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Today, more than 700 million people in the region have no access to electricity, even though electricity demand in Southeast Asia alone is set to triple by 2040. With the threat of climate change in the picture, world leaders and international organisations have recognised the need to ensure access to energy for all, in addition to curbing the ill effects of widespread environmental dangers.
Environmental deterioration due to pollution, deforestation, and land degradation has been increasing in the wake of industrial revolution and rapid urbanisation growth in developing nations. This is exacerbated by a dependence on fossil fuels, which has become the linchpin of economic growth in these countries in the past decade.
Asia, the region with the highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions, has the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of people. Governments in the region have recognised near-future implications of climate change and expressed stronger political will to re-appraise their approach by implementing sustainable and more secure energy policies; this in addition to the use of renewable energy resources that have a lower environmental impact and are almost infinite in supply.
Promote community participation towards renewables
Now, it is time for countries, organisations, and corporations to expedite the development process toward a sustainable future with renewable energy sources. Through years of involvement and expertise in the area of sustainability, it is Schneider Electric’s ethos to help people access reliable, clean, and affordable energy. This commitment comes with a unique focus on habitants in isolated, rural areas where energy poverty is still rife, and ironically where electrification rates are lowest.
Further to providing clean and sustainable energy solutions for communities, we believe in promoting community participation, and supporting the notion that significant effort is required in strengthening local capacity to manage and service energy access solutions, especially for those living in remote areas.
ADB found that most of the successful case studies shared a common thread – communities reacted positively to renewable energy systems with very high payback rates, while local households or village leaders even operated the technology themselves. One such success story is a government-funded project in Indonesia. In 2016, Schneider Electric worked with Indonesia’s Directorate General of Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation and other government partners to provide over 250 villages and 37,500 households with electricity, through 100 per cent renewables. Not only does this eliminate their dependency on diesel – a highly polluting source of energy – but the off-grid solar and battery storage systems allow them access to energy around the clock, while containing costs.
Engage the youth for a future-ready world
As energy demand and population are set to grow in this region, there is an urgent need to improve the efficiency of solutions and effect real change in the long run. On top of continued development in innovation and technology, today’s youths are the world’s greatest assets to accelerate the journey toward a green and sustainable future.
To further our initiatives in Indonesia, the Schneider Foundation and Schneider Electric recently announced a partnership with the Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia and the French Ministry of National Education, to improve the quality and skills of electrical experts in the country. Supported by a €1.5 million ($1.85 million) grant from the Schneider Foundation, the partnership has set a common goal to develop an international class curriculum and educational system that link the academic world to industry needs, and help prepare over 1,500 Indonesian students to work in the electricity sector every year from 2018.
With these initiatives in place, we expect to see success and longevity in the use of renewable energy, as well as strong community ownership and effective participation through labour, decision making, and planning.
Access to energy starts with collaboration
The world has established that energy is crucial for shaping a sustainable and equitable future, as well as for combating poverty and driving human development. While targeted initiatives including Sustainable Energy for All, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement drive a universal framework to achieve shared goals and commitments, we believe that it is also the responsibility of corporations that have the necessary resources and innovations to make decisions in the direction of clean energy development.
Schneider Electric’s commitment to promoting sustainable development and providing safe and clean access to energy is in its DNA. Together with our employees and sponsors from our partners and customers from Asia Pacific, we have contributed to providing over five million people with access to energy in rural communities over the past seven years. And it does not stop there – our goal is to reach 50 million people within the next 10 years.
By working with communities, governments, and corporations, we have the power to bring safety and security to people, improving productivity and living standards whilst lessening reliance on fossil fuels for the benefit of our environment. Now more than ever, we need to work together to empower these communities with access to safe, reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy, as well as training, that will foster safer and cleaner living environments.
By Tommy Leong, President, East Asia and Japan, Schneider Electric