The small southeast nation of Laos has announced it wants to team up with its neighbours to develop clean coal technology.
The announcement came from Dr Daovong Phoneko, the most senior official in the Ministry of Energy, speaking at the 16th ASEAN Forum on Coal Council Meeting in the Lao capital Vientiane.
ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, represents a combined population of 640 million people across 10 member states, and is the third biggest investor in coal worldwide after China and India.
The ASEAN countries have been strong advocates for continued use of the fuel, which has helped poorer member states leapfrog up the energy access table in recent years. Indonesia, for example, drove up the rate of energy access from 53 percent of its population in 2000 to 91 percent today, while over the same period Vietnam rose from 76 percent to 98 percent. Almost all of this expansion came from coal plants, which is cheap, locally available, and can provide reliable 24/7 power.
Laos, one of the least developed members of the bloc, still relies largely on hydropower for its energy needs, which has meant a shortfall of electricity during the dry season. At the conference Dr Daovong said that developing the energy sector in Laos would generate much-needed funding for other key development sectors like healthcare and education.
ASEAN’s Clean Coal Action Plan, launched in 2015, is focused on sharing technology and expertise in the fields of clean coal and carbon capture and storage. Like other ASEAN members, Laos views this technology as the only way to power its economy and meet global climate targets.
Coming after Kenya’s announcement of a new clean coal power plant, and news that clean coal is a central part of China’s Belt and Road ambitions, it’s clear that developing countries with large populations to feed are increasingly prepared to defy Western attempts to prohibit the fuel.