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Among 10 ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, five countries dominate the region’s total electricity generation (covering 89% generation). These major countries consist of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. The contribution of these major countries will be essential to achieving the electricity transition towards clean energy in the region.
Southeast Asia has emerged as possibly the most crucial region for future energy transition as the pace of transition picks up in China and India. The region offers enormous potential for renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind. However, they have yet to show significant progress in clean energy deployment.
As one of the world’s fastest-growing regions in terms of economic growth and electricity demand, achieving its net zero emissions in the future will depend on the pace of renewables uptake. The progress of clean electricity generation in ASEAN’s five major countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam), henceforth “ASEAN 5”, which makes up 89% of the region’s total electricity generation, shows a positive trend in the past years. Nevertheless, clean electricity could not keep up with the fast-rising electricity demand. Therefore, as of 2021, the share of clean electricity remains low with the share of fossil fuel increased in the region compared to 2015.
Around three-quarters of the growth in global clean electricity generation in 2021 came from solar and wind. Most 1.5-degree aligned models suggest that going forward, solar and wind should account for a similar proportion of clean electricity. However, solar and wind-generated only 4% of ASEAN 5’s electricity last year, lagging behind its peers like China (11%) and India (8%).
Analysis of current power sector development plans shows the total share of solar and wind in ASEAN 5 will rise from 4% of electricity in supply in 2021 to 11% by 2030. But even more, ambition is needed to put them on a 1.5-degree pathway.
ASEAN electricity demand grew 22% from 2015 to 2021, higher than the global average, which increased by 16%. From 2015 to 2021, clean power generation only met 39% of ASEAN’s rise in electricity demand and 48% was met with fossil fuels. 39% of the rise in electricity demand in Viet Nam, 12% in the Philippines and 45% in Thailand were met by clean sources. Electricity generation from fossil fuels increased 21% in all five countries, matched by an increase in power sector CO2 emissions.
Solar and wind generated only 4% of the ASEAN’s electricity last year, lagging behind peers like China (11%) and India (8%). Only Viet Nam (11%) exceeds the world average in solar and wind, which generated 10% of global electricity for the first time in 2021. The share of solar and wind in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia is 4.6%, 2.6% and 0.9% respectively.
Solar and wind only accounted for 0.2% of total electricity generation in Indonesia in 2020 (the latest data available).
Our analysis shows that by 2030, the latest energy plans would bring the share of solar and wind in this region up to 11% of the total electricity supply. Viet Nam is expected to generate 18% solar and wind in its total generation, the Philippines 16.5%, and Thailand 9.6%. Malaysia and Indonesia would reach 3.4% and 2% of solar and wind generation share respectively.
“Governments should unleash the power of solar and wind, as is happening already in China, India, and across much of the world. As fossil fuel prices soar through the roof, solar and wind prices remain low, providing affordable, homegrown energy. Solar and wind are progressing across Southeast Asia, but more aggressive targets and timely execution are needed to utilise the vast potential. Governments need to redress 2030 energy plans,” said Achmed Shahram Edianto, Asia Electricity Analyst, Ember.
ASEAN countries have targets in place for accelerating clean energy deployment, individually (national energy plans) and regionally (through the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation). However, our report shows that in the ASEAN 5, clean energy planned under these targets could not keep up with rising demand. Despite clean energy generation constantly increasing in recent years, its share remains low. This trend is what has led to the current domination of coal share in the electricity mix.
While the world is shifting to solar and wind following cost declines, solar power is still at the margin of the region’s generation mix, and wind power is almost invisible. Only Viet Nam surpassed the world average with 11% solar and wind generation in 2021. Other countries in the region have solar and wind shares below 5%, lagging behind their peers.
The vast potential of clean energy in the ASEAN 5 is unfortunately not reflected in its latest 2030 plans. Our analysis shows that by 2030, the current energy plans would bring the share of solar and wind in this region up to 11% of total generation. To be aligned with the IEA Net Zero pathway, solar and wind uptake should be accelerated rapidly. The current solar and wind deployment target would only be less than half of the IEA target. More ambitious solar and wind deployment plans are needed.