More solar "critical" for Asia’s future growth

Speaking at the opening of the third meeting of the Asian Solar energy Forum, the Asia Development Bank’s (ADB) Xiaoyu Zhao said that the region must change course from its high-growth high-carbon emission growth path. "Asia must manage its energy security and innovate away from the traditional, high-resource, high-carbon development path toward sustainable, low carbon growth."

Zhao was speaking at the forum in Bangkok, Thailand, which brought together 300 government officials, private companies and solar energy experts. At present, the ADB is helping to finance two photovoltaic power plants in Thailand together worth 108 megawatts (MW). Both are expected to be generating electricity later this year.

Many countries in Asia are well situated to house solar power plants having both sunny climates and large areas of land unsuitable for other uses. Furthermore, around 900 million people in developing Asia have no access to electricity or pay very high prices for power generated from fossil fuels. However, large-scale projects have been slow to develop due to difficulties in financing, public policy and industry knowledge.

"Asia could account for half of global (economic) output, trade and investment by 2050," said Zhao and energy demand in the region is expected to almost double by 2030. Less than 0.25 percent of Asia’s electricity comes from solar power at present and Zhao said the aim is to increase this to between three and five percent in the near future. The ADB’s Asia Solar Energy Initiative, launched in May 2010, aims to generate 3,000 MW of solar power capacity by mid-2013 through the development of large capacity solar projects.

The Asia Solar Initiative hopes to take advantage of economies of scale and falling solar industry costs to deliver these large projects. "The initiative is consolidating our efforts to take advantage of the wider adoption of solar technologies resulting from rapid technological advances, larger scales of production and lower production costs," explained Zhao.

The ADB places renewable energy as one of its highest priorities and invested $1.8 billion in clean energy in 2010. From 2013 it aims to invest $2 billion per year in renewable energy projects.