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Coal Funding Discontinued, Southeast Asian Countries Must Plan the Energy Transition Measures

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Jakarta, 1 August 2022 –Climate mitigation actions by encouraging the use of renewable energy have led countries that fund coal-fired power plants (CFPP) to shift their investment to renewable energy. This transformation will bring implications and challenges that need to be worked on by the countries that have been the destination for fossil energy investment in Southeast Asia.

China, Japan, and South Korea are the top three countries that fund fossil energy projects in Southeast Asia. As much as 123 GW CFPP operated outside China gained financial support or even Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) support from China. Those fossil energy projects were developed within the last two decades. In September 2021, President Xi pledged to support the developing countries that carry out an energy transition to renewable energy. He also said that China would no longer fund CFPP overseas. Ever since it was declared, as much as 12,8 GW of coal that had been planned to develop was canceled.

Moreover, several companies and domestic financial institutions in China also ended funding coal projects, such as the Bank of China (BOC) which gave up on funding coal mining and new CFPP overseas, except for the projects that had signed the loan agreement, or Tsingshan Holding Group, a major player in the industrial zone overseas, especially in the steel industry, announced that it would not establish new CFPP abroad.

Isabella Suarez, an analyst, at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air at the webinar ‘The State of Southeast Asia Energy Transition’ held by the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), explained that for the first time, President Xi’s statement was formulated within China domestic policy. Besides, there is also a progressing narrative to develop together the green development implementation within Belt and Road Initiatives framework.

According to Isabella, what China needs to do to ensure the implementation of its promise is to determine the period and its achievement target. 

“On the other hand, the countries that have received fossil energy project funding need to begin the cancellation of CFPP development and infrastructure & network efficiency, and implement the green development within Belt and Road Initiatives,” said Isabella.

Aside from China and Japan, Dongjae Oh, Program Lead for Climate Finance Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC) explained that South Korea has also become the third largest country in the world that funds CFPP projects. As much as 87% (USD 8,6 million) of the coal downstream funding from South Korea was allocated to Southeast Asia (2011-2020).

In April 2022, the South Korean President declared to stop the new funding for CFPP projects overseas. However, according to Dongjae, South Korea still relied on other fossil energy such as oil and gas.

“If we compare the coal funding that only reaches USD 10 million, oil and gas funding can reach USD 127 million within 10 years,” said Dongjae.

Indonesia becomes one of the largest beneficiaries of oil and gas industries from South Korea. This investment will make the Southeast Asia region shift its energy into oil and gas.

Dongjae added that if it is the case, the Southeast Asia region will fail to achieve the Paris Agreement target as the gas emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Besides, sustaining fossil energy using CCS will only increase the energy price.

“The South Korean government and Southeast Asia have to cooperate in intensifying the termination of coal operations and accelerate the transition into renewable energy. On the other side, South Korea must stop coal and gas funding or investment, considering renewable energy prices are getting cheaper,” Dongjae asserted.

Lisa Wijayani, Program Manager Green Economy IESR said that the funding ending in fossil energy from China and South Korea was a concrete step to supporting energy transition globally.

“Indonesia is supposed to benefit from this chance to expand renewable energy development. A clear policy of green taxonomy and green investments should be able to attract investors to shift their funding into the green sector such as renewable energy,” she said. ***

The Webinar “The State of Southeast Asia’s Energy Transition” is available on the IESR Indonesia YouTube channel.

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