Use power subsidies to fund alternative energy development

National 2 minutes, 41 seconds


BRUNEI should look into diverting money used for electricity subsidies to finance the development of alternative energy, said a senior environmental official.

Philippe Zeller, France’s ambassador for climate change in Asia and Oceania, said with one of highest per capita CO2 emission rates in the region, Brunei must look into transforming into a low-carbon economy.

“Subsidising renewable energies such as solar energy – we have done this in France, as well as (subsidising) private citizens who want to install solar panels on their roofs, and this is something which can be very successful in Brunei,” he said on the sidelines of a climate change forum held in the capital on Monday.

The issue of energy subsidies was raised during a panel discussion, when a member of the audience asked how to incentivise Bruneians to develop solar energy when electricity was so heavily subsidised by the government.

In 2013, the Asian Development Bank estimated that Brunei spent US$470 million (B$580.283 million) on general fuel subsidies, putting a “tremendous strain” on national coffers with the government spending US$1,159 (B$1,431), on fuel subsidies per person.

“I know how sensitive and fragile the question of subsidising energy is… It is probably something the authorities have to start to think about but I’m confident the government will take that issue into consideration,” Zeller said in an interview.

The ambassador also highlighted His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei’s call for serious efforts to curb climate change.

During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the monarch said Brunei aims to reduce total energy consumption by 63 per cent by 2035 in order to promote sustainable development.

Within the same timeline, the government also aims to generate at least 10 per cent of total power from new and renewable resources.

“Seeing His Majesty use the opportunity of the general assembly to propose a lot of new targets is very good…., Of course the country is very rich because of oil and gas but when we consider the future it will not last for an eternity… So Brunei has to be an example in fixing some very ambitious targets,” Zeller said.

Brunei has the highest per capita carbon emissions in the ASEAN region with emissions increasing at a rate of two per cent per year, according to a study completed by Universiti Brunei Darussalam and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia in 2011. Every year, the Sultanate produces 15.5 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita, compared to 7.1 metric tonnes per capita in Malaysia and 6.39 metric tonnes in Singapore – countries which are considerably more industrialised than Brunei.

“Brunei represents less than one per cent of global CO2 emissions which seems to not be very significant,” said Zeller. “But is very significant if you look at the emissions per capita… You have double the emissions of Singapore with a population which is only one tenth that of Singapore. So there is really something at stake in Brunei, in terms of climate change.” The study also found that Brunei produces an estimated 1.8 megatonnes of carbon dioxide every year, with most emissions generated from activities that do not bring about direct benefits to the economy.

The Brunei Times