Renewable energy offers major solution to energy access challenges in Asia-Pacific, says UN regional head

Singapore (ESCAP News) – Asia-Pacific is driving the global shift to renewable energy which can address energy access challenges faced by countries in the region, underscored the head of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today at the Singapore International Energy Week.
“New ideas, technological advancements and innovative market-driven financing solutions are instilling confidence that universal energy access in the region is achievable within this generation,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, in her keynote address at the inaugural Energy Access Forum, jointly organized by ESCAP and the Energy Market Authority of Singapore.
Technologies such as solar power, mini-grids, hybrid systems, biogas and micro hydropower are also poised to make an impact for energy access in the region. “Technological shifts have increased the viability of decentralized power options, in many cases offering lower costs than grid-extensions to remote locations,” said Dr. Akhtar, further calling on stronger collaboration with the private sector to take advantage of these trends and scale up efforts to ensure that universal energy access is achieved.
Dr. Akhtar highlighted that while remarkable progress in the region has improved energy access in recent years, nearly half a billion people in Asia and the Pacific still lack access to electricity, with 350 million of them in South Asia alone. “Universal energy access through electricity and clean cooking fuels is a prerequisite for economic development, and essential for basic human wellbeing, equity and dignity,” she added.
The appetite for economic development and urban progress, coupled with climate change concerns and the development of more efficient energy technologies, is driving change among consumers and energy industries. The Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a producer and provider of most of the world’s renewable energy technology, with investment in renewables reaching $160 billion in 2015, or over half the global total.
The Energy Access Forum, building on the outcome of the G20 Energy Ministerial Meeting in Beijing earlier this year, brought together both public and private stakeholders in the energy sector to discuss enabling policies, technological advancements and innovative business models relating to energy access.
Dr. Akhtar also participated at the Singapore Energy Summit on 24 October where she shared her insights on finding the balance between energy access and sustainable growth in this increasingly expanding and urbanizing region.