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Advancing ASEAN’s Future: The Imperative of ASEAN Long-Term Renewable Energy Target

I Dewa Made Raditya Margenta, Rinda Rufaidah, Aldilla Rakhiemah, and Beni Suryadi
21 December 2023

Becoming an epicentre of growth, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) strengthened its mission to be the global economy powerhouse. In doing so, ASEAN should promote robust low-carbon economic development by intertwining economy, energy, and sustainable agenda. ASEAN’s long-term renewable energy target is critical in bridging this effort and bringing the goal one step closer.

ASEAN’s Energy Transition Commitment and the Ongoing Journey

At this pivotal juncture, the ASEAN stands united in its mission to lead the transition towards cleaner energy resources while addressing climate-related concerns. Moreover, two-thirds of ASEAN energy demand can be secured by optimising renewables. Demonstrating their commitment, each ASEAN Member State (AMS) has unveiled its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), shining a spotlight on the critical need to curtail emissions within the energy sector. The shared aspiration of these nations is to attain carbon neutrality or net-zero emissions (NZE) by either 2050 or 2060. Despite making commendable headway, certain challenges continue to persist.

Among these challenges, some countries’ renewable energy targets miss the mark of their benchmarks, revealing an array of barriers such as technology readiness, project economics, funding sources, and policy support. In consequence, the regional renewable energy status fell shorter than the initial projections.

The ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) calculates that the 2021 actual renewable energy share in ASEAN reaches 14.4%, or 0.2% and 3.4% lower than the Baseline Scenario and ASEAN Progressive Scenario (APS) based on the 7th ASEAN Energy Outlook projection at the same period. Although, this situation concerns the regional effort to achieve the 2025 target of 23% renewable energy share in ASEAN’s primary energy supply, there are promising aspects to consider.

On a more positive note, the renewable energy utilisation in installed power capacity depicts promising progress and potentially exceeds 35% of the regional target by 2025. This growth will be more significant through stronger grid reliability and improved regional interconnectivity.

Furthermore, the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels underscores the urgency for a comprehensive transition to cleaner energy sources. The implementation of fuel subsidies has allowed the public to access fossil fuel products at an affordable price easily. Though, by 2025 and 2039, ASEAN is projected to be the net importer of natural gas and coal unless significant discoveries are made. Therefore, more renewable energy penetration is crucial to ensure energy security, economic growth, and sustainable development.

These hurdles necessitate a comprehensive and multistage approach, prompting ASEAN to contemplate establishing specific and ambitious long-term targets for renewable energy utilisation, especially beyond 2025 and focusing on the demand side.

It is noteworthy that despite setting net-zero emissions targets by 2060 or earlier, ASEAN has not established renewable energy goals extending past 2025 because its attention is undeniably directed toward its ongoing journey. Nevertheless, ASEAN welcomes efforts to implement long-term strategies and accelerate actions until 2050 to boost renewable energy optimisation in the region.

The Roadmap to Sustainable Energy: Overcoming Challenges and Forging Ahead

A strategic and well-defined long-term target for renewable energy utilisation forms the foundation of ASEAN’s path toward a sustainable energy future. This target provides guidance to individual member states and lays the groundwork for united collective action. By establishing a regional benchmark, ASEAN fosters a shared commitment to making renewable energy an indelible facet of its energy landscape.

Moreover, technological advances have significantly bolstered the economic feasibility and reliability of renewable energy projects, thus reinforcing the economic rationale for not relying only on fossil fuels but embracing alternative energy resources.

Nonetheless, while the prospects are promising, challenges persist. Sustainable financing remains a key consideration for implementing large-scale renewable energy projects. Additionally, ensuring political stability is paramount to facilitating long-term energy projects’ continuity. Building human resource capacity to support the planning, execution, and maintenance of such projects is also essential.

Likewise, renewable energy optimisation beyond the power sector is also critical. Promoting renewable energy as a captive power source and alternative fuel in the industry sector should be done to reduce emissions produced, despite technology readiness and economic feasibility remaining major challenges. Therefore, it is important to identify which industries can optimise renewable energy instantly and encourage gradual renewable energy utilisation in the hard-to-abate industry sectors.

Maximising renewable energy potential in the transport sector also requires a strategic plan. Mandatory biofuel in some countries can help reduce dependency on fossil fuels. However, the realisation should consider land-use change and the presence of alternative vehicles such as Electric Vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen-fleet. Integrated renewable energy infrastructure for EV charging stations will improve EV expansion readiness. Therefore, a strategic approach is crucial to balance biofuel mandate regulation, EV penetration, and hydrogen-based vehicles in the long run without hindering each development.

The long-term renewable energy target emerges as a pivotal decision in this intricate landscape in ASEAN. This target, support with a strategic roadmap, functions as a comprehensive strategy for amplifying renewable energy penetration by identifying strengths, addressing weaknesses, and vigilantly monitoring progress. It provides a holistic view of the opportunities and challenges, allowing ASEAN to plan and allocate resources for maximum impact strategically.


As the ASEAN region charts its course toward a more sustainable energy future, establishing long-term targets for renewable energy utilisation becomes not just a choice but an imperative. ASEAN’s potential to overcome barriers, harness its renewable energy potential, and embrace cleaner energy sources will drive economic growth and position the region as a global leader in sustainable development.

For the ASEAN long-term renewable energy target to truly manifest change, it must extend beyond being a mere document. It should be the guidance and coherence with the energy plans of each ASEAN Member State. This is where national and regional political commitment and consistency will be the silver bullet.