Workers walk between solar cell panels over the water surface of Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand April 8, 2021. Picture taken April 8, 2021 with a drone. Source: REUTERS/Prapan Chankaew
JAKARTA, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Southeast Asian nations need to more than double their annual investment on renewables to accelerate energy transition and to meet climate goals, a report released on Thursday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed.
IRENA said, in the long term, average annual investment of $210 billion was needed on renewable energy, energy efficiency and to support technologies and infrastructure in the period to 2050 to limit a global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.Advertisement · Scroll to continueADVERTISINGReport an ad
The investment is more than two and a half times the amount currently planned by Southeast Asian governments to reach their goals, IRENA said.
“Coal retirement, coupled with renewables and regional grid interconnection, is an indispensable step to aligning with net-zero targets,” IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera said.
Southeast Asia is home to 25% of the world’s geothermal generation capacity, but the region also has major coal reserves. The region’s biggest economy Indonesia is the world’s top exporter of thermal coal.Advertisement · Scroll to continueReport an ad
While half of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have pledged to stop using coal in the power sector, La Camera said climate commitments required concerted and accelerated action “that must begin now to have a hope of success.”
The region aims to have 23% of its primary energy supplied by renewables by 2025, however, investments in recent years show mixed progress, IRENA said.Advertisement · Scroll to continueReport an ad
“Accelerating energy transition is crucial in order to meet climate goals and support the region’s economic growth,” said Nuki Agya Utama, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Energy, adding the bloc remained committed to its 2025 goals.
IRENA said countries could by investing more in renewables reduce their energy costs and avoid as much as $1.5 trillion of costs related to health and environmental damage from fossil fuels up to 2050.
Singapore’s electricity and gas regulator has issued a second call for electricity imports as it aims to procure 4 GW of clean power by 2035.
The Energy Market Authority last week said it had opened a second request for proposals (RfP) for generators to supply electricity to the city state.
A first RfP, issued in November 2021, attracted 20 proposals from solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power generators in Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, and Thailand to export clean power to Singapore.
The regulator said all those proposals – which amounted to 1.2 GW of electricity imports from 2027 onwards – would automatically be considered under the latest RfP.
Fresh proposals can be submitted until December 29, 2023, the EMA said.
The regulator added, it has started operation of its Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project, which will see up to 100 MW of electricity generated in Laos exported to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia.
Siemens released its “Asia Pacific Energy Transition Readiness Index” in April, and it reported that the region scores very low on the index, at 25%. It said this represents a “solid foundation, but there is a still a long way to go.” One of the key findings was that policy settings need to be addressed. You have been very critical of public policy in support of renewable energy adoption in Southeast Asia. What’s your reaction to this score from Siemens?
The Siemens result isn’t a surprise because if you look at the actual deployment of renewable energy, then Southeast Asia is a laggard. However, I think that we can now finally detect very clear winds of change. I will take you through a quick tour of the region to explain that a bit further.
Starting with the richest country in Southeast Asia, Singapore. In October 2021, Singapore issued a request for proposal (RfP) for companies to tender to supply it with renewable energy and stated its goal that at least 30% of its electricity supply should come from renewables by 2035, while releasing expert studies that its power sector can go net zero by 2050. That is seismic change in the positioning of Singapore in terms of renewable energy. Previously, Singapore was always saying that it didn’t have space [for renewable energy], because it is a small country. Now it has moved decisively to rely on renewable energy nonetheless and issue an RfP to developers to build that capacity around Singapore and then export it to Singapore.
Vietnam, as you know, has already been at the vanguard because it achieved a record-speed deployment of renewable energy in 2019/20/21 – and Vietnam is now up there with the best of the world in terms of what it is doing on renewables.
The Philippines is also in very good shape because it has legally binding Renewable Portfolio Standard obligations imposed on the utilities. These force the utilities over time to increase their renewable energy percentage. So, when we talk about Southeast Asia, I think that Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines are now in line with the most progressive countries on renewable energy.
