South East Asia coal use to triple – IEA

Bleak analysis suggests regional leaders invest in energy efficiency and ditch lavish subsidies to limit climate damage


Manila (Pic: travel oriented/flickr)

By Thet Htoo Aung

Fossil fuel use in South East Asia could spike 80% by 2040 despite nascent plans to roll out wind, solar and hydro projects in the region, the International Energy Agency has warned.

Without more policies to encourage energy efficiency and renewables, coal use could triple between 2011 and 2035, accounting for around 30% of global growth.

Nearly a quarter of the region’s 600 million citizens still lack regular access to electricity, leading the IEA to predict “considerable further growth in demand” for power.

The share of renewables in the energy mix could also fall as people move to cities and start using grid electricity instead of biomass for cooking and heating.

Energy related CO2 emissions from the region, which includes Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Indonesia, could double, hitting 2.3 gigatonnes by 2035.

The headline figures – which paint a bleak picture for those working to slow greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous levels of climate change – are based on existing policies.

An estimated 75% of economic potential of energy efficiency is likely to be untapped by 2035, says the study, while 50% of the regional coal power plant fleet is on course to be more polluting sub-critical types.

Lower demand and more efficient plants could reduce coal use 25%, while tougher industrial and car regulations would reduce coal and oil gas 10%.

“If the region’s coal-fired power plants were as efficient as those in Japan today, their fuel use would be one-fifth lower, alongside substantially reduced carbon emissions and local air pollution,” said the study.

Fossil fuel subsidies, which are likely to top US$50 billion in 2015, also need to be scaled back said the IEA, as they are “depriving energy companies of the revenues needed for new investment”.

Regional anger over cross-border fuel smuggling in small fishing vessels could encourage governments to boost these cuts, it added.

The Philippines government estimates it loses $1 billion in tax revenues a year due to illegal sales of foreign fuel inside its borders.

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