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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

02 November 2020

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address the 2020 Global Energy Interconnection (Asia) Conference. I am pleased to collaborate with Global Energy Interconnection and Development Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), along with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on this important event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the socio-economic aspects of our lives, compounded by the longer-term climate change crisis. This ongoing crisis is an important reminder for taking concrete policy action to steer sustainable energy transition for an inclusive, resilient and low-carbon development in Asia and the Pacific.

Our region is at the front lines of the fight against climate emergency. This region is home to around 60 per cent of the world’s population and contributes 60 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

A recent ESCAP study shows about 200 million people remains without access to electricity. Of the total energy consumed in our region, only 8 per cent is produced by modern renewable resources.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, member States must rapidly increase the share of renewable energy, ensure universal access to reliable and clean electricity.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I very much welcome the recent commitments from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea to achieve carbon neutrality in the coming decades that will shape the path for low-carbon development in our dynamic region.

However, renewable energy goals in this region are currently fragmented. Targets are national and are too often developed in isolation. Renewable energy projects rely on supply chains that have been significantly disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, many large-scale renewable energy projects are delayed or on hold. Moreover, the decline in oil and gas prices have changed the cost-benefit calculations of many projects both planned and under development. 

We must work together to get back on track and to accelerate progress on renewable energy deployment. To do this, we need to cooperate to rebuild our supply chains, and to coordinate our supportive forward-looking policies like renewable energy targets and carbon pricing.

In this regard, may I highlight a couple of practical policy suggestions for closer collaboration within the broader framework of the SDG7.

There is a need to coordinate our renewable energy deployment policies as appropriate under the regional and subregional socio-economic context.

We should connect our power systems together—consistent with sustainability considerations—so that we can share clean energy resources with each other, wherever possible.

Furthermore, it should be highlighted that, often, places with the highest potential for renewables deployment are far from demand centres. Energy connectivity, properly formulated and guided, is a tool that can help us rapidly increase the share of renewables in the power systems in a resilient and affordable manner.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Through sustainable regional connectivity, we can advance our common agenda for energy development to achieve carbon-neutral world by 2050. Countries with limited domestic potential for renewable energy can tap into low-carbon energy resources elsewhere in the region.

With the above background, allow me to focus on policy directions for your further considerations and deliberations.

First is political will and commitment. There is a scope and possibility to support increased energy interconnection. Government priorities can explore the opportunities for, and potential benefits of, regional and subregional power connectivity and trade, while recognising domestic market conditions.

Second is to focus on regulatory reform.  Government policies can focus on easing investment restrictions, increasing fair competition legislations, and improving trade facilitation policies to increase transboundary connectivity and trade.

Third is to enhance technical capacity. With coordinated planning, and benchmarked technical standards, along with stable and reformulated legal and regulatory frameworks, decisionmakers can facilitate the potential to raise power trade.

Fourth is to consider economic and financial implications. Governments need to identify appropriate energy pricing strategy by focusing on the scope of subsidies, cost-recovery mechanisms, and environmental co-benefits within their national socio-economic framework.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to note that ESCAP has already collaborated with GEIDCO and the ASEAN Centre for Energy to prepare a joint report: Energy interconnection in ASEAN for sustainable and resilient societies. We will continue to leverage our partnership.

As a part of ESCAP’s regional advisory services, we will be launching soon a capacity building and training activities to support connectivity policies for the regulators and other stakeholders in ASEAN.

ESCAP, together with member States, have also developed a draft regional roadmap to support sustainable connectivity of power systems in the region.

We are committed to act as a catalyst for action – as an accelerator for ongoing sustainable regional connectivity efforts, and a bridge to future ones to build back better in the post-COVID-19 era.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you a very successful Conference.

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