Asia's power starvation puts fast-track solutions on the menu
Having just returned from Bangkok where POWER-GEN Asia marked its 20th anniversary, I was struck by how different the power debates in Asia are framed from those in Europe.
In Europe, power is an issue kicked about by politicians who are secure in the knowledge that the lights in even the remotest parts of their countries will turn on at the flick of a switch, where even the poorest and/or most remote parts of a region have access to electricity.
This blanket energy coverage allows policymakers to be able to pick over the rights and wrongs of opting for a particular type of power generation, be it nuclear, coal or gas, and put the discussion in a climate change context.
There is no such luxury in Asia. Vast areas have no electricity at all and the region has a rising middle class that wants to display this new standing in society by buying the trappings that go with it – electrical items.
“This region is not power hungry – it is power starved,” said Arun Sen, chief executive of Singapore-based Lanco Power. “The rising middle class has risen and said that they want power and they want it now. We have got to give the people what they want.” He said that means giving people the “power today that should have been delivered yesterday”.
Jacob Klimstra, a consultant with Wartsila, said that “electrical power creates social power”, and nowhere in the world is that more true right now than in Asia.
The grey-area debates over energy in Europe have no place in the stark black-and-white needs of Asia, and the region is getting on with providing power with an impressive decisiveness.
Once it has provided that power, it will nuance it, perhaps phasing in renewables. And if Europe is still dithering about what to do next, when to do it and even whether to do it at all, the Asian power players will make their move.