Alternative Energy Costs Hamper Asia's Move To Cut Oil Dependence

The high cost of alternative energy sources and tough environmental standards are among the key hurdles to Asian efforts to diversify away from dependence on imported oil, industry experts said Sept. 13.

As oil prices soared to record levels, coal, nuclear energy, wind, geothermal and hydro-electric power have increased their attractiveness as alternatives for the region to meet its energy needs. But industry experts said that new technologies used to produce alternative fuel while meeting environmental standards on pollution must lead to affordable electricity for them to be widely accepted commercially.

Speaking at an international conference on power generation held in Singapore, Magued Eldaief, president and Asia executive for GE Energy said, "The challenge for us suppliers is to continue to drive down the costs of electricity," said Eldaief. "We fully understand that to drive renewable technology, we have to be able to compete with today's conventional technologies. The reality is that commercial acceptance of new technologies only occur once these technologies achieve a cost of electricity of around five U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour," he added. He added that meeting global environmental standards was another challenge but this could be solved with the use of technology.

Eddie Widiono, head of the state-run Indonesia Electricity Corp., said efforts to increase the use of coal and natural gas in his country were being hampered by funding problems. Despite various initiatives, Widiono said not enough was being done to secure the energy needs of Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest oil producer but which is now a net oil importer. "Being a country with many potential primary energy sources, I must say that potentially we should be better off than other countries but technically there are still a lot of hindrances for us to overcome," he said.

Christine Copley, senior manager of the Britain-based World Coal Institute, said the polluting effects of coal-fired plants on the environment are being addressed through technology and innovation. "The message ... is that coal use need not be incompatible with environmental protection," a report by the institute circulated at the conference said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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