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Energy Smart Communities Initiative as a way to support community-level integration of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies for a sustainable APEC

Dr Jyuung-Shiauu Chern, Lead Shepherd of the APEC Energy Working Group, spoke with the APEC Bulletin about the outlook for collaboration between them to address sustainability challenges within the sector as economic and environmental priorities change.

APEC Bulletin: How is APEC’s work to strengthen energy security in the region evolving?

Dr Chern: In the past, many separate renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies were proposed. Now we see that community-level integration of them is key to realizing a better world. In APEC, we are taking forward an Energy Smart Communities Initiative to support this effort. Under the initiative, we have a lot of activities, including city design and a knowledge-sharing platform.

APEC Bulletin: To what extent are governments, businesses and the public in the region embracing new policies and approaches for improving energy development and energy use?

Dr Chern: In the past, many efforts were only focused on central governments. However, to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, cooperation from communities and local governments is key.

For the past six years, we have promoted the APEC Energy Smart Communities Initiative and information-sharing, technology building and expertise exchanges under it. Each year we also have a recognition program as part of the initiative that spotlights outstanding projects in the field. We do see a lot of participants from the grassroots, from local governments. They benefit a lot from this interaction. This is very important, and we are actively working to attract more grassroots entities and local governments to join.

APEC Bulletin: What is the progress of the APEC Low Carbon Model Town initiative?

Dr Chern: Low Carbon Model Towns are a sub-branch of the APEC Energy Smart Communities Initiative. Every year, we choose a city or community in the region and offer expertise to urban planners on how to integrate renewable energy and energy efficiency into their designs. The aim is to help them introduce new technologies and concepts from the design stage. To date, we have chosen seven cities and all have accepted our recommendations. This activity will continue.

APEC Bulletin: How prepared are labor forces in the Asia-Pacific to support and benefit from modernization in the energy sector, and what is APEC doing to address training and skills gaps?

Dr Chern: There are several facts we must consider. First, there are aging problems in developed economies in the region. There are also many young people in developing APEC economies. Each of these groups – including older, more experienced workers and those just starting out – may not have skills compatible with the latest energy technologies. Therefore, knowledge-sharing, especially at the grassroots level, is critical.

There is lots of valuable information available right now on the APEC Energy Smart Communities Initiative’s knowledge-sharing platform that can be used to address this challenge at the local level. We also have expert groups on energy efficiency and renewable energy that hold lots of activities in APEC economies. They help to attract local attention and educate the public.

We have another task force on energy resilience. One of the key decisions that we made recently is to focus on workforce resilience. As part of this effort, we have begun taking steps to support human resource development within the sector, in collaboration with the private sector. This includes strengthening public outreach, skills training and incentives to lower recruitment and retention barriers. We are also addressing areas like disaster preparedness and recovery to ensure operational continuity.

( Excerpt from APEC News Release: "APEC on Target to Meet Sustainable Energy Commitments" )