Simple, yet practical
At the April 10 panel on low-carbon energy, panelists agreed low-carbon commitment provided a rare opportunity for nations to look for a new growth engine while boosting domestic consumption.
Rob Dudley, Executive Director and Executive Vice President of BP Group, defined "low-carbon energy" as inclusive of low-carbon production, low-carbon consumption aimed to improve efficiency of energy use and developments of all kinds of alternative energies such as solar power, wind power and biofuel—all aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions.
But given the fact that most nations in Asia are export-driven developing countries, Asian countries have to consider what are the most practical, efficient and economical technologies for them to pursue low-carbon growth.
"Breakthroughs in clean-coal technologies or technologies in improving the efficiency of coal-fired power generation will greatly contribute to cutting carbon dioxide emissions as coal will remain the dominant energy for countries like India, Indonesia and China," said India's Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh during the discussion. "It's only too romantic to think Asian countries with huge populations could rely on solar and wind powers."
Ramesh headed India's first ministerial delegation to the BFA's annual conference this year.
Fu Chengyu, President of the China National Offshore Oil Corp., said the most important aspect in pursuing low-carbon growth in China is protecting resources, saving energy and changing lifestyles.
"There is plenty of room for Chinese companies to make improvements in this regard, as China's current per-unit emission is three times that of the United States and five times that of Japan," Fu said.
Tulsi Tanti, Chairman and Managing Director of Suzlon Energy Ltd. of India, said it's also very important to improve the efficiency of electricity transmission and distribution. "We have made many efforts to minimize waste in energy production, transmission and consumption," Tanti said. Suzlon Energy, one of the world's biggest wind-turbine markers, opened an office and start production in China in 2003.
Kim Fausing, COO of Danfoss A/S of Denmark, said China would fulfill its carbon reduction commitment mainly through improving energy efficiency rather than through developing renewable energies.
"Better than producing new energy is the energy you don't use at all, and our solution is simple: just apply technologies already available at reasonable costs to reduce the demand for energy dramatically," Fausing told Beijing Review.
Fidel Valdez Ramos, Chairman of BFA and former president of the Philippines, called for a change in lifestyle in order to save on energy used in cooling, heating and lighting. Ramos also proposed casual clothes for delegates at the BFA event.
This proposal was echoed widely from the panel. "Why do we refuse a truly low-carbon lifestyle? We can't realize the goal of a green economy if Asian countries follow the excessive consumption of Western countries during the process of urbanization," Ramos said. "I also believe the transportation sector will make the greatest contribution to energy saving in one or two decades, if we come up with clean transportation options."
Ramesh and other delegates pointed out the market potentials of waste-to-energy technologies in Asia, as well.
"Waste-to-energy technologies are particularly useful for developing countries and we can turn large quantities of solid waste into electricity, biofuel or other forms of energy," Ramesh said.
While technology is available, decision makers from different nations need to introduce incentives, build the market infrastructure and promote cooperation between the public and private sectors to allow related technologies to multiply and make their commercial use possible on a large scale and at cheaper costs, delegates said.
"The technologies all Japanese companies are using in their air conditioners, heating units, heat pumps and refrigerators are available, but we have to find a way to multiply their use here. A high production volume will help create competitive costs," Fausing said.
Ramesh echoed Fausing's opinion. "Technology and large-scale application are keys to the success of a low-carbon pursuit, whether it comes to coal, nuclear energy or renewable energy," Ramesh said.
But the key to commercializing these low-carbon solutions is how the government can cooperate with companies, said Tanti. "Different nations have to invest in relevant technologies, offer long-term policy and legislative guidance and create a market for fair competition," he said. "If all the infrastructure is in place, I think Asia can take the lead in developing renewable energies and promote sustainable business models for other countries."
While creating an environment conducive to innovations of private companies, the public sector must also invest and promote relevant research because, "concerns about fair competition, accessibility of technologies, as well as intellectual property rights protection will arise if private companies control technologies of low-carbon solutions that will be pertinent to a nation's future competitiveness," said Ramesh.