If those three are the leaders, how would you describe the laggards?
In terms of the big markets, there is Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. I would say in all three cases we are seeing clear movement as well, although there are no overarching nor ambitious goals that have been announced. Indonesia has had a goal for a while, but it is not delivering on it on the ground – however, we do see things changing at the developer level across the country. In Thailand we see developers gearing up for a change in the posture of the regulator. And Malaysia has been making some progress on renewables.
We should layer into this what is going on in the gas markets. A lot of these countries are highly dependent on gas. For example, 95% of Singapore’s electricity is powered by natural gas. A large proportion [of electricity generation] is similarly dependent on gas, such as in Thailand. With gas multiplying in price by anywhere between a factor of two and 10, it is very clear that people are taking another look at the sun and the wind. I expect all of these countries to ramp up their efforts because of the volatility in the gas markets, on which a lot of them are dependent. Out of all these countries, only Indonesia is energy independent.
And while Indonesia’s energy independence is based on coal, there was a recent report from Rystad Energy that noted that gas production in the region has been declining for many years and will never recover.
That’s correct and strengthens the argument: The volatility of supply and price of natural gas is a reality all of ASEAN are aware of today and thinking through.
Something that was promising but appears to have been snuffed out, was the 1 GW solar auction in Myanmar. The recent military coup has stalled progress on the successful projects awarded in the tender. Do you have any information as to whether the solar development plans will get back on track?
I think you have to ask some of the developers who were bidding to find out more. But the short of it is that Myanmar became unbankable, and it doesn’t have anything to do with renewable energy itself, but because of political risk. But I should note that even TotalEnergies stopped investing in fossil fuels in Myanmar. And if Total, which is notorious for investing in all sorts of high-risk projects and countries, is not investing in Myanmar, then I am not sure that renewables has anything to do with that conversation at all.
Looking at Indonesia, I am aware that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been doing a lot of work with the Indonesian government. How encouraging is that kind of work?
It is encouraging! And a lot of people have been working closely with the Indonesian government, effectively nudging them forward but also counteracting a lot of the propaganda that comes from the coal industry against renewables.
Activity on the ground doesn’t lie, and what we do see is small Indonesian renewable energy developers popping up all over the place and starting to develop deals, in a way that we were not seeing even a year ago. That is a very good sign because it means that the country is communicating that it is turning the corner on renewables. Usually, you need to watch what the locals are doing to get an inkling as to what the trend might be. That certainly was not the case a year ago. So, the IEA and everyone else working with the government helps, because it helps set the direction of travel.
In Indonesia, there is state-owned PLN, a vertically integrated utility. That is not an uncommon situation in Southeast Asia. Do you see that as being a positive or an inhibitor of renewable energy development in the region? Because we know that these kinds of utilities have a captive market and would want to maintain it.
Personally, I think it is neutral. If we contrast Vietnam with Indonesia, both have the same type of setup. You have PLN in Indonesia and EVN in Vietnam and both have monopoly positions. However, Vietnam built renewables at the fastest pace globally for a couple of years, while Indonesia did nothing. So, it is not just about the structure of your utility system for the installation of renewable energy. But there are also liberalised energy markets that work better than others. It is certainly one factor, but it is neither the leading factor nor the least important.
Much more importantly, it is about political will. What we need in Indonesia is to have the political will to make that decisive turn to renewables, so that the monopoly government owned utility gets with the program. It is not going to do it of itself and on its own for precisely the reasons that you mentioned.
And from Vietnam, can we deduce that when given the right signals in terms of the adoption of renewables, that things can move very quickly?
Yes we can. All it took in Vietnam was political will and a determination to accelerate renewable energy deployment. Then, it happened, very fast, because renewable energy is cheaper and cleaner and preferred by local communities.
SINGAPORE – Importing electricity generated by various renewable sources across South-east Asia is one way for nations in the region to meet their climate change targets in an affordable way, a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found.
