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Crucial Choice for Asean:

Secure, Sustainable Energy


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Greenpeace activists protesting in front of the venueof the Asean Energy Business Forum in Bangkok on 7 August 2008

Tessa de Ryck(middle) Regional Nuclear campaingner Greepeace SE Asia

Currently, Southeast Asia collectively ranks third highest in carbon dioxide emissions among developing countries, after China and India.  Business-as-usual projections indicate that Southeast Asia will increase its carbon dioxide emissions by 350 percent by 2050.(1)  This is an unacceptable scenario in the face of warnings issued by scientists about the dire consequences if the total global greenhouse gas emissions are not cut to half by mid-century.

Country/Region Metric Tons CO2
China   3468.9
ASEAN 789.2i

                  Global climate change caused by the relentless build-up of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, is already disrupting ecosystems and is already causing about 150,000 additional deaths per year. An average global warming of 2°C threatens millions of people with an increased risk of hunger, malaria, flooding and water shortages. If rising temperatures are to be kept within acceptable limits then we need to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. This makes both environmental and economic sense. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by using fossil fuels for energy.


From a moral, legal and practical perspective, the initial burden of emissions reductions has to fall on industrialised countries. However, Asean must learn from history and work towards stabilizing its carbon dioxide emissions by choosing renewable energy and enhancing energy efficiency while at the same time increasing energy consumption through economic growth. Southeast Asia must not follow a path that would further increase its greenhouse gas emissions.

The urgent need for the right decisive action to address the impending impacts of climate change is more urgent than ever.  Being home to among the most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts, Asean must establish among its governments the right climate and energy policy. Decisions made in the next few years, will continue to have an impact in 2050. Only if a renewable energy and energy efficient path is taken, can we avoid the worst excesses of climate change!

Last year, Greenpeace welcomed the inclusion of climate change and energy as key issues under Singapore’s chairmanship of the Asean.  It, also, further welcomed the reiteration of Asean’s target “to increase the share of renewable energy in power generation in the region to 10% by 2010. (2)  However, these declarations have completely remained on paper.  Asean has failed to translate these targets in to real renewable energy development on the ground.  Asean will very likely miss its 10% renewable energy target.

Energy Security
Spurred by recent dramatic increases in the price of oil and coal, the issue of security of supply is now at the top of the energy discussions within Asean. The supplies of all fossil fuels – especially oil, gas and even coal – are becoming scarcer and more expensive to produce.   However, instead of moving towards the direction of developing renewable energy where real energy security can be achieved, ASEAN plans to expand the share of coal and adopt nuclear.

Under the IEA’s World Energy Outlook of 2004(ii) , East Asia is looking at expanding coal from an installed capacity of around 38,600 MW in 2003 to 311,200 MW by 2050(iii)  despite the fact that coal is also facing an increase in fossil fuel prices due to China’s fast growing appetite for energy who will soon import increasing amounts of coal to satisfy its booming economy.  Indonesia also plans to shift its coal production mainly for domestic use. In addition the outlook to capture and store CO2 past 2020 - irrespective of being realistic or just wishful thinking - encourages industrialized countries to build new coal power plants in the coming years. Coal’s price was projected to increase to $86.4 by 2050.(iv)   However, the price of coal today has increased six fold.  In 2002, coal was traded at only $30 per ton.  Today, coal is sold and bought by as much as $180 per ton.

 Country  ElectricityConsumption (2004) GWh
 Coal(GWh)  Oil(GWh)  NaturalGas(GWh) Hydro(GWh)
Geo(GWh)  Biomass(GWh)
 9,673   6,651  
 Myanmar  6,437 
  55,957  16,194
 8,593  10,282
 125,727   20,008
   6,040    2,731
 Vietnam 46,029   
 7,039  1,684 
  3,936    108
 TOTALS   480,992
 114,589  69,088 
  53,999   16,933    2,731

