Geopolitics of Energy Transition: A Winding Road of Renewable Energy in Asia

Authors: Mayora Bunga Swastika and Akhmad Hanan*

Conceptually, energy transition transforms energy sources from fossil fuel-based to clean energy that does not produce carbon emissions. Fossil energy has been used for a long time and has created significant greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. One clean energy source in the world is renewable energy, which is more sustainable than fossil fuels. Renewable energy is more efficient and effective than fossil energy. In line with global ambitions, countries in the world work together to overcome the problem of climate change and towards net zero emission for all sectors, including energy. In the future, energy transition trends can affect regional geopolitics worldwide.

Unfortunately, petroleum is still an essential energy source in this world today. Therefore, the largest petroleum-producing countries in the world can be said to be able to hold the world trade market. Countries such as the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are countries that contribute the most to oil reserves in the world. Countries that have oil reserves can influence energy geopolitics. For example, there was an oil embargo by Saudi Arabia in 1973, and currently a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This incident not only made world oil prices soar but also the prices of other energy commodities.

The energy transition is expected to reduce the impact of geopolitics when these incidents happen in the future. Countries can develop the potential of renewable energy to meet domestic energy needs. Asia is one of the world’s regions with great potential for renewable energy. The following graph shows that Asia is the highest global producer of renewable energy compared to other regions in the world. In 2019, Asia produced 1.89 M GWh of renewable energy, almost half of global renewable energy. China is the highest renewable energy producer in Asia.

Figure 1. Total Renewable Energy in the World (Source: PYC Data Center, 2021)

Energy Transition in Asia: The Role of Geothermal and Hydropower

Several countries in Asia, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, have many energy sources, from geothermal and hydro. Around 34% of the world’s geothermal resources, with a total installed capacity of 15 GW by 2020, are in Asia. This makes Asia the largest geothermal producer in the world. In addition, Asia is also the largest producer of hydropower in the world. The following graph shows this. Geothermal and hydropower are renewable energy needed to support the energy transition. In this case, Asia has the potential for developing energy transition in terms of renewable energy production, especially geothermal and hydropower.

From an energy transition perspective, Asia can become a strong player in the world’s energy transition market. Previously, the United States, Russia, and countries in the Middle East were the centers of the world’s energy market; Asia can enter with its renewable energy potential. Indonesia, as one of the countries in Asia, also has considerable potential to produce renewable energy. From 2011 to 2016, Indonesia competed with the Philippines in geothermal production in the Asian Region. The following graph shows that from 2017 to 2019, Indonesia was the largest geothermal producer in the Asian Region. This shows that Indonesia also contributes to the largest geothermal potential in the world, namely in the Asia Region along with the Philippines, Japan, China, and Thailand.

Figure 2. Geothermal Production in Asia (Source: PYC Data Center, 2021)

In general, the potential for new and renewable energy in Asia is qualified to support the energy transition in the future. However, Asia’s dominant use of fossil energy is a barrier to energy transition programs. There are also many developing countries in Asia, so the need for fulfillment and access to energy is the main problem rather than thinking about energy transition programs. Energy policies in Asian countries are still focused on providing equitable energy for all people. Indeed, countries like Indonesia target achieving zero emissions by 2060 or as soon as possible. However, the main problem today, especially in Indonesia, is affordable energy provision and access to all people. Many lower-class people have not thought about energy transition efforts. They only consider energy availability, not caring about fossils or new and renewable energy.

For the scope of international cooperation in the Asian region, together to overcome energy problems and realize the energy transition with a firm commitment. Geopolitical issues such as in the Middle East, Russia-Ukraine, or even the turmoil in the South China Sea could disrupt energy stability in the future. Therefore, the Asian community is required to fight together for energy sustainability in the Asian region. The potential of renewable energy in the Asian Region is huge. Even in some sectors, it is the largest renewable energy in the world. This must be accompanied by properly and efficiently processing renewable energy.

*Akhmad Hanan, a researcher from The Purnomo Yusgiantoro Center, a think tank in energy security based in Indonesia.

Mayora Bunga Swastika
Mayora Bunga Swastika
Mayora is a researcher at the Purnomo Yusgiantoro Center (PYC). At PYC, she is involved in research topics of security and defense, energy security, energy law and geopolitics. Prior to that, she was an assistant lecturer for the security and defense subject She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Universitas Diponegoro (UNDIP) and a master’s degree in International Relations from Universitas Indonesia (UI).