Southeast Asia has huge renewable energy potential and is facing a historical turning point in shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to meet the region's growing economies and growing energy demand. To achieve zero carbon targets, it is critical to phase out coal and switch to renewable energy and improve regional grid interconnection. A number of ASEAN members have joined international efforts to end the use of coal in the power sector. Achieving this commitment will require concerted and accelerated action that must start now to be successful.
To support economic growth and achieve climate targets, ASEAN is committed to accelerating the energy transition. Through the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II, ASEAN aims to achieve a 23% renewable energy share of total primary energy supply by 2025. In addition, the regional blueprint also includes the optimization of clean coal technology as one of its program focuses.
Energy Transition Roadmap
This article uses the report Renewable energy outlook for ASEAN: Towards a regional energy transition (2nd Edition) from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in collaboration with the ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE), to discuss the challenges of achieving the targets of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II: 2021-2025.
The target that ASEAN is trying to achieve is 65% renewable energy share in final energy by 2050, from only 19% in 2018. This target also seeks to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 75% compared to current policies.
By 2030, the emphasis will be on increasing installed solar capacity to more than 240 GW of installed capacity, deploying more than 13 million battery electric vehicles on the road with 3.7 million charging stations, and large-scale efforts focused on energy efficiency, material efficiency, and circular economy, as well as scaling up sustainable bioenergy, hydropower, and geothermal.
Then in the long term, it is to integrate and upgrade regional power systems to maximize the total renewable energy electricity expansion of about 2,770 GW to 3,400 GW by 2050. In addition, the phase-out of coal-fired power plants should be accelerated in the near future, and the expansion of fossil fuel-based infrastructure should be avoided as much as possible to prevent stranded assets.
In the transportation sector, electric vehicles should grow to more than 100 million battery-powered electric cars and nearly 300 million two- and three-wheelers by 2050. This is also the reason why electronic vehicles are a point of discussion at the ASEAN Summit 2023. Then, domestic bioenergy use needs to more than double to 7.6 exajoules (EJ) by 2050. This is because bioenergy is also important in all end-use sectors, especially for transportation modes such as aviation and some industrial sectors.
Furthermore, energy efficiency measures and technology standards should be considered as first principles. These should also be supported by substantial investments, requiring more than USD 5 trillion (United States dollars) in investments over the period up to 2050 and a cumulative investment of USD 1,616 billion up to 2050. In turn, these investments will have an impact as they can reduce energy intensity by 45% by 2050, compared to 2018 levels.
How Has It Gone So Far?
Several companies in the region have begun building RE-powered facilities to reduce their carbon footprint. ASEAN Member States (AMS) state-owned enterprises have also been utilized to accelerate RE integration in the region. Even so, the potential for renewable energy in Southeast Asia is still very large and has not been fully utilized. One of them is Indonesia, which has a total renewable energy potential of 417.8 GW, but only 11.5 GW has been utilized until 2021. Even so, the Indonesian government has established a power supply business plan with a target of adding 20.9 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and projects that 60% of the country's energy will be supplied by renewable energy by 2060.
Other countries such as Laos have also made progress with hydropower development and energy exports. In fact, energy exports in Laos have contributed to Laos' economic growth by more than 3%. Then in Malaysia itself, there are already 3 islands proposed to be green energy islands. Malaysia is also starting to develop the potential of renewable energy from the sea, such as wind, waves, ocean currents, and tides. Then in 2020, Malaysia has 50 biogas power plants that supply electricity to the national grid.
Brunei Darussalam also plans to increase its RE capacity to at least 300 MW by 2035 through collaborative RE projects. Then in Cambodia, renewable energy currently accounts for 40% of the energy market share. This renewable energy comes from hydropower, solar power, and biomass. In fact, the country also urges tourism operators to use renewable energy in their business. Next is Thailand which has started commercial operations of the world's largest floating solar-hydro hybrid installation and plans to install another 24 MW.
On the other hand there is Singapore which has conducted a joint feasibility study for wind, solar and tidal hybrid renewable energy. Then there is the Philippines which has launched a green energy auction for 2 GW of renewable energy projects including 130 MW of hydropower, 1.26 GW of solar power, and 380 MW of wind power. Vietnam also plans to increase their proportion of renewable energy, including hydro, wind, solar, and biomass, to 33% of total electricity by 2030.
In addition, several countries in Southeast Asia have signed the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement (GCCPS) to accelerate the transition to clean energy resources. ASEAN members have also updated their policies to attract more international investment to fund renewable energy projects. Some AMS are also partnering with other countries and private institutions to enhance their financial capabilities and accelerate renewable energy projects.
ASEAN Energy. (2023). 2022 Recap-Renewable Energy Insight.
International Renewable Energy Agency. (2022). Renewable Energy Outlook for ASEAN: Towards a Regional Energy Transition 2nd Edition.
International Renewable Energy Agency. (2022). Press Release: ASEAN Can Cover Two-Thirds of Energy Demand with Renewables.