While China is the region’s largest economy, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries have seen electricity consumption growing at nearly 6 per cent annually since 2000, double the world’s average.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Southeast Asia’s rising income and increasing demand for air conditioning will double the region’s electricity consumption by 2040.
While governments in the region have been expanding their power sector to meet this demand, the growth of power generation has been dominated by fossil fuels. In 2019, thermal generation accounted for almost 70 per cent in China and 80 per cent in ASEAN countries, where air pollution has become a major public health risk on top of concerns about global warming.
The increased demand is of concern for Pacific Island states, which are dependent on imported fuels for power generation and extremely vulnerable to fluctuating energy prices. Policy-makers are, however, scaling-up renewable energy development. Over the past five years, the region has led the world in wind and solar capacity installations.
Hydropower output in Southeast Asia has quadrupled since 2000. In 2019, there has been strong momentum for hybrid renewable energy projects as governments encourage deployment of floating solar PV at hydropower facilities This enables hydropower and solar power to work in synergy while also making good use of existing infrastructure. Further plans for cross-border interconnection will also help integrate a greater share of renewable energy into the power system.
Asia Pacific will increasingly be the main battleground in the fight to limit global warming. Yet it remains a formidable challenge to, at the same time, ensure access to “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, as part of low-carbon economic development..
Despite a slowing rate of new installed capacity in recent years, China is still the regional leader in hydropower development. In 2019, the country commissioned approximately 4.17 GW hydropower installed capacity.
Pumped storage capacity grew by 300 MW in 2019, with a temporary pause on new pumped storage projects. This was due to a lack of progress in electricity market reforms affecting investment returns for energy storage projects, and pressure to reduce electricity prices for consumers.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic though, pumped storage and grid infrastructure projects have been resumed to stimulate economic recovery. Further market reforms and ancillary market development are still required.
Major projects in construction include the 10,200 MW Wudongde project and the 16,000 MW Baihetan project, which are expected to be commissioned in 2021 and 2022. However, the transmission line for Baihetan, originally planned to start construction last year, has not been approved yet.
With new commissions totalling 1.89 GW, Laos was second-highest in new added capacity across the region. The growth includes two major projects; the 1,295 MW Xayaburi run-of-river power station and 270 MW Nam Ngiep 1 project. These will produce electricity for local use as well as export to Thailand. In addition, the new 260 MW Don Sahong project will supply electricity to Cambodia. The Laos government will continue to promote sustainable hydropower with the aim of reducing energy imports, as well as reducing electricity prices.
In Indonesia, the 46.6 MW Rajamandala project in Jarkarta was commissioned last year, for Indonesia’s state utility PT Perusahaan Listrk Negara (PLN). The government has announced plans to build the country’s largest hydro project, the 1,350 MW Mentarang Hydroelectric Power Plant in North Kalimantan in 2020, with total costs of US$2 billion. PLN also signed a power purchase agreement for the 145 MW Cirata floating PV project in West Java.
In Vietnam, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided a US$37 million loan to the Da Mi Hydropower Joint Stock Company, a division of national electric utility Vietnam Electricity (EVN). This is for retrofitting 47 MW of floating solar panels on its hydropower plant. Two pilot auctions for 50-300 MW floating PV on hydropower plants will also be held in 2020 by Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT).
The state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) aims to develop 16 floating solar farms with a combined capacity of over 2.7 GW at nine of its hydropower reservoirs by 2037. Thailand is also developing its power transmission network and has agreements to source hydropower from Laos and export to Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar.
In Cambodia, the Ministry of Mines and Energy recently announced that the country will not pursue new hydropower development on the mainstream Mekong River. However, the government is still studying the potential for new hydropower development on river tributaries, such as a 190 MW project on the Sekong River in Stung Treng province.
In Australia, the state of Tasmania announced a 200 per cent renewable energy generation target for 2040 and aims to become a net exporter of renewable energy to the rest of the country. Thanks to hydropower, Tasmania is already approaching 100 per cent renewables by 2022. Its government also confirmed its new ‘Battery of the Nation’ pumped storage projects and the Marinus Link interconnector will play a lead role in the state’s economic recovery from Covid-19.
Finally, in 2019, hydropower projects across the Pacific Island states secured funding from international financing institutions. In the Solomon Islands, the 15 MW Tina River Hydropower Project has secured US$240 million from a consortium of development agencies. The project is set to begin construction in early 2020 and will help reduce the country’s reliance on imported diesel by nearly 70 per cent.
In Vanuatu, an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract was awarded for the once abandoned 400kW run-of-river Brenwe Hydropower project, with loans provided by the ADB.
This regional profile is featured in the 2020 Hydropower Status Report. Download the report: hydropower.org/statusreport
Picture: Mountain view of the Baihetan hydropower project. Credit: China Three Gorges
This profile was last updated in May 2020.