‘An exciting whirlwind’: my first eight weeks with ANGEA
It’s now eight weeks since I joined ANGEA as its inaugural CEO, which seems an appropriate point to reflect on what has happened over the last couple of months, and also what lies ahead.
To start with, after these first couple of months I’m even more excited about the opportunities and challenges of this role – and, more broadly, energy transition in Asia.
I’ve really enjoyed meeting people and having meaningful conversations over the past eight weeks with a variety of important stakeholders across Asia and beyond. It’s clear to me that ANGEA has a key role to play in the energy transition process, bringing government, industry and funding partners together to help affect change and achieve key outcomes.
It’s been a whirlwind of meetings, business cards and discussions but from Europe to Southeast Asia to North America one consistent message has shone through: that it is vitally important nations across Asia have access to an adequate supply of energy at an affordable price. The other big query that has come up in just about every conversation I’ve had – and which is a critical issue for the region ANGEA supports – is whether industry can decarbonise more quickly and cheaply.
Half of the world’s 8 billion people live in Asia and unless countries here can transition away from their reliance on coal and diesel, then it won’t just be the region that fails to meet its emission reductions targets. It will be the world. Asia’s projected growth in electricity consumption over the next decade will outstrip every other region in the world, yet it is also the one that is most reliant on coal to generate power.
With all that in mind, how do governments across Asia decarbonise their power sectors while simultaneously satisfying growing electricity demand and also maintain energy security? It is a question that will shape Asia’s future.
My appointment to the ANGEA role coincided with the 2022 Gastech Conference in Italy, an excellent event at which our board and steering committee were both able to meet in person. Following that I relocated to Singapore (excitingly, the host city for Gastech 2023) and started the process of getting to know our member companies and other stakeholders a little better.
After giving a virtual address to the Asia Green Growth Partnership Ministerial Meeting in late September, I took the opportunity to travel to Thailand to attend and speak at the Japan-Thailand Energy Policy Dialogue Business Forum in October. The event was extremely well attended and my time in Bangkok allowed me to meet with key Thai government officials and energy sector executives.
Southeast Asia has accelerated its decarbonisation and most countries have developed road maps to achieve net zero emissions. During my Bangkok visit I was staggered at how much is happening to develop and deploy decarbonising technologies, both through the ambition of large national companies and also the efforts of smaller start-ups pushing the boundaries of innovation.
While the phasing out of coal and introduction of renewables are sometimes seen as the most obvious decarbonisation pathways, I was very encouraged by the conversations that took place at the Dialogue around natural gas with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and the potential roles of hydrogen, ammonia and methanation. There are also measures like energy efficiency and methane emissions abatement strategies that are proven and readily available today to apply at scale, and which in some cases can pay for themselves.
With bold leadership and the right policy environment, I believe Thailand can be a regional leader within Asia when it comes to low carbon energy solutions – something highlighted in an opinion piece that I was grateful to see published in both The Nation and the Bangkok Post. Solar power is close to grid parity and wind investment is growing, supported by a long long-term net zero strategy built around renewables and natural gas with CCUS.
We realise the Thailand model won’t work everywhere in Asia. Conditions won’t always suit for wind and solar, and renewable expansion can create challenges of its own around ensuring power reliability to prevent intermittency problems, as well as the accessibility of affordable pricing structures that incorporate grid enhancement. That’s where thoughtful policy making comes into play – natural gas with CCUS (or hydrogen or ammonia) can provide the required low carbon baseload capacity affordably and reliably, provided industry gets the right policy signals and enabling framework.
I’m both intrigued and passionate about the possibilities of natural gas and CCUS across Asia. I feel it can become a huge economic opportunity for Asia, either through markets where a price on carbon already exists or those where a value on carbon can be created through different utilisation technologies.
Done right, strengthening energy security and addressing climate change in Asia are two sides of the same coin and this is where I see the biggest opportunities for ANGEA and the energy sector more broadly – sharing knowledge and best practice and working collaboratively with governments to help shape a brighter future.
Returning to my travels, more recently I’ve been in the US, starting with a visit to Washington DC. While the US capital is thousands of kilometres away from Asia, many of the same issues we wrestle with are highly topical there. In discussions with Officials from the US Department of Energy, Department of Commerce and the State Department it was clear that energy security, affordability and sustainability are important subjects for them, and that natural gas is a significant part of the energy solution.
Asia’s energy needs and pathway to a lower carbon future are also more front-of-mind in the US than people might expect. It was great to get a really positive reception from the energy company executives, policy think tanks and trade associations I met with, and I can tell you that the US energy sector is very cognisant of the growing demand for its products in Asia.
After Washington, I travelled to the “energy capital” of Houston, Texas, where I was able to tour the headquarters of key ANGEA member companies and meet the people within them who are working specifically on energy solutions for Asia. I spoke with energy technology specialists from across the spectrum. It was very interesting and educational. Some of the best minds in the energy industry are working hard to solve the energy security, affordability and sustainability issue.
November and December are shaping as busy months for ANGEA. I’ll be speaking at energy events in Indonesia and Australia and also attending a strategic planning session in Japan.
Along the way I’ll continue to engage with the media organisations who will be telling the story of energy transition in Asia. Already I’ve been able to brief Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and Energy Intelligence on ANGEA’s purpose and the state-of-play in the energy sector across Asia.
To the member company representatives and stakeholders who I have been fortunate enough to meet so far, I thank you for your support and the interest you have shown in ANGEA. For those who I haven’t yet had the chance to catch up with, we published a small Q&A recently capturing my early thoughts in the job and some of my background prior to joining ANGEA. I look forward to meeting with you also in due course.