The last 18 months have been a landmark period for climate, environment and development negotiation processes, with the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement at COP21.
Meeting rising energy demand and reducing carbon emissions are not competing priorities. As shown by the climate pledges submitted by each nation in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement, countries will choose an energy mix and carbon reduction plan that best suits their needs.
For this reason many countries - particularly developing economies - have identified a role for high efficiency low emission (HELE) coal technologies. These facilities are being built rapidly across the globe and emit 25–33% less CO2 compared to older subcritical technologies. Increasing the efficiency of coal-fired power plants by 1% reduces CO2 emissions by between 2-3%. HELE stations also significantly reduce or eliminate air pollutant emissions, such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, and particulates.
The global coal industry represented by the World Coal Association is committed to ensuring that HELE becomes the default technology choice where appropriate. For this outcome to be realised, however, financial, technological and other related kinds of support will be required. The WCA works to mobilise deployment of HELE through the ‘Platform to Accelerate Coal Efficiency’ (PACE) initiative.
The WCA implements the principles of PACE through activities at both industry and company levels, including through stakeholder workshops. These events bring together major coal producers and users, with government and international agencies, to consider the factors that encourage (or inhibit) the development and wider use of HELE technologies.
The latest of these PACE workshops took place in Jakarta in mid-May and focussed on HELE deployment in the ASEAN region. The workshop was held in collaboration with the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and provided a forum for coal producers and users to engage with finance, technology and policy stakeholders.
The event was also a notable milestone in the PACE delivery programme as alongside the workshop, WCA and ACE released ‘ASEAN’s Energy Equation: the role of low emission coal in driving a sustainable energy future’, a study which quantifies the additional costs and benefits of HELE deployment in the region.
‘ASEAN’s Energy Equation’
The WCA and ACE report was developed as a key deliverable of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016-2025 which identified coal as a key fuel for the region over the long-term. The need to diversify the regional energy mix, rising demand and delivery of affordable, reliable electricity are identified in the paper as the key factors that will drive regional coal use in the coming decades.
With a large fleet of coal-fired power stations in the pipeline, there is an imperative to ensure that the most efficient technology is deployed in order to ensure coal use is consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
According to WCA and ACE analysis, increasing investment in coal-fuelled power generation could reduce emissions by up to 1.3 billion tonnes over the next 20 years. This reduction is equivalent to more than four years of international aviation emissions.
Of equal note, the report considers the emission reduction benefits of HELE deployment in ASEAN compared to renewable deployment in advanced markets. The paper concludes that investing in low emissions coal plants in Southeast Asia is a more effective strategy for reducing emissions than the transition to renewables in Western Europe. In sum, HELE deployment in ASEAN could accelerate the achievement of global climate objectives without sacrificing economic and social development needs in the region.
The Jakarta PACE workshop was an important complement to the conceptual research outcomes of the ACE and WCA paper. In addition to providing a forum for the launch of the report, the conference provided an opportunity for deeper analysis of the challenges and opportunities in ASEAN.
A diverse group of delegates assembled for a two-stage analysis on HELE deployment in the region.
To begin, the morning focussed on accounts from senior national representations charged with deploying cleaner coal technology. Delegates from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia discussed their local interventions to encourage the transition from inefficient coal fuelled power and drive deployment of HELE. While progress is being made and a number of projects are using the technology, speakers identified opportunities for greater action and risks that may inhibit HELE deployment. Finance, access to technologies and greater community acceptance will be critical to maintain the transition toward HELE.
Recognising the opportunities to further HELE deployment, the day continued with a panel discussion with senior stakeholders that are making cleaner coal technology a reality for ASEAN. Representatives discussed finance, technology and policy strategies that could be employed to enhance cleaner coal technology. The panel concluded that regional ambition for HELE deployment must be complemented with supportive international partnerships.
ASEAN’s Energy Equation concludes with a call to action for ASEAN member states governments and international stakeholders. ACE and WCA encourage a commitment to end the use of inefficient coal in favour of HELE technologies. For this action to be realised, however, the international community will need to enhance support, particularly financially. In this space, multilateral development banks will need to play an increased role. Over the coming months, ACE and WCA will work to promote the findings of the report and highlight the role that HELE technology can play for countries in Southeast Asia seeking to meet emission commitments from the Paris Agreement.
A copy of ‘ASEAN’s Energy Equation’ is available to download here