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Rains to curb SEA nickel output, with consequences for RE adoption, says IEA

A THIRD of Southeast Asia’s (SEA) nickel mines are expected to experience heavier rainfall in the coming years, with the resulting drop in production possibly delaying the global transition to renewables, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

At the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Asia Clean Energy Forum, Jinsun Lim, IEA Energy and Environment Policy Analyst, said: “Southeast Asia is delivering a dominant role in nickel supply today… However, we are observing that escalating risks of floods due to heavy rainfall could be long-term threats (to nickel production).”

One-third of nickel mines in Southeast Asia are likely to see a more than 10% increase in heavy rainfall by the end of the century, Ms. Lim said.

“If climate change is not mitigated in time, in a high-emission scenario, almost all nickel mines in the region will see over a 10% increase (in rainfall) or more,” she said.

Deemed a crucial energy transition mineral, nickel is a key component of solar photovoltaics (PV) and electric vehicle batteries.

The Philippines and Indonesia account for two-thirds of global nickel output, Ms. Lim said.

Global demand for nickel is expected to increase in the coming years as countries rush to limit global warming to 1.5°C under the Paris Agreement.

The Philippines hopes to increase the share of renewable energy (RE) in its power mix to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040.

Renewables currently account for 22% of the Philippine energy mix.

Extreme heat will also reduce the capacity of solar panels, resulting in lower solar energy production, Ms. Lim said.

“Higher temperature leads to a lower voltage and less solar power generation, as most solar PVs work best in cool and sunny weather of around 25°,” she said.

Under a high-emission scenario, around two-thirds of solar PVs would see more than 20 days of maximum temperature of about 35°, according to IEA.

Ms. Lim also noted that the Philippines remains highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, affecting more than half of the population living in coastal areas.

Around 60% of Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product is generated by coastal locations, with more than a quarter of the region’s population living along the coastal, she added. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz