Southeast Asia’s energy relies heavily on fossil fuels, with coal getting the largest share in fuel source. Even though the region has an abundance in renewable energy resources, the share of renewable energy in total primary energy supply is only 15%, significantly lower than the global average of 26%. This suggests that the region relies heavily on fossil fuel that introduces significant challenges for the region’s environment and local communities. It contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, causing climate change and also contributes to air pollution that can adversely affect health on nearby communities
IEA Share of selected global economic and energy indicators in Southeast Asia, 2000-2018
However, Southeast Asian countries are now realizing the need to transition to more sustainable and cleaner sources of energy. The transition is expected to face challenges including the lack of infrastructure, policy and regulatory barriers, and technical and financial constraints. To further accelerate the transition to renewable energy, urgent action is needed to quickly mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and improve the lives of local communities
Benefits of renewable energy for the environment in Southeast Asia
IEA: Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2022
Using renewables as a source of energy provides numerous benefits for the environment in Southeast Asia. One important benefit is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which causes climate change and its associated impacts to the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal do not produce harmful emissions and can significantly reduce the region’s carbon footprint. This transition to renewable energy sources can also lead to improved air quality and reduce the health risks associated with air pollution.
The Southeast Asia region is also known to be rich in natural resources such as forests, water, and minerals that are essential for economic development and local communities’ livelihoods. Renewable energy contributes to the conservation of these resources by reducing the demand for it. It also promotes their conservation and sustainability. Additionally, renewable energy projects such as hydroelectric dams and wind farms can also provide ecosystem services, such as flood control, erosion prevention, and water regulation, benefiting both the environment and local communities.
Benefits of renewable energy for local communities in Southeast Asia
Lack of access to reliable and affordable electricity is one of the main reasons that limits most Southeast Asian communities’ economic improvement and social development, particularly in rural and remote areas. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower can help these communities improve access to electricity and promote economic development.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) – Renewable Energy Benefits: Measuring the Economics: Renewable energy employment in selected countries as of 2014 (thousand jobs)
Renewable energy also creates job opportunities. The renewable energy sector requires a range of skills, from engineering and construction to maintenance and operations, providing opportunities for local employment and skills development. This can have a significant impact on local communities, particularly in rural areas, where employment opportunities may be limited. Additionally, renewable energy projects can also provide a source of revenue for local governments, promoting economic growth and development in the region. Overall, the adoption of renewable energy in Southeast Asia can lead to improved energy security, job creation, and economic development, promoting sustainable and inclusive growth in the region.
Case studies of successful renewable energy projects in Southeast Asia
There have been successful renewable energy projects implemented in Southeast Asia that have contributed to the region’s sustainable development. From small-scale community projects to large scale community projects. Here are just a few notable examples
The Tolo 1 Wind Farm in Indonesia
Located in the South Sulawesi province of Indonesia. This is one of the largest in the country, with a capacity of 72MW. The project was developed by Equis Energy, a Singapore-based company that specializes in renewable energy projects in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Bau Bang Solar Power Plant in Vietnam
This solar power plant, with a capacity of 450 MW, is one of the largest in South East Asia. The project was developed by Singapore-based Sunseap Group and has helped to increase Vietnam’s renewable energy capacity significantly.
The Solar-Powered Water Supply Project in Cambodia
This project, which is being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Cambodian government, aims to provide clean water to rural communities using solar-powered water pumps. The project has helped to improve access to clean water in remote areas of the country.
Green Innovations for Tomorrow Corp. Biomass Power Plant in the Philippines
This Biomass Energy Plant uses agricultural waste to fuel a steam turbine. This Project success is the fruit of the great collaboration between GIFTC management, their EPC, AREVA Renewable Energies and their Erection Contractor, Engcon Energy Philippines.
Challenges and barriers to the adoption of renewable energy in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian countries’ transition to renewable energy sources faces many challenges and has several barriers that need to be addressed. One major barrier is the need for more supportive policies and regulatory frameworks. Most countries in the region still have some policies that favor traditional energy sources such as coal over renewables. There is a need for clear targets and incentives for renewable energy. There is also the lack of access to finance. This is a challenge that deters investors, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Total ASEAN energy transition requirement by sector and scenario
IRENA: RENEWABLE ENERGY OUTLOOK FOR ASEAN TOWARDS A REGIONAL ENERGY TRANSITION
Technical challenges also exist. The region’s energy infrastructure, in most areas, may not be able to support large-scale renewable energy projects. The integration of renewable energy into the grid can also create technical issues that can limit the deployment of renewable energy. There is also a need to improve public awareness about the benefits of renewable energy to push for a faster transition to renewable energy adoption.
Addressing these challenges and barriers is essential to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy in Southeast Asia and promote sustainable development. Governments need to create more supportive policy and regulatory frameworks, improve access to finance, and increase public awareness to unlock the full potential of renewable energy sources in the region.
Renewable energy has significant potential to benefit the environment and local communities in Southeast Asia. With its abundant natural resources, the region can leverage renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy security, and promote sustainable development.
Several case studies have demonstrated successful renewable energy projects in the region, showcasing the potential for renewable energy to support economic growth while mitigating the impacts of climate change. However, there are still significant challenges and barriers to the widespread adoption of renewable energy, including the lack of supportive policy and regulatory frameworks, limited access to finance, and technical challenges.
To overcome these barriers, governments in the region need to create more supportive policy and regulatory frameworks, improve access to finance, and increase public awareness about the benefits of renewable energy. By doing so, Southeast Asia can accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and unlock the full potential of these resources to achieve sustainable development.
In conclusion, renewable energy presents a significant opportunity for Southeast Asia to transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon energy system. Addressing the challenges and barriers to its adoption will require a coordinated effort from policymakers, investors, and local communities to build a more resilient and sustainable future for the region.