It’s decision time for Southeast Asia as power demand soars

Still stuck on coal, the region is missing out on massive price cuts in renewables, writes Courtney Weatherby.

Coal-fired power plant in Henan, China
A coal-fired power plant in Henan, China. While China is shifting from heavy coal reliance to renewable sources, it continues to invest in coal-fired power plant projects overseas. Image: V.T. Polywoda, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Courtney Weatherby  

Southeast Asia’s energy demand is expected to grow by two-thirds by 2040, requiring massive investment in new energy generation and transmission. Installed capacity will double from 240 gigawatts to 565 gigawatts, which amounts to adding a bit more than Japan’s total electricity capacity.

To meet their growing needs, countries have to make pivotal choices. They will either lock the region into a carbon-intensive energy future or open up a more sustainable, flexible path based on renewables and energy trading. Outside investors – in particular China – will play a key role in the outcome.

Some of the region’s poorest developing countries face the greatest pressures. Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos can expect their energy demand to grow every year by double digits. Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam project 6-10 per cent annual growth rates.

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