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Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Peter Haas at Clean EDGE Asia Conference
13 MINUTE READ
May 23, 2023

Monday, May 22, 2023 

 (As prepared for delivery) 

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I would like to thank our hosts, the National Bureau of Asian Research and Independent University, Bangladesh, for inviting me here today.   

One reason many of you are here is to explore avenues for cooperation between Bangladesh and its regional counterparts as South Asia transitions to a more sustainable energy posture.   

These avenues could lead to increased regional energy trading, shared development of innovative technologies, or any number of other solutions.   

We need to collectively assess renewable and clean energy resources across the region to determine what makes the most sense for the people of South Asia.  

Another reason we are here is because the world’s fossil fuel supply is finite.  Despite the industry’s ongoing transition to clean energy, fossil fuels may be in short supply in the coming years.   

This underscores the urgency to advance a sustainable, equitable, and just energy transition to clean and renewable energy resources. 

As you all know, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year shocked the energy market in Bangladesh, like in many parts of the world.  Countries became acutely aware of their dependencies on foreign sources of fuel.  

The impact of that one act of aggression, a clear violation of international law, particularly the UN Charter, as Sheikh Hasina admirably recognized during her trip to Japan, shone a light on the interconnectedness of the global energy supply.   

The lesson we take away from this is clear.  Russia has shown the world it will hold energy hostage to achieve its imperious objectives. 

All nations, therefore, must develop a plan to solidify their energy security based on a diversified portfolio of resources.   

Bangladesh is fortunate with its domestic supply of natural gas.  I am proud to say that U.S. businesses have been instrumental in allowing Bangladesh to utilize those resources to drive its remarkable economic development over the last two decades.   

But as I mentioned before, those supplies are not infinite.  And while Bangladesh may soon find more gas in new locations, eventually those too will run out. 

Renewable resources are the key to this energy transition for Bangladesh, for South Asia, and for the world.   

Finding ways to harness solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and other energy sources is the path to energy security and needed to support continued economic growth and sustainable development.   

To help Bangladesh and other countries in the region reach this goal, my government established Clean EDGE—Enhancing Development and Growth Through Clean Energy— Asia to work with the private sector, international financial institutions, and like-minded governments to support and accelerate Asia’s clean energy transition. 

I am pleased that we have so many dedicated professionals from the region here with us here today representing the technical, financial, legal, and policy expertise needed to drive this transition.   

You all know better than me the challenges we face as we push forward:   

  • Finding effective means to decarbonize our existing economic infrastructure; 
  • Seamlessly integrating intermittent energy resources into national grids which are already struggling to keep up with demand; 
  • Developing abundant supplies of cleaner fuel sources, such as green hydrogen;  
  • Ensuring that countries have access to finance for clean and renewable energy technologies; and 
  • Negotiating regional energy trading agreements where politics may trump economic advancement.

As I look at Bangladesh and envision this country’s transition, I am heartened by a recent conversation I had.  During my last trip to Washington, I met with a Blackstone portfolio company that is interested in developing solar energy in Bangladesh.   

In case you are unfamiliar with Blackstone, it is the world’s largest alternative asset manager, with nearly $1 trillion in assets, please let me repeat that, nearly $1 trillion.  And this trillion-dollar American business is fighting for an opportunity to invest in renewables in Bangladesh the same way other American companies did a generation ago to develop Bangladesh’s natural gas.   

When the Government of Bangladesh says it wants to attract more U.S. private investment, I can say, “YOU should be doing everything possible to get Blackstone to invest here.  If a firm with $1 trillion in assets tastes success in this market, imagine what might follow.  Alternatively, if it has a dissatisfying or frustrating experience, imagine all the other places that investment will go.” 

For Bangladesh to achieve a just energy transition, it will take contributions from government, private sector, and civil society.   

It will require good policies in place to incentivize smart investments and cross-border electricity trade, privatization of underperforming state-owned assets, adoption of new technologies, and a phasing out of the most damaging fossil fuel power generation facilities.   

This will not happen overnight.  It will take years to accomplish.  But we can accomplish it faster if we work together through initiatives like Clean EDGE Asia.  Thank you all for being here.  I wish you a very successful conference.