For example, regional grids allow resources to be shared, reducing overall system costs, noted the report, which was released on Wednesday (May 18) during the global launch of the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), an annual energy conference which is in its 15th edition.
The Republic had earlier announced plans to import 30 per cent of its energy needs – or 4 gigawatts of electricity – by 2035. One way of doing so could be through Asean’s regional power grid.
Such power grids allow countries that may have a surplus of electricity from renewable sources like hydropower to trade with countries that lack these resources.
This is especially important for Singapore as 95 per cent of its electricity is generated from natural gas – a fossil fuel – which accounts for 40 per cent of its total national emissions.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Wednesday, IEA’s chief energy economist Tim Gould said having an integrated power system across countries helps to bring down the costs of transitioning to a greener energy sector.
“For a country like Singapore, being able to access energy supplies from low-carbon sources from its neighbouring countries through a regionally interconnected grid is very, very important, given the constraints on land that Singapore faces,” he added.
As each country has its own advantages in different renewable technologies – some in hydropower, geothermal, and others in wind, for instance – having a diverse mix of resources could help to reduce variability in factors such as weather conditions, said Mr Gould.
IEA’s report, Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2022, also pointed out that institutional and contractual structures will also need to be adapted to facilitate multilateral cross-border power trade.
For instance, more flexible market models can be introduced with elements such as continuous data-sharing across borders and frameworks to ensure ease of trade, it noted.
Projects such as the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP) can boost grid interconnectivity and potentially pave the way for setting up market mechanisms to facilitate multilateral power trade in the future, said the report.
Under the LTMS-PIP, Singapore will import up to 100MW of renewable hydropower from Laos via Thailand and Malaysia using existing interconnectors.
The Energy Market Authority on Wednesday also unveiled “A Resilient and Sustainable Energy Future” as the theme for the SIEW conference, which will take place from Oct 25 to 28.
It said in a statement that the theme reflects how the global energy community has accelerated the pursuit of a greener future.
“Asia, which accounts for almost half of the global energy demand, faces urgency to accelerate the deployment of renewables, fortify grid infrastructure, strengthen supply chain resilience of key fuels, and develop regional interconnections to enhance security while keeping electricity accessible and affordable,” it added.
UBON RATCHATHANI: A vast array of solar panels floats on the shimmering waters of a reservoir in northeast Thailand, symbolising the kingdom’s drive towards clean energy as it seeks carbon neutrality by 2050.
The immense installation, covering 720,000 sq m of water surface, is a hybrid system that converts sunlight to electricity by day and generates hydropower at night.
Touted by the authorities as the “world’s largest floating hydro-solar farm”, the Sirindhorn dam project in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani is the first of 15 such farms Thailand plans to build by 2037.
The kingdom is stepping up efforts to wean itself off fossil fuels, and at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha set the target of carbon neutrality by 2050 followed by a net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2065.
The Sirindhorn dam farm – which began operations last October – has more than 144,000 solar cells, covering the same area as 70 football pitches, and can generate 45 MW of electricity.
“We can claim that through 45 megawatts combined with hydropower and energy management system for solar and hydro powers, this is the first and biggest project in the world,” Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) deputy governor Prasertsak Cherngchawano told AFP.
The hybrid energy project aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 47,000 tonnes per year and to support Thailand’s push toward generating 30 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2037, according to EGAT.
But hitting these targets will require a major revamp of power generation.
Thailand still relies heavily on fossil fuel, with 55 per cent of power derived from natural gas as of October last year, compared with 11 per cent from renewables and hydropower, according to the Energy Policy and Planning Office, a department of the ministry of energy.
EGAT plans to gradually install floating hydro-solar farms in 15 more dams across Thailand by 2037, with a total power generation capacity of 2,725 MW.
The US$35 million Sirindhorn project took nearly two years to build – including COVID-19 hold-ups caused by delays to solar panel deliveries and technicians falling sick.
Most of the electricity generated by the floating hydro-solar farm goes to the provincial electricity authority, which distributes power to homes and businesses in provinces in the lower northeastern region of Thailand.
