- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

A Green Vision vs. a Brown Outlook: The Future of ASEAN’S Energy Mix

Xunpeng Shi


This working paper assesses competing outlooks for ASEAN's energy mix—highlighting the paradox of its fossil fuel-dominated outlook when contrasted with its aspirations to move toward a greener energy mix—and reviews regional energy security strategies using the SWOT analysis method to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Main Argument

Southeast Asia’s energy consumption is expected to grow continuously over the next two decades, increasing by as much as 80% according to the International Energy Agency’s “new policies scenario.” While ASEAN has great ambitions to move toward a cleaner, more secure energy mix, its current outlook is that fossil fuels will dominate the energy mix even in 2035. This paradox between a green vision and a brown energy outlook needs to be addressed in ASEAN. The region has many advantages and disadvantages in its aim to achieve its green vision. Overall, ASEAN has made significant strides toward achieving a greener energy mix; such efforts include advancing energy efficiency, boosting physical connectivity, deploying renewable and alternative energy supplies, promoting the cleaner use of fossil fuels, and reforming fossil fuel subsidies. However, reduction of CO2 emissions has not been explicitly set in the region’s policy agenda, and current progress in the energy action plan is insufficient to secure a green ASEAN. As such, achieving ASEAN’s environmental goals will require greater leadership and cooperation among countries in the region.

Policy Implications

To strengthen efforts to move toward a cleaner, greener, more sustainable energy mix, policymakers and other stakeholders in ASEAN should pay particular attention to the following goals:

  • Supporting further energy market integration to allow for greater optimization of regional resource endowments and the overall reduction of energy system costs
  • Revising energy connectivity plans and promoting the development of both physical and institutional connectivity to enable optimal use of low-carbon energy resources
  • Strengthening overall institutional frameworks for cooperation on energy challenges through changing the region’s energy security paradigm and building political trust
  • Realizing member countries’ commitments to the environmental and energy goals outlined in the “ASEAN Vision 2020” and other action plans, while enhancing state capacity to carry out these initiatives

This working paper was commissioned for the 2014 Pacific Energy Summit. Held on June 30-July 1, 2014, the Summit convened key stakeholders from around the world in Seoul, South Korea, to discuss the market trends, geopolitical developments, policy decisions, and technological innovations that will play a critical role in determining the energy and environmental outlook for the Asia-Pacific. Learn more.

Xunpeng Shi is Senior Research Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute of the National University of Singapore. This paper was partly developed during his tenure as Chief Researcher at the Brunei National Energy Research Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

General Information

Clara Gillispie
Senior Director of Trade, Economic, and Energy Affairs