The Nuclear Diversion
Instead of following up on promises made to invest in renewable energy sources, Asean member countries Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam have announced intentions of adopting nuclear power to address the domestic energy security issue and to combat climate change. Indonesia aims to build four nuclear power plants (NPP), with a combined capacity of 4000 MW. Thailand (4000 MW) and Vietnam (8000 MW) have similar plans. These NPPs are projected to be completed between 2015 and 2025. In Indonesia, nuclear power would still only contribute a mere 2% to national energy consumption. Considering the tremendous risks and costs that accompany the choice of “going nuclear”, this is clearly the wrong decision to take, especially when clean and safe alternatives are plentiful. Geological instability and governance as well as maintenance problems in the Asean context are added threats to the inherent risks posed by nuclear technology.

The nuclear industry has a track record of catastrophic incidents, with Chernobyl as the most horrible reminder, and countless safety breaches, accidents and cover-ups. On 16th July 2007, an earthquake hit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Japan with the CEO of TEPCO, the power plant operator, saying that he did not realise the plant was built on an active fault line.

Besides the dangers of accidents and unresolved issues of nuclear waste storage, building a nuclear power plant involves enormous financial costs.(3) 

Building nuclear power plants within planned time frames or budgets has been more the exception than the rule for the 439 nuclear power plants currently operating worldwide.

In addition to the soaring prices of nuclear power plants, competitive electricity prices could only be achieved by price regulations, direct and indirect subsidies to the production of nuclear power, an extreme limitation of liability in case of accidents, externalizing most environmental costs of uranium mining and fuel production, and heavily subsidizing a large part of the back-end costs, especially the costs of decommissioning, waste processing and storage.

Energy [R]evolution
Early last year, Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Coalition (EREC) released a report titled, “Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook” as an alternative to IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2004. The report shows that it is economically feasible to cut global CO2 emissions by almost 50 percent within the next 43 years. It concludes that a massive uptake of renewable energy sources is not only technically possible but also, combined with the smart use of energy, it can deliver half of the world’s energy needs by 2050.
The Energy Revolution says that for Southeast Asia to make a difference in the fight to save the climate, the developing nations in the region must cut their carbon dioxide emission by as much as 22 percent by 2050.

To achieve this, East Asia must start to phase out coal in its energy mix from 38,600 MW in 2003 to 16,000 MW by 2050 while increasing the share of renewable energy to 520,000 MW by 2050.  Electricity consumption also needs to be reduced through energy efficiency by as much as increasing the by as much as 35% or saving 1,000 TWh by 2050.

Due to the growing demand for power, we are facing a significant increase in society’s expenditure on electricity supply. In terms of economics, however, the Energy Revolution Scenario offers a much cheaper expenditure for power generation. 

For East Asia, under a business as usual scenario, fuel costs reaches close to $6.3 trillion in fuel costs over the next 23 years.  Under the energy revolution scenario, fuel costs reaches only up to $4.2 trillion in energy costs with a savings of more than $2 trillion stabilising energy costs and relieving the economic pressure on society. Increasing energy efficiency and shifting energy supply to renewable energy resources leads to long term costs for electricity supply that are one third lower than business as usual projections. Following stringent environmental targets in the energy sector also pays off in economic terms.(4)

Individual national reports have now been released for Thailand and Indonesia; with the Philippines’ version to be released very soon (its launch date is set for Friday 8 August 2008).


Focus here is on the power sector, which is the fastest growing one. Given the geography of Indonesia, with more than 6000 inhabited islands, the country lends itself best for a decentralised system based on individual islands’ or island groups’ specific characteristics and capacities for renewable energy sources. According to the energy revolution scenario for Indonesia, by 2050, 60% of the electricity produced in Indonesia will come from renewable energy sources. ‘New’ renewables – wind, biomass, geothermal and solar energy – will contribute 70% of this capacity. The reduction of coal power plants and increasing electricity demand will be compensated for initially by bringing into operation new highly efficient gas-fired combined-cycle power plants, plus an increasing capacity of geothermal power plants. In the long term, geothermal, solar photovoltaic and biomass will be the most important sources of electricity generation.

