Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Energy Development in Greater Mekong Subregion

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The Conference on Energy Development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) has been conducted for two days on the 29th and the 30th of September in Phnom Penh. The two-day conference was organized by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and American Embassy to Cambodia, aiming to share ideas, expanding the GMS Market, and finding solutions for the development of the GMS energy sector.

Carol A. Rodley, American Ambassador to Cambodia, said that the two-day conference included speakers from public and private sectors in the United States, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. She said the main objective of the conference will range from understanding energy policies and opportunities in member countries to a case study of energy trading in relationship to the expanding GMS market in the region as well as in the world.

“I am pleased to be hosting the conference on energy development in the Greater Mekong Subregion fresh on the heels of Secretary Clinton’s participation in the first ever Lower Mekong Ministerial Meeting in Thailand. It gives me additional satisfaction to know that after the workshop we have this regional conference on energy in Cambodia,” she said at her opening remarks of the conference. “The energy prices in Cambodia are amongst the highest in Asia and connectivity is one of the lowest, but the government has ambitious plans to expand the country’s electrical production and connectivity,” the Ambassador stated.

She continued to say that the steady supplies of energy will be a critical element of future GMS trade and growth. The GMS-EC (the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation) program envisions regional production and distribution of energy, creating new opportunities for energy related technology producers, distributors, and traders. She added that priorities of the GMS-EC Program include cooperation on developing energy, transportation, telecommunications, tourism, environment, and human resources for expanded business opportunities.

Energy development and climate change are in different stages of development, with some possessing more advanced infrastructure than others, she said, adding that one advantage developing countries have over more developed countries is that they can develop their infrastructure anew, without transitioning through more primitive technologies as the developed countries once did.

“In developing energy infrastructure today, countries must assess a myriad of economic, social, and political factors that were never considered in the past, such as environmental damage and climate change,” Rodley said.

Rodley emphasized that that under the GMS Economic Cooperation program, development of the energy sector in one country will be able to benefit the development of all countries through the most efficient use of the natural resources within the region.

She said that the GMS economies are undergoing multiple transitions: from agriculture to industry and services, and rural to urban migration. These transitions will drive energy demand growth in coming decades. She added that the challenges facing the GMS in the energy sector are not unique: high economic growth of the region is driving the demand for energy whereas almost 50 million people in the GMS lack access to electricity.

She added that GMS energy infrastructure will require billions of dollars of investment if energy supply is to keep pace with energy demand. The good news for GMS countries is that the companies and individuals we have gathered together day have the skills, technologies, and resources to transform the GMS energy sector.

“Almost every country in the world has large-scale domestic sources of renewable energy, the GMS region is no exception. The next generation of electricity is likely to be much cleaner because it must and we will see new technologies redirecting the energy sector into newer, more sustainable directions, through the use of wind, biogas, biomass, geothermal, solar, ocean currents, and other forms of renewable energy,” she said.

She added that to develop and promote the Energy Development in the Greater Mekong Subregion in future, the U.S. Department of State in conjunction with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will host a Conference on Clean Energy at a still undetermined location in Southeast Asia in early next year. The next conference is intended to look more closely at how the U.S. and ASEAN member countries can work together to expand this new energy revolution in Southeast Asia.

Representatives from some of the world’s most well-known publicly traded American companies such as Chevron, GE, AES, Shlumberger, Conoco Phillips, Dupont, and Rockwell Automation as well as scores of other American, Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Chinese, and other energy companies have also attended the conference in Cambodia.

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