“New era” for coal power beckons in Asia

The make-up of Asia’s future power mix and who will control it was one of the topics addressed on the opening morning of POWER-GEN Asia in Bangkok today.

“Coal is still king,” said Colin Tam, executive chairman of Hong Kong’s Crystal Vision Energy, but he added that clean coal technology was “slowly and quietly coming”, and this would herald a “new era” for coal power generation.

POWER-GEN 2012 opening

However, the panel felt another new technology had yet to deliver on its promise: carbon capture and storage. Wouter van Wersch of Alstom Power Singapore said: “Today there is no progress on this because there is no clear guidance from governments.”

He said that while CO2 emissions were “an issue” in Asia, it was not “so high on the agenda of governments” and he warned if this did not change, “it will be very difficult for CCS to take off”.

Governments also came under fire from Willem Van Twenbeke, chief executive of IPR-GDF Suez Asia. “There should be less share [of the power market] for state-owned players – states should not own generators of power”.

He said the vital role of the state was to “regulate the industry well – if it does this we can leave the investment to private players”.

Renewables received a mixed reception from the eight panelists. While all agreed that they were good in theory, some wondered if their reliance on subsidies was now damaging the sector.

“How much longer can this subsidy support continue,” wondered Ka Keung Chan, chief executive of China’s Nature Elements Capital. “Investors want to see the security that it [the renewable sector] can stand on its own feet.”

He said China has massive solar power potential but “not many have been built because of the lack of transparency in the subsidies”.

There was consensus that nuclear had a future in Asia, particularly in China. Peter Littlewood of Hong Kong company CLP, said the time would soon come when China “will master the design and manufacturing of third generation nuclear reactors”, and when that time comes it will be able to “do nuclear cheaper than anyone else in the world.”

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