Innovation to Accelerate the Energy Transition in ASEAN

Online, 28 Oct 2021

On 28 October 2021, the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) participated in the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW). This is an annual platform for energy professionals, policymakers and commentators to share best practices and solutions within the global energy space. Every year, ACE is given the opportunity to host a Thinktank Roundtable at SIEW. This allows us to disseminate our work on energy in the region—under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016-2025—to the wider audience, and to build collaboration with various existing and potential partners. The event is also a venue for ACE to leverage our position as the leader in energy cooperation within ASEAN.

In alignment with this year’s SIEW 2021 theme “Advancing the Energy Transition”, ACE hosted a Roundtable session on “Innovation to Accelerate the Energy Transition in ASEAN”. This was supported by the ASEAN Climate Change and Energy Project (ACCEPT). Building on the key findings from The 6th ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO6), ACE delivered practical insights into innovations for raising the region’s ambition in accelerating the energy transition within Southeast Asia. The Roundtable brought together experts from various backgrounds to present current actions, innovations, and strategies to accelerate the energy transition.

Beni Suryadi, Manager of Power, Fossil Fuel, Alternative Energy and Storage (PFS) Department of ACE, delivered the opening remarks on behalf of Dr Nuki Agya Utama, Executive Director of ACE. He conveyed the importance of leveraging innovations to accelerate the energy transition for ASEAN. This was followed by Jonathan Goh, Director of External Relations Department of Energy Market Authority Singapore, who mentioned that Singapore has awarded S$55 million to support 12 projects on improving the technical and economic feasibility research of low carbon technologies.

Valentin Musangwa, Second Secretary of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, further said that we can turn this difficult time, brought on by the pandemic, into a catalyst for investments in clean energy and demonstrate how this can aid in global reconstruction and recovery efforts.

Two ACE researchers, who are also part of ACCEPT,  set the context for innovation in the ASEAN energy transition. Monika Merdekawati, Technical Officer of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (REE) Department, and Suwanto, Technical Officer of PFS Department, introduced key findings from the newly-published Policy Brief entitled ASEAN Climate Action: A Review of Nationally Determined Contribution Submissions towards COP26. This aims to review the latest Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submissions by ASEAN Member States (AMS). Most of the AMS made changes to their mitigation targets, conditionality status, as well as the coverage of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and sectors. These latest changes represented higher commitments from the ASEAN countries. The key step in ASEAN’s innovation effort is to focus on and enhance the technological, financial, and policy tools in order to accelerate climate change mitigation in the region.

The Roundtable continued with experts each presenting their insights to answer the topic of “How can ASEAN Innovate to Accelerate its Energy Transition?”.

Eddie Tan, Vice President of Integrated Solutions (Singapore & Southeast Asia), Sembcorp Industries Ltd, highlighted the company’s innovations in addition to its efforts to ensure a clean energy supply from natural gas for Singapore. Sembcorp is developing a 60 megawatt-peak (MWp) floating solar farm in Tengeh Reservoir—one of the world’s largest inland floating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. In terms of a regional power grid, Sembcorp has announced the development of Energy Storage Systems for the solar market and has started a feasibility study on the hydrogen supply chain.

Jennifer Tay, Partner and Infrastructure Leader of PwC Singapore, shared the role of PwC Singapore in contributing towards net-zero emissions. As a global network, PwC helps to mitigate climate change by cutting up emissions through carbon credits. Its Singapore office will launch the ESG Centre of Excellence, a platform to build a network of experts and capabilities, particularly in environmental, social, and corporate governance.

Dr. Ir. Retno Gumilang Dewi, Head of Center for Research on Energy Policy, Bandung Institute of Technology, shared that the current economic growth is leading to increasing energy demand and a changing shift from fuels to electricity. She emphasised the crucial role of national energy policies, especially in Indonesia, to enhance the energy transition. This will need to take into account clean energy access, improving energy efficiency, moving away from oil, among other things.

Dr Andrea Lovato, Executive Vice President of Renewables and Hydrogen, ACWA Power, expressed that renewable energy and green hydrogen are two key strategies of ACWA’s net-zero plan. He said that while solar energy depends on the sun shining, it is the cheapest non-emitting option at present and its productivity could be exponentially improved by coupling solar energy with green hydrogen.

Sirpa Jarvenpaa, Director of Southeast Asia Energy Transition Partnership (ETP), also shared that to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement, ETP is using inclusive and collaborative methodology. ETP also works through four strategic outcome areas of policy alignment with climate commitments, de-risking of finance for energy efficiency and renewable energy project, expanding smart grids, and building knowledge and awareness on energy transitions.

Beni Suryadi invited the experts to join in a panel discussion. Kicking this off was Jennifer Tay who reported on Southeast Asia’s energy transition readiness. She noted that most ASEAN countries are ready in terms of their accessibility, reliability, and affordability criteria. However, more investments and collaborations are needed to realise the rest of the criteria comprising sustainability, smartness, and trading.

The discussions were followed by Eddie Tan who offered a business’ perspective. He said Indonesia has a significant role in driving the energy transition for Southeast Asia, especially with the commencement in the near future of a 145MW floating solar farm—one of the largest in the world and the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia—funded by the Abu Dhabi Masdar Group. Dr Andrea Lovato added that a combination of PVs and batteries will also help Indonesia to accelerate the energy transition, as long as the regulatory framework supports international financing.

Sirpa Jarvenpaa mentioned that the financing of the energy transition could come from public funds which are currently being used for fossil fuel subsidies. Other available sources can come from official development aid, the private sector, and philanthropic funds. Nevertheless, Jennifer Tay said the core issue is not the availability of funding, but the lack of high-quality projects to fund. There is a need to mobilise the funds accurately by considering risk allocation and risk sharing. Hence, she said it is important to explore alternatives such as blended financing.

In their final remarks, the panellists addressed essential elements in fostering the region’s energy transition, including trade, investments, human capital and regulatory harmonisation; a regulatory system that has to be in line with international standards; private sector competition with an open transparent system; private sector financing for renewables and energy efficiency; redirecting fossil fuel subsidies to other incentives; pricing GHGs; and more efforts from financial institutions and investors to catalyse energy transition projects. Beni Suryadi closed the session by stating that this is a starting point to the innovation conversation, and that more will need to be done to accelerate the energy transition in the region.


Access the ACE Roundtable session at SIEW 2021 on-demand recording here.

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