Under the Philippine Energy Revolution Scenario, the development of the electricity supply sector is characterised by a dynamically growing renewable energy market and an increasing share of renewable electricity. This will compensate for the reduction of coal and a reduction in fossil-fired
plants to the minimum required for grid stabilisation. By 2050, 70% of the electricity produced in the Philippines will come from renewable energy sources. The installed capacity of renewable energy technologies will increase from the current 5 GW to 49 GW in 2050, increasing renewable capacity by a factor of 10 within the next 42 years.

The enormous resistance against proposed coal-fired power plants has resulted to investors looking at putting these dirty power plants in Laos and Cambodia instead where democratic space for resisting against this coal plants is virtually zero. 
In 2006, Greenpeace release report titled Decentralizing Thai Power. This report puts forward a vision of a clean and profitable Power Development Plan (PDP) for Thailand, based on Government and World Bank figures alone. This vision is then contrasted with the current inefficient, fossil fuel-intensive PDP from state generator EGAT that determines Thai energy planning. The comparison demonstrates that, even according to relatively conservative assessments of potential identified by numerous Government and World Bank Commissioned studies, Thailand’s potential for meeting its future growth in energy demand through a decentralized energy mix of energy efficiency, renewable energy and efficient Combined Heat and Power generation is large enough to negate the need for the new non-committed centralized coal and gas generation capacity and hydropower imports specified in the government’s PDP.

Rising cost of fossil fuel and the price of CO2
The recent runaway increase in the price of coal has been staggering. In 2002, the price per metric ton of coal was only traded at $30.  Today, coal is priced by as much as $180 per ton.  This is a far cry from the industry’s projection that coal will only reach close to $90 per metric ton by 2050.

The recent dramatic increase in global oil prices has resulted in much higher forward price projections. Different scenarios project the price of oil anywhere from $34/barrel to $200/barrel.

Projections of CO2 emission costs are even more uncertain than energy prices. IEA projects a CO2 reduction incentive of $25/tCO2 in 2050.  However, several studies show that, depending on the scenario, it could reach to as much as $100/tCO2.(v)   We assume that CO2 emission costs will be accounted for in Non-Annex B countries only after 2020.

Creating an enabling environment for the massive uptake of renewable energy in the Asean region
The future of renewable energy development in the region will strongly depend on political choices by both the individual governments and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Time is running out. In order to avert dangerous climate change, global emissions need to peak by 2050 and go down rapidly in order to avoid the 2 degrees threshold. Sadly, the right policy support for the massive uptake of renewable energy is still at the bottom of ASEAN’s priorities. The group must set strong renewable energy targets and policies and develop comprehensive energy-efficient measures to bring down fuel consumption even as the region sustains economic development.

Renewable Energy Policies
By shifting global investments to renewable energy (including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and bio energy), within the next 23 years, and away from dirty and dangerous coal and nuclear power, we can save a massive US$180 billion a year.

This requires an internalisation of external costs and is critical to creating an enabling environment for renewables.

Asean Governments must therefore exercise leadership and set binding renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, and explore possible various CO2 emission reduction pathways.  Specifically, Asean leaders must:

•    Create national and regional task forces that looks into a comprehensive decarbonisation program with a view to stabilizing and ultimately reducing the region’s CO2 emissions by 2050;
•    Fulfil its regional target of getting 10% from renewable energy by 2010. 
•    Set a 40% renewable energy target by 2020
•    Enact support mechanisms (i.e. feed in tariffs, net metering options, green energy) to secure and accelerate renewable energy uptake including guaranteed priority access to the grid for renewable generators;
•    Implement strict energy efficiency standards for  appliances, lighting, buildings and vehicles;
•    Put a moratorium in the construction of new coal-fired power plants;
•    Abandon the myth of clean coal and nuclear as solutions to climate change!

