Why Thailand can lead the way in energy transition for South East Asia
With a Thailand delegation preparing to travel to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in early November, it is crucial we reflect on, and learn from, the momentous world events that have disrupted commitments made at the last climate summit in Glasgow less than a year ago.
Since then, the volatility of energy markets around the round world caused by the war in Ukraine and the pandemic have seen many countries forced to stray from climate change plans to keep the lights on.
It is a good time to bring our focus back to basics the need to deliver an energy transition that also meets the unique energy security needs in Asia.
To achieve both takes good public policy, access to secure resources and capital availability to invest in low or zero carbon infrastructure. These issues are at the root of our shared trilemma – balancing energy security, affordability and sustainability to meet low carbon commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
The scale of the energy challenge is larger in Asia than other parts of the world. Countries in Asia need to continue to fuel their economic growth to continue the transformation of the lives of millions of people. At the same time, Asia will decarbonise a regional energy system that relies on fossil fuels for 85 per cent of its energy needs today.
Addressing these challenges needs a collective effort across all parts of society, led by governments and regulators in partnership with industry, communities and other stakeholders. The organisation I lead, the Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association (ANGEA) has been formed to help work alongside these stakeholders and provide useful knowledge and experience of the energy industry through the region’s decarbonization journey.
An immediate issue is the intensifying global competition for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) volumes. Long term policy must recognise the scale and complexity of the energy system and create an enabling environment that encourages investment. Where domestic resource opportunities exist but are not currently available to gas producers, we would urge government to consider energy security as central to economic security and work to enable access to those resources.
Producing and using gas responsibly will be critical to balancing global emissions targets with energy security. The LNG industry is making strong progress to reduce emissions associated with its production and transportation. Regional multilateral financing organisations should make clear their support for responsible gas developments to enable critical investments to move forward.
Beyond LNG, immense infrastructure investments are required in power transmission, carbon capture utilisation and storage, hydrogen and ammonia. These new and emerging technologies will need to be scaled up to achieve mid-century carbon-zero targets. Research, development and deployment must be supported by government and also industry partnerships, such as the Thailand Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) Strategic Consortium.
CCUS will be critical to achieving emissions reduction targets because it enables the decarbonization of industries that are hard to abate. Regionally integrated solutions for CCUS, based on a network of carbon dioxide sources and sinks, would encourage scaling up but they require a regional policy framework to provide legal and regulatory certainty. Connectivity between national systems, whether power or gas, is critical to energy security and Thailand is leading a effort through the Greater Mekong Subregion interconnecting six countries.
During his remarks at COP 26, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also noted that Thailand could accelerate its climate goals with the adoption of new technologies and investment. With the APEC Summit approaching in November, now is the time for leadership across the region with governments and industry working together.
Thailand can lead the way in South East Asia by charting a path for a Bio, Circular and Green (BCG) economy that decarbonises the energy system while providing affordable energy. With bold leadership and the right policy environment, Thailand will be well positioned to become a regional hub for low carbon energy solutions, whether it be in LNG; CCUS; hydrogen; renewables or SMART power grids.
By working collaboratively and sharing our knowledge, we can deliver solutions that meet the climate change imperatives while enabling our economies to grow and our people to thrive.
Paul Everingham is the inaugural CEO of the Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association
This article was first published in The Nation, Thailand, on Friday October 21 and also ran in the Bangkok Post on Wednesday, October 26.