Southeast Asia power sector scored: Bottlenecks and bailouts pose major climate risks

Jakarta, Indonesia, 23 September – Vested coal interests, erratic policy shifts, and political bottlenecks for solar and wind energy present serious roadblocks to Southeast Asia’s climate response, a power sector scorecard report from Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA) has shown. 

Of the eight countries examined, none will achieve the target 1.5 degrees pathway without significant market and regulatory changes, while Vietnam performed the best and Indonesia performed the worst. 

“Climate crisis demands action and we are falling farther behind. Policymakers need to set the groundwork for reliable, job-creating growth. For energy, that means an unbiased analysis on solar. In Vietnam, we can already see that solar energy creates jobs and lays the foundations for growth. In Indonesia, fiscal support and stimulus to solar energy has the same potential to provide for inclusive and sustainable development,” said Tata Mustasya, GPSEA regional climate and energy campaign coordinator.

The scorecard maps business-as-usual and best-case-renewable-energy scenarios for eight countries – Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar – using International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 degrees pathway. This graded snapshot of each country’s energy transition, fossil fuel exclusions, solar and wind market development, policies and pricing, competition, and Covid-19 stimulus benchmarks progress.

Vietnam is a leader in solar and wind market design; feed-in-tariffs brought Vietnam’s solar capacity from 134 megawatts (MW) in 2018 to 5,500 MW by the end of 2019. The country’s solar and wind industry absorbed economic shock from the Covid-19 pandemic and protected its economy from global volatility in gas, coal, and oil fuel pricing [1]. Renewable energy also has been found to create three times more jobs than coal across the respective value chains. Still, while Vietnam is a regional leader, it is a global laggard and desperately needs to cancel much of its coal pipeline, which remains the second largest in the region behind Indonesia.

Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, despite poor overall performance and little proven commitment to an energy transition, can still follow in Vietnam’s footsteps but must immediately create or confirm exclusion policies to stop any new coal and gas plants. 

Indonesia is the only country that, for lack of systemic change [2], has no chance to be on a 1.5 degrees pathway by 2030. New pro-coal legislation and bailouts will cement that failure.

“State-owned utility PLN turned its monopoly on electricity into a cash-for-coal pipeline. And continued state support for the dying, debt-ridden coal industry undermines new energy growth. PLN says that the two can go hand-in-hand, but it’s only putting money into one of those hands. We need to exclude new coal and gas starting with Covid-19 stimulus and set a 50% renewable energy by 2030 target in next year’s energy plan,” said Tata. 

The current lull in energy demand presents the opportunity to re-haul systems. Solar and wind go online quickly, are proven to provide high-employment, and have low maintenance costs and no fuel costs that put them at risk of the type of fluctuations we’ve seen in 2020. So far, only Malaysia has positioned solar and wind investment as economic stimulus – but no plan has been released. 

Greenpeace offices in Thailand and Indonesia have individually called for a green and just recovery, while Greenpeace Philippines’ better normal recovery focuses on the exclusion of fossil fuels and concrete steps towards a carbon-free society.

“We need to scale up renewable energy targets to 50% renewable energy by 2030 – Vietnam’s example has already busted many longstanding myths about solar development and solar energy’s ‘bankability’ in Southeast Asia. In 2020, there is no longer any excuse for not having working power purchase agreements for solar and wind,” said Chariya Senpong, Greenpeace Thailand’s energy transition team leader.



[1] From scorecard report: Solar and wind have capital-intensive upfront costs but no ongoing fuel costs by definition. As such, they avoid the volatility of fuel prices and the need for fuel cost management, such as the caps on coal prices for CFPPs in Indonesia. Examining the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) where available for the five largest countries in the region, unsubsidized solar is now cheaper than unsubsidized coal and gas power in Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), and more expensive in Malaysia and Indonesia. Decreases in costs for solar and wind have been rapid and are projected to continue as technological advances improve efficiency.

[2] In Indonesia, billions of dollars in bailouts to state-owned oil and gas firm Pertamina and debt-ridden utility PLN effectively rewire stimulus money to fossil fuel conglomerates. This restarts Indonesia’s tragic cycle of debt, overcapacity, and the air pollution public health crisis, this time worsened by the Omnibus Bill and new Mining Bill that weaken social and environmental safeguards.

A copy of the scorecard report is here.

A copy of the scorecard page is here.

Photos for press use can be found here.

A documentary on PLN produced by Greenpeace Indonesia can be found here


Ester Meryana, Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia, Jakarta, +62-811-1924-090, [email protected] 

August Rick, International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia, [email protected]

Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

Follow @greenpeacepress on twitter for our latest international press releases

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