Powering green growth in Asia: An interview with Asia Clean Energy Coalition’s Suji Kang

The Climate Group

Climate Group’s Asia Action Summit returns in 2024 – this time in Seoul, South Korea on 21 May. This year, we’re focused on powering green growth in Asia, putting a spotlight on the benefits of decarbonisation across Asia’s economies.

It’s vital to speed up the transition in the region – four of the top five fossil fuel importing countries are in Asia, and the decarbonisation of the region’s energy production and steel manufacturing is critical to global climate goals, as well as offering enormous avenues for green growth.

Ahead of our second Asia Action Summit, we sat down with Suji Kang, Program Director of the Asia Clean Energy Coalition (ACEC), to discuss some of the big questions in Asia’s transition to net zero, all of which will be central themes of our upcoming conference in Korea.

Founded by Climate Group, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), ACEC brings together world-leading renewable energy buyers in Asia to shift renewable energy policy in Asian markets, in collaboration with sellers and financiers. An expert on Asia’s clean energy transition, here are Suji’s thoughts on what lies ahead at our summit and in Asia’s net zero journey.

In Asia, what opportunities does the net zero transition bring?

“The net zero transition in Asia opens an incredible window of opportunity for investment. According to Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm, Asia Pacific investments in renewable energy generation are expected to reach USD$1.3 trillion by 2030. This monumental figure not only underscores the financial potential of the transition to net zero but also highlights a growing commitment to sustainable and clean energy sources in Asia. This will boost further innovation in green technologies, which in turn will bring economic growth in Asia.”

How will ramping up renewables drive decarbonisation in Asia?

“Accelerating the amount and accessibility of renewable energy is key to decarbonising Asia, and will lead to considerable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing corporate procurement of renewable electricity has a particularly positive impact on grids as it drives a powerful chain reaction. Corporate consumers meet their net zero and energy needs with clean energy; developers receive clear guarantees and incentives to increase capacity; and regional grids gain from the added renewable capacity, all without placing extra financial burdens on taxpayers.”

“Achieving the full green growth potential of this transition requires joint efforts and, crucially, strategic policy changes.”

Suji Kang, Program Director, Asia Clean Energy Coalition

What are the risks of Asia not advancing this agenda?

“Not advancing the renewable energy agenda poses significant economic risks for Asia. The US, Europe and China are investing heavily in the green economy and countries that don’t are at risk of falling behind. The potential for corporate investment in renewables is immense, and as more companies around the world prioritise renewable electricity, countries that lag behind in facilitating this transition face the risk of economic downturns. It’s imperative for Asian governments to seize the momentum behind clean energy demand and investment, by encouraging corporate procurement of renewable electricity through their policies.”

Why is decarbonisation across the economy, including in steel production, important?

“It’s crucial for mitigating climate change, with sectors like steel production playing a pivotal role – particularly in Asia. With some 70% of global steel produced in the region, Asia’s steelmaking accounts for around 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions each year. Steelmaking in South Korea accounts for nearly 40% of the country’s industrial emissions. The World Economic Forum highlights the importance of transitioning to cleaner production technologies in steel manufacturing, to cut down on emissions, to align with global sustainability goals and to meet consumer demand for greener products. Innovations in green steel production, including the use of renewable electricity and green hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, can drastically reduce emissions from one of the world’s most carbon-intensive production processes. By adopting sustainable practices, the steel industry can contribute to a broader economic decarbonisation, showcasing how traditional, carbon intensive sectors can transform into leaders in the fight against climate change.”

What is your one key message to policymakers in Asia ahead of this year’s Asia Action Summit?

“Collaboration between the private and public sectors is essential for a successful transition to net zero in Asia. Achieving the full green growth potential of this transition requires joint efforts and, crucially, strategic policy changes. By working together on overcoming the current challenges and establishing supportive policy frameworks, we can pave the way for a sustainable and energy-secure future for the region.”

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