APEC energy ministers set to meet in Japan

Energy ministers from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, along with representatives of the International Energy Agency, will meet in Japan later this week to discuss ways of ensuring a stable supply of energy for the region.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, June 16 -- Energy ministers from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, along with representatives of the International Energy Agency, will meet in Japan later this week to discuss ways of ensuring a stable supply of energy for the region.

Cooperation in the area of energy is considered a key issue for the APEC region, which currently accounts for 60% of the world energy demand. IEA believes global energy demand will increase by 40% during 2007-30, largely due to demand growth in Asian countries.

Industry sources said the meeting is likely to take up points raised by the APEC Business Advisory Council earlier this year, concerned by what it called “the continuing challenges we face in strengthening energy security throughout Asia Pacific.”

In a May 27 letter addressed to APEC Energy Ministers, ABAC—a group comprising some of the most respected business people from throughout the Asia-Pacific region—made very specific recommendations on ways to address the challenges of energy security. These include:
• ABAC recommended continued engagement between governments and the private sector. It said the private sector—including energy producers, transporters, financers, and consumers as well as relevant NGOs—provides an essential perspective on the real impact of proposed policy and regulatory measures on actual markets, consumption patterns, and productivity.

• In 2008, ABAC sponsored the publication of the Strategic Framework for Energy Security in APEC, a document designed to guide APEC's energy security work. “From our perspective much remains to be done to implement many of the recommendations contained in this document,” ABAC said.

• In the near term, ABAC said it encourages APEC governments to focus on improving efficiency and conservation as a cost effective approach that can be broadly applied across the spectrum of supply and demand. Expansion and diversification of energy resources remains an important piece of any comprehensive energy security approach. APEC should work to secure wider use of low-carbon fossil fuels, including promoting the use of gas and development of gas transport infrastructure.

• Nuclear energy is appropriate for many economies as a low emissions source of power generation. ABAC said it supports consideration of nuclear energy and studies into its feasibility in APEC individual economies.

• “We recommend Ministers undertake to study the possibility of establishing an APEC or Asian futures market in gas,” ABAC said.

• According to ABAC, a comprehensive approach must include efforts to manage demand through conservation and efficiency efforts. It said this should include emphasis on improving the energy efficiency of power plants, promoting conservation and efficiency in buildings, and development of a common labeling system to promote dissemination of energy efficient products, including home appliances and IT products.

• ABAC said it is important to prioritize development of standard metrics to assess efficiency, preferably by sector, to assist in measuring progress and quantify results. “We encourage Ministers to commit to establishing an APEC-wide common understanding of terminology, standards and best practices for measuring efficiency,” the group said. Eliminating distortions and promoting efficiencies in energy markets must also be a cornerstone of a strategic approach to improving energy security. “Recognizing that in a group as diverse as APEC, complete harmonization of standards is very difficult, we feel that in the near term, a focus on transparency and information sharing in this area may be a more practical goal,” it said.

• ABAC said that expanded emphasis on developing “clean” energy and promoting innovation in energy and related technologies is a final core pillar to a complete APEC energy security approach. Such development must involve close cooperation with government through public-private partnerships and regulatory framework that encourages private sector investment.

• The group noted that APEC economies should complement UNFCCC principles and processes by endorsing the development of an APEC Low-Carbon Pathfinder Scheme. The Scheme would be based on the successful APEC formula of voluntary, non-binding, open regionalism. Under such a Scheme, low-carbon policy measures by each APEC economy would be systematically and transparently prioritized and reviewed, with reports published annually or biennially so as to share experiences with other APEC economies.

• ABAC insisted that APEC must continue to recognize that regional energy security strategies must be developed and implemented in the context of the overall global energy security situation. As such, relevant APEC agencies and sub-forums should coordinate closely with energy-related international organizations to ensure synchronicity of effort and maximize the potential for collaborative progress.

Ahead of the 1-day meeting, which will take place on June 19 in Fukui in western Japan, ministers also will hear substantial discussion of nuclear energy, according to Japan’s Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima.

“Japan is promoting nuclear power by ensuring safety, and emerging countries are announcing plans to introduce nuclear power plants,” Naoshima said, adding that he would “like to confirm the importance of nuclear energy” at the meeting.

APEC members include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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