewable Energy Act and subsequent policies, the cost of RE has declined to result in lower contracted generation rates. The Government took advantage of the low rates to launch the Green Energy Auction Programme in June 2022. The success rate of the auction was 93%, with 18 bidders winning and subsequently generating 1866.13MW RE capacity from one biomass, seven solar, four wind, and six hydropower plants.
Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Philippines have deployed different approaches to achieve their energy needs and transitions towards greater utilisation of RE. The session provided the participants an opportunity to learn from the shared experiences, and to further work on identifying similar solutions for their own countries.