Low-car­bon en­ergy is im­per­a­tive for sus­tain­able, re­silient de­vel­op­ment

The Myanmar Times - - News - NAY HTUN news­room@mm­times.com

MYAN­MAR is at a crit­i­cal junc­ture. The en­ergy choices it makes will have sig­nif­i­cant and long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences.

Mea­sure­ments taken in 2013 re­veal a level of at­mo­spheric CO2 of 400ppm. This level has not been reached for 400,000 years, and the rate of in­crease is faster than in hun­dreds of thou­sands of years. With the adop­tion of the UN Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, there is agree­ment on the im­per­a­tive need for low-car­bon and clean en­ergy as well as the more ef­fi­cient use of natural resources.

The 2015 Draft Myan­mar Na­tional Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Pro­ject states, “Elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion is grow­ing fast in Myan­mar. The peak load de­mand reached 2100MW in 2014, grow­ing on av­er­age 14pc a year in the past five years. Elec­tric­ity short­ages and sup­ply dis­rup­tions re­main preva­lent.”

Oil, gas and coal will be ma­jor sources of en­ergy for the next 30 years. The chal­lenge is to move to­ward lower car­bon emis­sions while en­cour­ag­ing re­new­able and clean en­ergy. Pro­vid­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and en­abling pri­vate­sec­tor in­volve­ment will bring in in­vest­ment, har­ness en­trepreneurial ex­per­tise and ac­cel­er­ate the clos­ing of the en­ergy gap.

Many ben­e­fits ac­crue, in­clud­ing im­prov­ing hu­man health and well-be­ing. Air pol­lu­tion is a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal health prob­lem, linked to about 6.5 mil­lion pre­ma­ture deaths each year.

The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency’s 2016 Spe­cial Re­port on in­vest­ment con­cluded that by 2030, US$48 tril­lion in in­vest­ment will be needed to meet the world’s grow­ing de­mand for en­ergy. An­nual in­vest­ment in re­new­able en­ergy has quadru­pled since 2000.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port Global Trends in Re­new­able En­ergy In­vest­ments, in­vest­ments in re­new­able en­ergy in 2015 to­talled $286 bil­lion and, since 2004, $2.3 tril­lion. Wind, so­lar, biomass and other meth­ods con­trib­uted about 9.1pc of elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion in 2014, com­pared to 8.5pc in 2013.

More ef­fi­cient use of natural resources and de­creas­ing emis­sions will re­duce the need for pol­lu­tion con­trol and clean-up costs. Ev­i­dence shows that cleaner in­door and out­door en­vi­ron­ments in­crease well­be­ing, pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Ro­bust poli­cies to pro­mote low­car­bon clean en­ergy will catal­yse re­search and in­no­va­tion. These in­clude in­creas­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, im­prov­ing light and en­ergy cap­ture, har­vest­ing pho­to­syn­the­sis, cap­tur­ing wind en­ergy more ef­fi­ciently, and al­gal cul­ture farm­ing.

The first in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion was pow­ered by coal. The next will most likely be driven by clean en­ergy cap­tured from bio­chem­i­cal pro­cesses.

In­vest­ing 1pc of GDP in R&D is a tar­get set by many coun­tries: South Korea (3.7pc), Ja­pan (3.4pc), Aus­tralia (2.4pc), Sin­ga­pore (2.4pc) and China (1.7pc) are among the world’s top in­vestors in R&D.

Two-thirds of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion live in ru­ral ar­eas and most work in agri­cul­ture. Re­new­able en­ergy is well suited to ru­ral ar­eas. So­lar, wind, geo­ther­mal, bio en­ergy and mini-hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion pro­vide eq­ui­table avail­abil­ity, en­hance en­ergy se­cu­rity, pro­mote dis­tribu­tive en­ergy, re­duce trans­mis­sion losses, strengthen re­siliency to power out­ages and speed up re­cov­ery.

The avail­abil­ity of re­new­able en­ergy to ru­ral house­holds in­creases learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and longdis­tance ed­u­ca­tion, im­proves health, ex­pands con­nec­tiv­ity and pro­motes “smart” vil­lages.

Myan­mar is not en­cum­bered with past de­vel­op­ment in­fra­struc­ture that is pol­lut­ing and un­sus­tain­able. There is a chance for Myan­mar to be at the fore­front of re­new­able en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and to be­come a leader in clean en­ergy.

Dr Nay Htun founded Green Econ­omy Green Growth Myan­mar As­so­ci­a­tion. He is as­so­ci­ated with lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties in the US, UK and Asia and held the rank of UN as­sis­tant sec­re­tary gen­eral. The views ex­pressed are per­sonal and do not re­flect the poli­cies of the or­gan­i­sa­tions he is as­so­ci­ated with.

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