Initial Steps to Nurture Renewable Energy Ecosystem ASEAN

Jakarta, 13 June 2023 – Southeast Asia is a region with the largest economic growth and energy demand. Economic growth followed by increase in energy demand in the region is projected to continue in the coming years. If the use of environmentally friendly energy sources is not anticipated, this economic growth and energy demand will become the main problem of increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the ASEAN region.

In a webinar titled Towards a Decarbonized ASEAN: Unlocking the Potential of Renewables to Advance ASEAN Interconnectivity Fabby Tumiwa, Executive Director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform stated that ASEAN has the opportunity to encourage the creation of a renewable energy industry ecosystem through the cooperation of the ASEAN Power Grid (APG) regional interconnection network.

“ASEAN power grid can be one of the supporting infrastructures to accelerate the use of renewable energy in ASEAN countries while waiting for its market share to grow. ASEAN countries can encourage supply chain cooperation in renewable energy technology, especially solar module cell technology,” he said.

Fabby added that Indonesia, as the holder of the ASEAN Chair this year, has the opportunity to encourage this initiative and encourage the transition of fossil fuel-based industries towards renewable energy. A greener industrial transformation is believed to have a multiplier effect in the form of creating green jobs in the future.

In line with Fabby, Yeni Gusrini, Sub Coordinator of the Gatrik Program at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources stated that in the first phase of development, the ASEAN Power Grid had succeeded in transferring 100 MW of electricity from Lao PDR to Singapore.

“The first phase of APG development succeeded in connecting Lao PDR – Thailand – Malaysia – Singapore. Moreover, APG will be a contributor to economic growth that ensures sufficient energy throughout the ASEAN region,” added Yeni.

Indra Overland, Head of Center for Energy Research, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said it is important for ASEAN countries to start thinking about strategies to increase renewable energy in the country and in the region.

“We can take as an example Vietnam which has succeeded in massively adding its renewable energy capacity in the past decade. Strategies such as having a policy framework that supports the development of renewable energy including taxation and ease of licensing are very influential for investors’ interest in investing in the development of renewable energy in an area,” he said.

Added by Overland, one indicator of a country having good policy implementation is when the renewable energy sector has abundant investors.

Zulfikar Yurnaidi, Energy Modeling and Policy Planning Manager, ASEAN Center for Energy, acknowledged that the financial factor which is one of the inhibiting factors for renewable energy penetration in the network. He said that one of the focuses of ASEAN 2021 – 2025 is to build connectivity and integrate regional markets.

“Penetration of renewable energy must be translated into the addition of generation capacity. To support this, network modernization must be carried out to maintain network stability, flexibility, and toughness. All of this requires a large amount of investment, and the government’s current budget is insufficient to finance everything, so the role of private investors is needed here,” Zulfikar explained.

The existence of the ASEAN Power Grid will bring long-lasting socio-economic impacts. The hope is that the traded electricity is clean electricity produced by renewable energy generators. So, this clearly affects the location of fossil power plants which are still quite a lot in the ASEAN region.

Ahmad Ashov Birry, Program Director of Trend Asia, gave an example that Indonesia still has a pile of homework related to this fossil power plant. Starting from an early retirement plan for fossil-based power plants to the construction of new renewable energy-based power plants.

“In this series of processes (ending fossil-based plants and construction of new power plants based on renewable energy, ed), the community needs to be involved, so that they can anticipate the possible damage arising from each stage. So that the transition (energy, ed) that occurs is (transition, ed) that is just, and makes life prosperous,” he explained.

ASEAN Grid Interconnectivity as the Start of Renewable Energy Security in the Region

press release

Jakarta, 13 June 2023 –  To reach energy security sustainably and to face challenges of global climate change, Indonesia’s chairmanship in 2023 needs to be a strong leader in the decarbonization efforts of the energy sector in Southeast Asia. region. Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) views that Indonesia can further its regional cooperation and collaboration on innovation, technology, renewable energy research, and push for clearer and enticing policies to boost investments in the renewable energy sector.

As a region, ASEAN has committed to reach a 23% energy mix target in primary energy and 35% capacity of renewable energy installed by 2025. Furthermore, to expand the regional electricity trade , integrate the region’s power grid, and to strengthen the reliability of the power grid, ASEAN is currently building the ASEAN Power Grid (APG).

The Executive Director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), Fabby Tumiwa, explains that the project to interconnect ASEAN’s grid through ASEAN Power Grid (APG) could be a starting point for ASEAN member states to boost renewable energy capacity in the electricity sector and shift their dependency to fossil fuels. Indonesian chairmanship in ASEAN 2023 with one of its main focus being Sustainable Energy Security has to be utilized to push ASEAN member states to focus on efforts to decarbonize their energy systems. 

“Indonesia has the chance to lead ASEAN to transition their energy, amplifying the renewable energy mix, and to reduce fossil energy. Indonesia has given examples for other ASEAN member states to have a more ambitious target that aligns with the Paris Agreement. One of which is to push ASEAN member states to end CFPP operations before 2050 and to push agreements between ASEAN member states to build cell industries, solar modules, and energy storage (battery),” Fabby Tumiwa assessed. 

ASEAN itself has a capacity of 7.645 MW on the existing interconnecting grid in the ASEAN Power Grid project, according to a presentation from the Sub Coordinator of the Electricity Program MEMR, Yeni Gusrini, in the IESR Webinar titled Toward a Decarbonized ASEAN. In the future, the interconnection grid will be added in capacity to around 19.000 – 22.000 MW and covers a wider area.

“ASEAN Power Grid contributes towards the economic development in ASEAN by helping fulfill energy demand in ASEAN and to develop regional industry player’s growth. On the first phase, the electricity grid in Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore has been connected through the Lao PDR, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP), which has been the pioneer of the power trade mechanism that has transmitted 100 MW from Laos to Singapore, utilizing the existing interconnection,” Yeni explicated. 

IESR views that the development of an interconnection grid that accommodates the integration of renewable energy in Indonesia needs to be accelerated so that it aligns with the Paris Agreement to net zero emission (NZE) in 2050.

“Interconnection between the islands in Indonesia and between the countries in ASEAN is one of the enabling factors of renewable energy integration. The existence of this interconnection will help solve the problem of intermittency and to maximize renewable energy usage, so that if there’s an oversupply such as solar PV in the daylight built in another location, the electricity can be transmitted to another place. Before that, ASEAN member states have to keep refurbishing their renewable energy investment climate in their respective countries and regionally with a more interesting regulation framework,” explained Deon Arinaldo, Program Manager of Energy Transformation IESR. 

Deon says, Indonesia is a country with the biggest economy and energy consumption rates in ASEAN, and has a massive energy resource. With ASEAN chairmanship this year and a supportive process and regulations for energy transition at the national level such as JETP and New and Renewable Energy Bill, this will make Indonesia an example and trigger the acceleration of ASEAN’s transformation process.

IESR believes that the decarbonization efforts are not limited to the government, but also involves the participation of various stakeholders, including private sectors, civil society, and international agencies. In this spirit of collaboration, Indonesia needs to invite all parties to join in the effort to tackle climate change and create a sustainable future for ASEAN.