ASEAN’s Solar and Wind Growth Slowed Last Year, Despite Huge Potential

ASEAN had boosted its solar and wind generation with an average annual growth rate of 43% since 2015, but slowed to just 15% in 2022, according to a new analysis by global energy think tank Ember.

Ember says more robust policy actions are now required to accelerate solar and wind power to align with 1.5C and the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s net zero scenario.

From 2015 to 2022, solar and wind electricity generation in ASEAN grew by 43% annually, increasing from 4.19 TWh to 50.19 TWh, driven by policies implemented by member states to promote renewables deployment. 

Vietnam played a significant role in this growth accounting for 69% of the region’s solar and wind generation by 2022. Its feed-in tariff (FiT) for solar power contributed to the surge in ASEAN’s solar capacity until 2021. Unfortunately, the phase-out of the FiT scheme in 2022 is a key factor in the slowdown of the region’s solar growth.

Dr Dinita Setyawati Southeast Asia Senior Electricity Policy Analyst, at Ember said: “We have seen some great progress with clean energy growing rapidly in some ASEAN countries, supported by strong policies. Replicating the success region-wide and aligning with IEA’s net zero pathway means that we need to adopt and enhance similar strategies in other ASEAN countries, including comprehensive domestic policies and full support in financing from the international community to ensure grid stability, energy security, and economic competitiveness.”

Unlocking Solar and Wind

As of 2022, Ember says ASEAN has an installed capacity of 26.6 GW for solar and 6.8 GW for wind. Yet, this accounts for less than 1% of the region’s vast solar and wind potential, exceeding 30,000 GW and over 1,300 GW respectively. The region’s electricity demand is projected to grow by 4.3% annually, and renewables are expected to meet this rising demand. 

The ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Targets Scenario projects 185 GW capacity additions from renewables by 2040 with solar contributing to an additional 45 GW, and wind will reach approximately 9 GW capacity. Both solar and wind are expected to account for 15% of ASEAN’s electricity by 2040.

However, an alternative scenario, introduced by the ASEAN Centre for Energy, projects 62 GW of combined solar and wind capacity by 2050, emphasising cost-effectiveness and technology maturity.

Meanwhile, the IEA net-zero pathway proposes a more ambitious plan, aiming for solar and wind to make up nearly 23% of the region’s electricity generation mix by 2030, a decade earlier than the APAEC scenario. This would necessitate adding 164 GW of solar and 65 GW of wind, reaching a total capacity of 263 GW, which is more than triple the current capacity.

“Upscaling solar and wind development can stimulate economic growth, and improve energy access for ASEAN population in rural areas, thereby fostering sustainable development in the region,” says Dr Dinita Setyawati.

“Solar and wind are widely recognised as the most promising solutions for creating new markets, generating jobs, facilitating a just energy transition, and ensuring a resilient, energy-secure ASEAN. The realisation of these benefits critically depends on strong policy support and government commitments to drive robust action and substantial progress in renewable deployment,” Dr Setyawati adds.

Beni Suryadi Manager of Sustainable and Renewable Energy at ASEAN Centre for Energy said: “Rapid power demand growth in ASEAN countries has released market opportunities for the large-scale development of solar and wind powers.”

“Most of the ASEAN countries have updated their national power development plans and strategies that target to have more solar and wind in the mix and put the efforts to create the right environment to mobilise finance, absorb the technology and increase the readiness of the grid infrastructure. Combined with the other renewable energy sources for baseload generation, tapping the true potential of solar and wind will bring the region to go beyond its current target on renewable energy as needed to accelerate the efforts toward net zero.”