Energy efficiency is the way forward

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Energy Outlook for Asia and the Pacific report says energy efficiency – rather than costly renewables investment – is the way forward to 2035.

In sober reading for wind and solar proponents, the ADB says the US$11.7 trillion needed to keep pace with energy demand across the region up to 2035 in its ‘business-as-usual’ scenario is dwarfed by the $19.9 trillion needed in its ‘alternative’, lower carbon model.

The report concludes: "The estimated annual investments (in the alternative scenario) outweigh the estimated benefits arising from the savings from fossil fuels. This finding suggests that members in Asia and the Pacific should place priority on investments for energy savings with cost-effective options for maximizing energy savings benefits at minimal cost."

If the ADB’s 41 member nations follow the bank’s recommendations, the business-as-usual scenario is predicted to see demand for coal rise 52.8% by 2035 to 3.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), demand for oil up 1.9% per year to 1.97 billion toe, natural gas consumption rise 3.9% annually to 1.46 billion toe and see electricity demand soar to 16.1 TWh in 2035 with CO2 emissions rising from 13.4 billion tonnes in 2010 to 22.1 billion tonnes in 2035.

Under the business-as-usual scenario, renewables will account for only 7.1% of the energy mix across Asia and the Pacific in 2035, versus 15.8% in the alternative model.

Of the projected $19.9 trillion cost of meeting energy demand in the lower-carbon scenario, the report’s authors say $7.3 trillion will come from the demand side costs of advanced energy efficiency technologies for transport, residential, commercial and industrial sectors with $12.6 trillion from the supply side expense of the thermal efficiency improvements needed for advanced coal and natural gas-fired generation as well as from solar, wind and nuclear power costs.