BANGKOK, May 31 (UPI) -- Asia must pursue solar power to sustain the region's economic growth, the Asian Development Bank said.
Speaking Monday at the Asia Solar Energy Forum in Bangkok, ADB Vice President Xiaoyu Zhao said the bank is planning to invest up to $2.25 billion, and would seek an additional $6.75 billion in private funding, for a number of solar initiatives through 2013, PV-Tech News reports.
Zhao said Asia could account for half of the global output, trade and investment in solar power by 2050.
"To sustain its impressive growth momentum, Asia must manage its energy security and innovate away from the traditional, high-resource, high-carbon development path toward sustainable, low carbon growth," he said.
Climate-wise, many Asian countries are ideally suited to solar energy but large-scale solar power generation has been hampered by a lack of suitable project financing mechanisms, institutional and policy constraints as well as insufficient knowledge, the ADB says.
Solar power accounts for less than 0.25 percent of Asia's energy portfolio. Noting Asia's "significant potential" for solar energy, Zhao said ADB aims to increase that amount to 3 to 5 percent in the coming years. But to achieve such an expansion, the industry's capacity would need to have a six-fold increase by 2013, thus reaching an overall capacity of more than 35 gigawatts.
Meanwhile, around 900 million people in developing Asia have no access to electricity and millions more face high rates for power typically generated from fossil fuels.
The Asia Solar Energy Forum, which gathered more than 300 government officials and private sector executives as well as solar energy experts, is part of the Asia Solar Energy Initiative, established last May with support from ADB. The program aims to boost solar power in the region, working in conjunction with the private sector.
"The initiative is consolidating our efforts to take advantage of the wider adoption of solar technologies resulting from rapid technological advances, larger scales of production, and lower production costs," said Zhao.
He cited Thailand's national renewable energy plan introduced in 2009 in which 1 gigawatt of capacity has been approved so far, as well as two private sector solar projects in the country that ADB is helping to finance: The Natural Energy Development Co.'s 73-megawatt plant in Lopburi -- one of the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plants -- and Bangchak Petroleum Public Co. PCL's 38-megawatt project in Ayutthaya. Both projects are expected to generate electricity later this year.