Powering Change in Asia

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″][mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]W[/mk_dropcaps]eaving through the urban maze of Manila, Philippines — a city with 40 times the population density of Toronto — three-wheeled vehicles and converted U.S. Army jeeps are abundant. Tourists collect snapshots of these brightly coloured tuk-tuks and jeepneys as they navigate through the clogged streets, their faded tarp coverings announcing the name of drivers and companies, personal slogans and prayers. They act as taxis and buses, as well as delivery vehicles, moving people and goods around in a cloud of diesel smoke.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″]Like many countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has a fast-growing economy (7.2 per cent in 2013) with an extremely young population (more than half the country is younger than 25). The projected economic boom as this generation enters their working prime is expected to manifest in a quadrupling of the country’s CO2 emissions in the next 25 years. And the Philippines’ energy situation is in many respects representative of the challenges faced throughout the Asia-Pacific region.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][mk_image src=”http://www.energy-exchange.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/A72BE4-copy.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”475″ crop=”false” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” style=”“simple-style“” desc=”PHOTO: © STOCK CONNECTION BLUE/ALAMY” caption_location=”outside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″ title=”Traffic streams along Manila Bay in Manila, Philippines.”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″]The tricycles alone in the Philippines are estimated to account for two-thirds of the air pollution generated by the country’s transportation sector, which in turn makes up a third of total emissions. In an attempt to slow the growth of that pollution, a new program is replacing some of the 3.5 million noisy gas-guzzlers with electric models. Created by the Asian Development Bank, the project is expecting to put 100,000 of the new vehicles on the road by 2017. This is good news for the drivers of the new vehicles: those who’ve already switched have seen their net incomes double after they cut the cord to the pump.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]The iconic fossil fuel-powered jeepneys are seeing their dominance disintegrate, too. In Manila alone there are 55,000 of the old army trucks. But electric vehicle distributor Global Electric Transport plans to replace half of them with its COMET, an electric vehicle with the same passenger capacity. One of the city’s transportation companies, Pasang Masda, has signed up for 10,000 COMETs to be delivered by 2016, a GET spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal in March 2014. The new vehicles will help the small oil-poor country economically by reducing its reliance on the high-cost of fossil fuel: the Philippines imported $13-billion worth of oil and petroleum products in 2012. To reduce this burden, electric vehicles are now considered a priority investment area by the Philippine government, making them eligible for special incentives to bring the cost of such vehicles in line with similar fossil fuel-powered ones.

Electric three- and four-wheelers may be a common sight on the roads of the Philippines in the coming years, and there, as well as elsewhere, electric motorbikes and scooters are about to catch on, too. Nepal has one of the highest gas prices of any Asian country, so saving fuel is a serious priority in a nation with an average annual income of just over $2,200. Electric bikes are also a hit with lower import tariffs, giving them another edge in the marketplace. A Japanese company, Terra Motors, has stepped up with a scooter selling for just $180 that gets 45 kilometres on a full charge. Five hundred bikes have already driven off the lot at a test dealership in Kathmandu, Nepal.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”18″ align=”left”]Nepal has one of the highest gas prices of any Asian country, so saving fuel is a priority in a nation with an average annual income of just over $2,200.[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″]This replacement of fossil fuel-powered vehicles with electric versions is only one part of the energy system puzzle, however. The Philippines relies heavily on coal, natural gas and oil for electricity production (38.7, 26.9 and 5.8 per cent, respectively), meaning that more than 70 per cent of the electricity powering the new vehicles is coming from fossil fuels. Burning coal releases more CO2 and particulate matter than gasoline, so in some cases, the net effect will actually be an increase in pollution, although most of that pollution will be generated outside major cities. (Of course, all these energy sources contribute to climate change.)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_image src=”http://www.energy-exchange.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/DH5JFY-copy.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”942″ crop=”false” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” desc=”PHOTO: © IMAGEBROKER/ALAMY” caption_location=”outside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″ title=”A study conducted in rural Bangladesh found that installing solar panels resulted in longer work or study hours.”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″]These energy challenges exist across the Asia-Pacific region, where coal, oil and natural gas accounted for 89 per cent of energy production in 2006. In these countries, driving an electric car is more or less equal in emissions to driving one powered by gasoline. And, like most Asian countries, the Philippines is planning on expanding its coal production over the coming years, with generous tax exemptions for coal operations spurring the construction of 25 new coal-fired plants by 2020.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]Long distances between power plants and the end-users mean serious losses along the way, in both electricity (energy is lost to conductor resistance in power lines) and replacement costs when overburdened lines hit trees or fall. Progress has been made in transmission technology, however: with the Asian market specifically in mind, materials manufacturer 3M developed transmission cables that weigh less and can carry more power. This saves greatly on losses over distance, and makes it easier to replace lines in crowded areas where homes are squeezed into every available space, including alleys occupied by transmission towers. Meanwhile, as part of its larger, Regional Energy Security, Efficiency and Trade (RESET) program, the U.S. government is investing 15 million in the Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission project (CASA-1000) to create an international energy grid between countries in Central and South Asia, including Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the hopes of stabilizing energy access across the region.[/vc_column_text][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”dark” icon=”moon-next” url=”/powering-change-asia/2/” target=”_self” align=”right” fullwidth=”false” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″]Next Page[/mk_button][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]