UN: Time to get serious with renewable energy investment

by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic credit: Sarawak Energy Bhd

IT IS time to get serious with renewable energy (RE) investment as it is proven to be commercially viable, according to the United Nations (UN).

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh (picture) said currently, the global energy investment is falling short of the mark that would potentially derail the sustainable development goal (SDG) No 7 — which is to ensure access to affordable and clean energy to the people by 2030.

Yeoh said RE like solar power, wind and renewable hydropower should be leveraged as they are proven to be commercially viable, cost-competitive and deployable at large scale.

“They solve our energy trilemma of achieving sustainability, reliability and affordability.

“However, current global energy investments are falling short of the mark. At US$514 billion (RM2.14 trillion) a year, the current investments are a far cry from the US$1.3 trillion to US$1.4 trillion needed to achieve SDG 7 by 2030,” she said at the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum 2019 in Kuching, Sarawak yesterday.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to 60% of the world’s population, accounting for more than half of the global energy consumption where the majority of it comes from fossil fuels.

Yeoh said energy choices made in the Asia-Pacific region will impact energy security and environmental sustainability on the global level.

“As economies and populations grow, especially in developing countries in places like South-East Asia, global energy demand will continue to increase.

“Our current energy use is the main contributor to climate change, producing around two-thirds of global greenhouse gases,” she said “The good news is that the Asia-Pacific region has vast RE potential, and the region possesses significant knowledge and expertise on renewable,” Yeoh added.

Yeoh believes it is high time for countries in the region to “raise the bar”, invest in the global energy transition and scale up efforts towards RE.

“Clean energy investments are cheaper than the cost of climate change and they make sense,” she said, adding that RE sector has created more than 11 million jobs in 2018.

“Investing in RE boosts the economy, creating millions of sustainable Jobs,” Yeoh added.

Additionally, to ensure the success of UN SDG 7, UNDP is implementing close to 200 sustainable energy projects in over 100 countries.

“Over the past two decades, UNDP has mobilised over US$1 billion in grant financing leveraging close to US$6 billion in co-financing from private and public sources,” she said.

Yeoh stressed that this global vision should not be shouldered partially on certain organisations or countries.

She acknowledged that achieving a zero-carbon emission and climate-resilient future may not be an easy task. But the move is still necessary and the goal is still possible to be achieved.

“Most of the developing world is not as fortunate. Although all the technologies exist, life without electricity is still a reality for about 840 million people around the globe.

“Some three billion people around the world still rely on polluting and unhealthy fuels for cooking including firewood. That’s unsustainable and unacceptable,” Yeoh said.

Based on the International Energy Agency’s latest report, energy consumption worldwide grew by 2.3% in 2018 — nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010. This led to a 1.7% increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

The report also stated that generally, cities produce three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and consume over two-thirds of the energy supply.

By 2050, two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas, with nearly 90% of the growth in urban population occurring in Asia and Africa.