As well as generating power, officials hope the giant solar farm will also prove a draw for tourists.
A 415m-long “Nature Walkway” shaped like a sunray has been installed to give panoramic views of the reservoir and floating solar cells.
“When I learned that this dam has the world’s biggest hydro-solar farm, I knew it’s worth seeing with my own eyes,” tourist Duangrat Meesit, 46, told AFP.
Some locals have reservations about the floating hydro-solar farm, with fishermen complaining they have been forced to change where they cast their nets.
“The number of fish caught has reduced, so we have less income,” village headman Thongphon Mobmai, 64, told AFP.
“But locals have to accept this mandate for community development envisioned by the state.”
But the electricity generating authority insists the project will not affect agriculture, fishing or other community activities.
“We’ve used only 0.2 to 0.3 per cent of the dam’s surface area. People can make use of lands for agriculture, residency, and other purposes,” said EGAT’s Prasertsak.
SINGAPORE – South-east Asia is among the regions of the world hardest hit by climate change, and is especially at risk of losing settlements and infrastructure to sea-level rise, a major new report published on Monday (Feb 28) has shown.
“With ongoing global warming, today’s children in South and South-east Asia will witness increased losses in coastal settlements and infrastructure due to flooding caused by unavoidable sea-level rise, with very high losses in East Asian cities,” said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
The report also concluded that if global warming exceeds 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial times, the impacts of climate change could be more severe, and some will be irreversible.
“Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements,” said the IPCC report.
But limiting global warming to the 1.5 deg C threshold will help the world avoid harsher climate impact, scientists say.
Sea-level rise expert Benjamin Horton from the Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore said the greatest effects of sea-level rise will be felt in Asia, due to the number of people living in the continent’s low-lying areas.
For example, mainland China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are home to the most people on land that is projected to be below average annual coastal flood levels by 2050, Professor Horton said.
“Together, those six nations account for roughly 75 per cent of the 300 million people on land facing the same vulnerability at mid-century,” he added.
The IPCC report also found that risks to coastal cities and settlements are projected to increase by “at least one order of magnitude” by 2100, if there are no significant plans to deal with the crisis.
Sea-level rise is not the only threat confronting South-east Asia.
Climate scientist Winston Chow from the Singapore Management University, one of the authors involved in the IPCC report, said Asean has already been exposed to many climate change-related impacts, such as floods, droughts, urban heat as well as biodiversity and habitat losses.
“These current impacts are projected to worsen in the future, especially when global surface temperatures exceed the 1.5 deg C threshold,” said Dr Chow.
The world has already warmed by 1.1 deg C since pre-industrial times.
At this level of warming, some climate impacts are already locked in and considered close to irreversible in some natural ecosystems, such as the long-term decline of coral reefs in the South China Sea, said Dr Chow.
He added that a warmer Earth could mean that parts of Asean dependent on water from glacial melt – such as cities along the upper Mekong – will likely have reduced freshwater resources, due to the loss of ice there.
Crop yield could also be reduced if the world gets warmer, and other climate-driven events such as floods, droughts and tropical cyclones could further affect yield,” said Dr Chow.
If cities and countries want to reduce such climate risks, then adaptation is essential to minimise future loss and damages, he added.
Adaptation refers to measures that countries can take to reduce the impacts of climate-driven events on societies, while loss and damage is a term used in climate change discussions that refers to climate impacts that societies are currently suffering which cannot be, or have not been, reduced by adaptation efforts.
For sea-level rise, for example, adaptation measures could include building sea walls or restoring mangroves, since these ecosystems have tangled root systems that can keep pace with sea-level rise to an extent.
Or to reduce flooding in urban areas, an adaptation strategy could include having land-use planning policies that discourage buildings in areas exposed to floods or cyclones, said Dr Chow.
But the latest IPCC report – which focuses on the impacts of climate change on human societies – had identified large gaps between adaptation action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks.
These gaps are largest among lower-income populations, it said.
