Mekong Utility Watch

“Small is beautiful”: Civil society pushes for small-scale energy resource management

Association of South East Asian Nations
February 21, 2009

ASEAN is ignoring innovations in local energy sources in favour of a centralised and potentially dangerous energy system for the region, the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum heard today.

Panellists at a workshop about energy security at the Forum criticised ASEAN’s plans for large-scale energy development, and offered local energy alternatives to the proposed scheme.

“Small is beautiful,” said Wichitra Chasukul, Vice President of the North-Eastern Thailand Network Foundation, as she outlined several energy planning initiatives taking place in her area.

Local systems utilising charcoal, biogas, and wind turbine technologies are being implemented throughout villages in her network, representing what she sees as promising developments in grassroots and decentralised energy management.

According to Witoon Permponsacharoen of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network Foundation for Ecological Recovery (www.terraper.org), ambitious regional plans for a trans-ASEAN gas pipeline and an ASEAN power grid indicate a move in the wrong direction for energy planning.

Plans such as these may pose a serious threat to environmental stability and energy security in Southeast Asia, according to activists.

“There are more than enough energy resources in ASEAN for long term sustainability. But there will be an energy crisis in ASEAN if we cannot change the current energy development pattern,” Permponsacharoen said.

He urged the nearly 60 participants of the workshop to work to “free ASEAN” from the influence of the multinational oil industry and geopolitical demands for resources, while pushing for the inclusion of small-scale management projects in the regional energy plan.

Currently, ASEAN’s plans are based on a centralised system with large-scale development projects that will integrate the resource supplies of all Southeast Asian countries.

Echoing the general sentiment of workshop participants, Tara Buakamsri, of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, argued for a departure from projects such as these. He also urged a complete rejection of nuclear energy development – which countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia are currently considering.

Workshop participants expressed the need to collaborate on efforts to turn strong sentiment into social actions aimed at influencing energy policy at the regional level. – APF Media Team.

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