Climate Change related policies
Last year, world leaders gathered in Bali to flesh out the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol regime.  Over the next two years, the world must put together a comprehensive second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol to avoid dangerous climate change.  In this light, and complementary to agreeing on a set of enabling policies for renewable energy and energy efficiency uptake, Asean leaders must:

•    Re-affirm their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol as the only legally binding treaty that contains mandatory targets to solving the global problem;
•    Declare commitment to avoiding dangerous climate change by ensuring the global average temperature increase is kept well below 2ºC;
•    Declare commitment to developing their respective power development plans based on an emissions pathway consistent with 2ºC, that peaks global emissions by 2015 and reduces global GHGs by 50% to 85% by 2050, setting 1990 as the base year;
•    Agree, that, based on the principles of common but differentiated commitments, ASEAN countries like other developing countries, particularly the rapidly developing, need to further de-carbonize their development and that the international community needs to develop new instruments and shift investment frameworks to support this.
•    Expand and strengthen Kyoto’s carbon markets as part of a Kyoto-based post-2012 agreement to help deliver the necessary emissions reductions and shift investments into sustainable development as long as the projects result in real emission reduction benefits;
•    Expand adaptation mechanisms, involving support and assistance funded by industrialised countries, to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Asean faces a simple but crucial choice: it can either invest in over 10,000 new polluting coal and gas power plants, which would double fuel costs and increase C02 emissions by more than 50 percent. Or it can choose a safe renewable energy future, producing 70 percent of the world’s electricity from our planet’s natural resources.
For the sake of a sound environment, political stability and thriving economies, it is the responsibility of Asean and its governments to commit to a truly secure and sustainable energy future—a future built on cleaner, safer technologies, economic development and the creation of millions of new jobs.

 (1) Under the business-as-usual scenario of the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook Projection, with 2003 as the base year, East Asia’s carbon dioxide emissions will increase 350 percent by 2050.
 (2) “Energising Asean to Power a Dynamic Asia”, Joint Ministerial Statement, The 25th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM),  Singapore, 23 August 2007
 (3)  Construction costs of nuclear power plants have increased by 270% compared to the year 2000. No wonder private investors have shown great reluctance to finance construction of new nuclear power plants. In 2007, not a single private dollar was invested in this costly affair, whereas in that same year, renewables (notably wind energy and solar PV) have attracted $71 billion in private capital investment. Despite more than fifty years of massive investments in research and development, which continues to this day, nuclear power technology has not made any major progress and is diverting funds from clean, safe and far more economical renewable technologies.
(4)  Globally, under World Energy Outlook 2004, the undiminished growth in demand, the increase in fossil fuel prices and the costs of CO2 emissions all result in electricity supply costs rising from today’s $1,130 billion per year to more than $4,300 billion per year in 2050.
i Source: World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicator Toolkit (  Data does not include land use change
ii     Under the World Energy Outlook 2004 of the International Energy Agency, South East Asian countries are lumped together with other countries under East Asia region.  Other countries outside of ASEAN member countries include  with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Chinese Taipei, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Maldives, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu
iii      Coal and lignite
iv      Future investment report assumption for the price of coal by 2050
v      IEA (2006b) assumes a CO2 reduction incentive of 25 $/tCO2 in 2050. A study commissioned by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU 2003) suggest that under a 450 ppm CO2 stabilization scenario the price for global CO2 emission allowances will rise to around 50 $/tCO2 in 2030, and – depending on the scenario – to more than 100 $/tCO2 in 2050. We assume that CO2 costs rise linearly from 10 $/tCO2 in 2010 to 50 $/tCO2 in 2050, which is twice as high as the IEA’s projection, but still conservative compared with other studies.

Tara Buakamsri, Greenpeace Southeast Asia- Thailand Campaign Manager
Tel: +66 894769977
Jasper Inventor, Greenpeace International Climate & Energy campaigner
Tel: +63 9173009567
Tessa de Ryck, Greenpeace Southeast Asia- Regional Nuclear Campaigner
Tel: +66 878129869

Related websites:

"Future Investment - A sustainable Investment Plan for the power sector to save the Climate"
"Energy [R]evolution" –


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