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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

26 October 2020

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,


It is my pleasure to address this Special Session: Regional interconnectivity in the low carbon energy transition at the Singapore International Energy Week 2020.


This Forum provides a unique opportunity to bring industry leaders for discussing critical issues of inclusive energy future in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.


At the outset, let us use this opportunity to highlight that the Asia-Pacific region’s lack of progress on environmental sustainability is striking. Over 200 million people, around 5% of the region’s population, are deprived of access to electricity.


With the onslaught of the twin crises of COVID-19 and climate change, member States are experiencing enormous pressures on their socio-economic conditions. The pandemic is an important reminder for leaders and policymakers for taking immediate action to steer sustainable energy transition in our region. There is a clear case for a swift transition from the grey economy to the green economy by creating pathways for an inclusive, resilient and low-carbon development.


Ladies and gentlemen,


The COVID-19 crisis has unveiled several issues for consideration in energy sector.


There has been a dramatic drop in total energy demand, including for electricity, due to the crisis.  The share of renewable energy in power systems is still low. Furthermore, the share of emissions-intensive generation must be lowered due to falling operating costs and increasing priority access to the grid.


As member States work towards raising the climate change ambitions, especially the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), the significance of the renewable energy sources in our power systems is central.  


For example, exports of hydroelectric and wind power from the Nordic region has reached a record high of 6.3 Terawatt-hour (TWh), displacing higher cost coal generation in other parts of Europe. This could result in, along with measures of lockdown in cities and industries, an expected decline in global CO2 emissions by 8%, or nearly 2.6 Gigatons (Gt), to the lowest level in a decade.


Ladies and gentlemen,


This background sets the stage to consider the following question. How do we, together, ensure that a return to normal life does not lead to a return to higher carbon emissions in the post-COVID-19 pandemic?


Today, use of modern renewables has been highly concentrated in the power sector, with hydropower accounting for three-quarters of the region’s renewable electricity output. So, Governments need to increase the use of renewables, such as wind and solar, in transportation sector and heating in their efforts for energy transition.


The share of modern renewables in total final energy consumption was around 8 per cent in 2017 in the Asia- Pacific region.  According to ESCAP analysis, under the current policies scenario its share will grow to 14 per cent by 2030. But, under the SDG 7 scenario, the share is required to reach 22 per cent. Under the more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) scenario, it will require modern renewables to grow to 35 per cent by 2030.


As the region is moving to decarbonize, it is critical to keep in mind that the current socio-economic crisis will not last long. Indeed, we must focus on low carbon energy transition that will enable our energy systems to become resilient and greener.


Ladies and gentlemen,


Allow me to highlight the importance of the national SDG 7 roadmap. We need to consider all of the policies and technologies available to accelerate or work  towards implementing SDG 7, the goal of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.


Our recent study on SDG 7 highlights several policy solutions for expanding access, increasing the share of renewables, and increasing energy efficiency in Asia and the Pacific. Energy connectivity, when properly guided, can help us rapidly increase the share of renewables in our power systems in a resilient and affordable manner.


In this context, regions with a high potential for renewables development are often far from demand centres. Tapping into these regions, by interconnecting power systems across one or more borders, can allow for faster and less expensive decarbonization that relying on local sources alone.


Energy connectivity increases power system diversity and resilience, which can improve security of supply and make it easier to integrate variable renewable power like wind and solar PV.


Ladies and gentlemen,


Going forward, to take full advantage of connectivity, more cross-border transmission lines are needed to enable the best possible use of these lines through efficient power trade. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are already trading power on bilateral basis.


There is great potential among these to up-grade systems to enable even greater power trading, including on a multilateral basis across wide geographical areas such as in ASEAN.


The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is fully committed to act as a catalyst for regional action that steer ongoing connectivity efforts, and a bridge to future ones. 


Together with member States and all stakeholders, we are ensuring building back better to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.


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

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