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ACE Focus Group Discussion: Biogas development in ASEAN Electricity Sector

The ASEAN-German Energy Programme (AGEP), a jointly implemented programme between ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), organised a fruitful Focus Group Discussion (FGD) for the study “Biogas Development in ASEAN Electricity Sector” on 17 March 2022.

The FGD was conducted virtually and attracted more than 130 participants representing different key stakeholders in biogas, including government agencies, development banks, energy consumer groups, industry associations, project developers, advocacy groups, academe, and think tanks from 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) and other nations outside the region such as Japan, China, Germany and other European countries. This FGD is part of an activity from the study to validate the results from desktop research, surveys, and interviews on how the key stakeholders in AMS perceive and plan the biogas-to-electricity pathways. Three aspects have been brought up in the discussions, which are (1) to explore the existing barriers, risks, and opportunities of biogas-to-electricity in ASEAN, (2) to identify the appropriate technologies and feedstock for biogas in ASEAN power sector, and (3) to understand the policy gap to promote biogas development in the ASEAN electricity system.

In the opening remarks, Mr. Asdirhym Bin Abdul Rasib – Renewable Energy Sub Sector Network (RE-SSN) chair, Dr. Nuki Agya Utama – Executive Director of ACE, and Mr. Sergey Makarov, Principal Advisor of AGEP, emphasised the importance of biogas in increasing electricity production, diversifying the regional energy mix, and accelerating the clean energy transition in ASEAN. Further biogas deployment will significantly contribute to the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II aspirational target of 23% renewable energy share in total primary energy supply by 2025; however, its capacity has not yet been achieved been tapped to its full potential. Prompt actions at the regional level should be implemented to increase the penetration of biogas with well-defined targets and practical implementation while supporting the development of well-designed and locally-adapted policy mechanisms and national energy agenda. The openings encouraged the participants to have insightful conversations with experts and gathered meaningful input for the finalisation process of the study.

Dr. Sussanne Rentzow, Regional Project Director of European Commission-funded EURAXESS ASEAN, presented the introduction to Euraxess. Euraxess is an initiative backed by European Union (EU),  and associated countries to support research mobility and career development, as well as strengthen scientific collaboration between Europe and the world. The participants noted services offered by Euraxess range from providing information and supporting tools for research actors to cooperate with European research partners to constructing a partnering tool to identify potential stakeholders, research, and industry partners.

In the second keynote speech, Professor Hideki Ohgaki, Group Leader for Environment and Energy Japan-ASEAN Science, Technology and Innovation Platform (JASTIP), presented “Current biogas-to-electricity status, pilot case, and funding opportunity.” He highlighted that to overcome the current obstacles of biogas development, such as high transportation costs and insufficient resources for domestic supply, all-out efforts and strong collaboration in all sectors of society, such as industry, consumers, and the government, are critical. Some case studies in Myanmar and Japan were also presented to reflect how biogas development can benefit the electricity generation process and local communities.

To give the audience an overview of AGEP, Ms. Melati Wulandari, Advisor from AGEP, shared an introduction to AGEP Phase II. The ACE-GIZ cooperation timeline and the AGEP of objectives with past and current activities have been highlighted. In line with APAEC Phase II (2016 – 2025), most of AGEP’s projects and activities are aligned with three Programme Areas, which are Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Renewable Energy, and Regional Energy Policy and Planning, with an aim to strengthen ACE in the role of a regional competence centre of excellence for sustainable energy.

In the next session, Ms. Monika Merdekawati, Technical Officer from ACE, introduced the organisation and study development. The study serves Programme Area No.5 – Renewable Energy, with the Outcome-based Strategy No.5 – Support biofuel and bioenergy development, according to APAEC Phase II (2016 – 2025). The study’s main objective is to analyse the status and potential of biogas in the power sector, including​ biogas potential, utilisation rate and its contribution to power generation, state-of-the-art technologies of biogas for power, support schemes, and incentives to promote biogas electricity, ​and future development of biogas electricity business. The study is also expected to become a reference for the governments during policy-making process.

Next, Dr. Takeshi Takama, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability & Resilience (su-re.co) and as the consultant of AGEP, proceeded to present the preliminary results of the study. Su-re.co currently works as a think-tank in climate change and energy projects, consulting government and international organisations. Dr. Takama illustrated the potential for biogas development, where solid and waste-water management and agriculture are the top-ranked potential sectors to implement biogas. Regarding the technology, anaerobic digestion is regarded as the most common method, while gasification process is still in its infancy in some countries. In terms of existing barriers, economic and technological difficulties are considered the most influential aspects in the acceleration of biogas, while environmental and social have less impact. The study also indicated that policy and regulations are the major barriers hindering biogas growth. This insight has inferred the urgent need to mainstream the biogas technology through financial funds and implement a robust policy for the biogas plants in the AMS. According to the survey responses, policy implementation and financial resources were seen as critical factors.

The main agenda was a series of discussion sessions, moderated by su-re.co. The first one focused on identifying the barriers and opportunities for biogas development in ASEAN countries, while the second one aimed at feasible technology and feedstock for biogas-to-electricity. During the discussion session, questions were given using the online platform to address the barriers and opportunities of biogas in the ASEAN power sector from non-regulatory and regulatory aspects. These participants were then divided into three breakout rooms to share their opinions on the mentioned topics. Different perspectives from key stakeholders were received, providing insightful information regarding the current status, as well as technological, economic, political and regulatory, social and environmental issues in biogas development.

Finally, in the closing remarks, Mr. Septia Buntara Supendi, Manager of REE Department at ACE, expressed his gratitude to all the speakers from EU, Japan, and participants from AMS for their active participation throughout the workshop. Mr. Septia highlighted the importance of global collaboration to achieve the regional RE targets and emphasized that the opinions and ideas exchanged during the FGDs were beneficial to the study itself and the bioenergy development in ASEAN. He hoped the study would provide a reference point to the governments and policy-makers, and more discussions on bioenergy development would be conducted in the future.

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