In Asia, obstacles to greater climate adaptation include fragmented, reactive governance, lack of finances, and inadequate evidence on which actions to prioritise and how to sequence them, said the IPCC.
Dr Chow pointed to how unplanned development still occurs in parts of urban Thailand and the Philippines along its rapidly urbanising coastlines. This increases the risks of loss and damages to vulnerable populations, he said.
Despite the challenges, the IPCC said that early adaptation is crucial to help vulnerable communities cope with climate impacts.
This is because with every degree of warming, climate change impacts get more severe, while the effectiveness of available adaptation options decreases, it said.
The focus on adaptation in the latest IPCC report adds to global discussions on the issue.
A report published by the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme in November last year found that while there is an increasing number of plans for climate change adaptation, financing and implementation of these initiatives are still lagging.
That report also estimated that adaptation costs in developing countries are five to 10 times greater than public funds currently available for the programmes.
Adaptation financing was also a key point of contention between countries during the annual UN climate change meetings, with developing nations calling on richer countries to provide more funding to help them implement climate adaptation plans.
But the IPCC stressed in its latest report that to reduce impacts of climate change on societies, adaptation must go hand in hand with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of the crisis.
“Successful adaptation requires urgent, more ambitious and accelerated action and, at the same time, rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The quicker and farther emissions fall, the more scope there is for people and nature to adapt,” said the report.
Screenshot – Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif delivering his remarks at the launch of the G20 Energy Transition forum monitored in Jakarta, Thursday (February 10, 2022). Source: ANTARA/HO-Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources
Jakarta (ANTARA) – Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif presented a roadmap for Indonesia’s energy transition to the World Bank leaders present at the G20 Indonesia Presidency.
Tasrif met with Managing Director for Operations Axel van Trotsenburg and Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific Manuela Ferro.
“The Indonesian government has committed to achieving a 23-percent share of new and renewable energy in its energy mix by 2025. By the end of 2021, the energy mix of new and renewable energy had reached around 11.7 percent,” Tasrif noted in a statement in Jakarta, Wednesday.
In the roadmap, additional power generation after 2030 will only be from new and renewable energy power plants. Starting from 2035, power will be generated mainly by variable renewable energy sources, such as solar power followed by wind power and ocean power in the subsequent year.
Hydrogen will also be used gradually starting in 2031 and massively in 2051. Moreover, nuclear power will be included in the generation system starting in 2049.
In an effort to achieve the target of new and renewable energy to reach 23 percent of the total energy mix by 2023, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has passed regulations related to rooftop solar power plants. The government targets an additional 3.6 gigawatts of rooftop solar panels to be installed by 2025.
The minister noted that Indonesia receives maximum solar radiation, as it is a tropical country, thereby making it suitable for installing rooftop solar power plants. Moreover, Indonesia has the potential for producing wind energy, hydropower, and ocean power.
In his presentation, Tasrif also highlighted other efforts to achieve this energy mix, specifically through the construction of 10.6-gigawatt new and renewable energy power plants, including replacing diesel power plants with clean power plants and using biofuels of up to 11.6 million kiloliters.
“In the electricity supply plan, we have ocean currents, solar, water, geothermal, and so on. However, currently, the biggest energy source is solar energy. In addition, we have not taken into account the use of nuclear power (in the near future) but started in 2049,” Tasrif stated.
Indonesia will also build a super grid to boost electricity connectivity. New transmissions between systems and islands are deemed necessary to share renewable energy sources owned by a region.
Tasrif further affirmed that the Indonesian government should build infrastructure to connect the main islands with transmission from new renewable energy power plants.
“For instance, North Kalimantan will be connected to Sumatra and Sulawesi. In addition, electricity supply from Nusa Tenggara, where there are many sources of solar energy, can be connected to Sulawesi and Kalimantan,” he added.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Arifin vouched to maintain sound relations with the World Bank to achieve the planned energy transition targets.
“We will continue to work closely with the World Bank and hope we can arrange for other programs to be executed,” he remarked.