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Southeast Asia is experiencing rapid economic process and development, paired up with rising population and urbanization, and improved access to basic services. However, this rapid expansion poses significant energy challenges and raises serious questions on the environment’s long-term viability. The countries are now turning to solar energy to meet their energy demands. The article unfolds the various aspects of the journey of solar in Southeast Asian countries.
Southeast Asia’s energy consumption nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015, rising at a 3.4% annual rate. This has fueled economic growth and allowed for higher living standards to be achieved. Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, and Vietnam have seen the most rapid development in the last decade. Oil and natural gas, in particular, account for more than half of the region’s energy supply. Crude oil and its derivatives are primarily used in the transportation market, which has experienced rapid growth in fuel demand. To reduce the dependency on the same, experienced industry analysts have recognized and acknowledged the transforming developments and fall in costs of solar power.
Southeast Asia is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing solar energy markets in the world, as well as one of the most promising regions for the industry’s global expansion. Different countries in the Southeast Asian cluster have changing and varying market shares in the overall solar market. In 2019, Vietnam and Malaysia were at the forefront of this trend, having installed the most recent and largest PV capacity in the region. Availability of solar resources and a bunch of solar related policies have accelerated the adoption of solar in the region. Moreover, the region’s policymakers are also trying to come up with innovative and creative policies for ensuring that the solar sector in the region is not only healthy in the long run but it is also beneficial for the citizens in the times to come. For the same, promotional activities in terms of investment and infrastructure in the solar power generation industry is growing and is expected to grow in the future too.
Despite historical differences in growth, solar is poised for strong long-term growth in Southeast Asia, thanks to steadily falling solar costs and the region’s vast solar resource and increasing electricity demand. Support for solar energy should continue to grow throughout the region as solar costs continue to fall and the security benefits of solar energy are realized. The need to develop and efficiently incorporate initiatives to drive costs as low as possible by the means of auctions and further streamline project planning processes and permitting requirements are some things that the government should work on. Furthermore, for more rapid development, the cost effective integration of solar’s intermittent production into electricity grids is another factor to concentrate on for long term sustainability.
The planet had not yet recovered from the pandemic when the year 2021 began. Energy transformation was already on the rise in Southeast Asian countries before the Covid-19 pandemic. The flaws of this fossil fuel-based economy have been revealed by the pandemic. The Asian Development Bank reduced its earlier forecasts for Southeast Asia’s GDP growth in 2020 in a September 2020 update to reflect large declines in consumption, investment, and trade. The economy of the region is now forecasted to contract by 3.8% in 2020, with eight out of the region’s 11 countries experiencing negative growth.
In order to reduce carbon emissions with cheaper technologies and economies of scale, the region has invested heavily in clean energy infrastructure. After COVID-19, many stakeholders would need to respond quickly and cooperatively, including national and local government officials, financial institutions, power delivery providers, grid operators, and energy users. Leaders must resolve immediate socio-economic issues that have emerged as a result of, or have been intensified by, the current economic and public health crisis, including economic slowdown, record-high unemployment, high energy prices, and health threats.
The Southeast Asian energy sector is at a fork in the road. Despite variations in the maturity and structure of the sector across countries, as well as different patterns of consumption and supply, the entire region is experiencing rising energy demand as a result of rapid economic growth. By working on some of the above-mentioned challenges, solar continues to be an attractive option when compared to other conventional plants.