Why Solar Energy?

Over 1,000 CSOs from ASEAN countries plus Timor-Leste gathered on 10-12 September 2019 at Thammasat University, Thailand, for the ASEAN People Forum (APF).

The APF is the platform for civil society in ASEAN to meet, discuss concerns and challenges, and propose recommendations for ASEAN leaders to consider during the summit, scheduled in November 2019.

During the APF, there were seven convergence space convened for civil society to discuss with over 100 participants. The convergence on Ecological Sustainability under “Just Energy Transition in South East Asia (SEA) for Sustainable Development” theme was co-organized by Oxfam and its partner Green Innovation and Development (GreenID) to share concerns and lesson learnt from civil society, government stakeholder, and youth in the region, on hydropower dam, option of renewable energy, and agenda pushing for the inclusion of environment into the 4th pillar of ASEAN.

During the discussion, civil society and government hold different view toward what renewable energy means to them.

For some civil societies, renewable energy comprises the extent to which consideration on social, environmental and biological impact of the energy production.

With the definition, hydropower dam apparently is not considered renewable source as its construction and operation cause negative impact to people, environment and river ecosystem. Solar Energy System, on the other hand, has demonstrated positive impacts.

For its greatness, civil society group proposes ASEAN leaders to consider on promoting and supporting the uptake of this renewable energy source, and reconsider on investment in hydropower dam construction.

“Renewable Energy (RE) has contributed to improve community living costs when solar system installation was applied,” said Wu, Hsin-Ping, Senior Director of Homemaker United Foundation (HUF) based in Taiwan.

“HUF has implemented solar installation project within the foundation, instead of buying electricity from the state grid system. This project could save huge amounts of fund from electricity costs, and able to convert this saving to fund a project to promote children rights in the community,” Wu said HUF experience with Solar Installation project.

Acknowledging the positive impact of solar energy, and the negative impact of hydropower dam construction, Green ID urged ASEAN government on scaling up the RE policy consideration in order to promote RE, particularly solar panel within ASEAN countries.

“Given a fact that hydropower dam construction has so far caused a huge negative impact on Cambodia and also other Mekong countries, Mekong governments still rely on the hydropower dam,” said Pen Somony, Executive Director of the Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS),

“In Cambodia context, the government sets its power plan goals to reach 90 percent of householders’ access to the national grid by 2030.”

It’s inspired me to see how Solar Energy is contributing to improve daily household economic and environmental, social and cultural protection if comparing to hydropower dam.

With a good duration of the sun radiation and enable for solar energy generation in ASEAN and Mekong, community and government to enable policy and mechanism that encourage solar energy installation, so the people can access to electricity. It is better to have electricity that generated from green and more sustainable sources.

I think installation of solar system in the park needed shorter time compared to hydropower dam construction. Setting up the Solar Energy Park requires acquisition of large size of land. This is important for the government to consider ensuring the land right of the community is respected and the access to newly generated electricity provide greater access for the people, not only serve the commercial activities.\

All photos: Saneth Meas/Oxfam