• ASEAN STILL PLAGUED BY ELECTRICITY LACK

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    Despite the wider of spread growth and more advanced technology seen in the next years, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said that about 9 percent, or 63 million people within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will still lack electricity and access to electricity by 2030.

    The PIDS research paper released last week, titled “Energy Market Integration and Energy Poverty in Asean,” stated that there are “more than 127 million people [who]lack access to electricity while at least 228 million still rely on traditional biomass for cooking and lack access to modern cooking facilities” in Southeast Asia.

    The study cited the 2012 International Energy Agency (IEA) survey which examined Asean households in 2010. The survey showed that the Philippines ranked third in countries in Asean with high numbers of households without access to proper electricity, having only 83-percent electrification rate which translates to a total of 16 million persons without access to electricity. Singapore and Brunei’s electrification rates are 100 percent, and Malaysia’s 99 percent.

    The Philippines followed Indonesia and Myanmar, that only had 73 percent and 49 percent electrification rate, as well as 63 million and 26 million persons without access to electricity, respectively.

    The PIDS study also showed that the Philippines is among the developing Asian countries that still relied on traditional biomass for cooking, with 50 percent of the population, or 47 million Filipinos still using the traditional method. Other developing Asian countries resorting to traditional biomass to cook include India with 66 percent (772 million), Bangladesh with almost their entire nation of 91 percent (149 million), Pakistan with 64 percent (111 million), Indonesia with 55 percent (128 million) and Vietnam with 56 percent (49 million).

    The researchers said in the study that these countries were slower in terms of electrification because the “growth of electricity production is relatively lower than economic growth.”

    “[It is also] due to high fees for connection to the power grid and/or expensive monthly tariffs, poor households cannot obtain benefits from the power grid extension. Third, rural electrification programs are not sustainable—due to their low capacity to manage and adoption of inappropriate technology, many households in rural areas find themselves back in the dark after obtaining electricity for a few months,” the researchers said.

    The IEA also cited the existing Asean Energy Market Integration (AEMI) that focuses on energy cooperation among Southeast Asian countries in line with the Asean Economic Community to be launched in 2015.

    “At the macro level, energy market integration can contribute to economic growth and development by facilitating the catching up of less developed economies to those more developed,” IEA said.

    “However, this will not be possible without addressing the issue energy poverty or increasing energy access, as lack of access to modern energy services is a serious hindrance to economic and social development, and must be overcome if the United Nations Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved,” the agency added.

    The study said that the integration of Asean governments on energy will allow them to “easily access the energy policy challenges that face any country,” like energy supply and demand security, economic efficiency on energy, social equity to affordable energy, and reduced emissions of pollutants.

    Given the energy and electricity concern to be addressed, the researchers recommended the identification and dissemination of details and the core problem in the energy sector, to be able to come up with estimations and acquire “investment requirements for achieving universal energy access by 2030.” The researchers also recommended the study of other financing options for energy.

    “[Countries should also] start a collaborative research project to investigate the best practices in promoting rural electrification programs,” the study said.

    The research was conducted by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Adoracion Navarro; Maxensius Tri Sambodo, researcher of Indonesian Institute of Sciences Economic Research Center; and Jessie Todoc, Philippines program manager of Southeast Asia Energy Access and Alternative Energy.

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