IN THE NEWS: 'Powering Up Sustainable Energy for Asia'



By Sam Geall [Chatham House, 11 March 2019]

Asia’s cryosphere, the vast stores of frozen water in the high mountains that feed the rivers on which some 1.3 billion people depend, is warming far faster than average, an expert assessment warned recently, adding that two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could disappear by the end of the century.

This and other warning signs make clear the need for a sustainable energy transition in Asia, not only given the urgency of mitigating climate change, but also because renewable energy technologies can help to provide cheap and reliable energy to areas where grid-based provision is unreliable or otherwise prohibited by geography or high costs.

A green transformation, if done right, can address poverty reduction goals and improve health and environmental quality. But achieving this requires rethinking many assumptions about the current system that generates and distributes electricity, and its interconnections with a genuinely sustainable society.

Read more at this link here.

This article was produced from the forum we co-organized with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. and Chatham House on “Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia: The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector”, which was held in Chulalongkorn University, 25 January 2019. For more information about this forum, please visit the link here.

UPCOMING RESEARCH FORUM: "Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia: The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector" [Bangkok, 25 January 2019]

09.00 - 17.00, Friday, 25th January at Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Kasem Utthayanin Building (อาคารเกษม อุทยานิน), Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Co-organized by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V., Chatham House, and Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Renewable energy technologies not only help to mitigate climate change by substituting for carbon-emitting fossil fuels, but also can expand energy security by avoiding exposure to the volatility of fossil fuel markets. Renewables can also help provide cheap and reliable energy to areas where grid-based provision is unreliable or otherwise prohibited by geography or high costs. The increased efficiency and renewable nature of such energy can improve energy availability, energy security and economic resilience.

Last year saw the second highest level of investment in global clean energy, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), at US$333.5 billion, despite falling technology costs. Globally, the solar sector in China dominated, with a total of $132.6 billion of investments – leading to over 50 GW of additional solar capacity. In regional terms Asia, largely China, continued to dominate the global landscape. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), Chinese sustainable energy investment oversees has doubled in the last three years and now stands at $44 billion. 

The importance of the accelerated deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is also reflected in UN Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, and it is a central goal for many countries in Asia. It is also increasingly an important focus for, and aspects of, countries’ and institutions investments in Asia.

China has put emphasis on the green ‘Belt and Road’ and 'South-South environmental cooperation', for example. In Myanmar, a Chinese government partnership with a Beijing-based environmental NGO pledged to provide US$2.9 million worth of solar panels and clean cook stoves. Leading Japanese companies are also looking overseas for opportunities in the renewable energy sector, including in India. Aid programs from a range of countries, including the US, Japan and Korea are also seeking to support sustainable energy transition.

Civil society groups and communities are also calling for – and working directly towards – an energy transformation across the region, including promoting decentralized electricity generation, energy efficiency, demand side management, and more participatory power planning processes. Countries across Asia also have a great deal of their own experience to draw on in promoting renewable energy that serves the needs of the poor.

The workshop aims to:

  • Assess the role of clean energy in Asia’s goal to develop sustainable energy that serves the needs of the poor;

  • Consider the place of renewables in overseas aid and investments strategies in Asia, including in China’s Belt and Road Initiative;

  • Address whether learning across different regional contexts on the implementation of cost-effective, reliable clean energy might bring benefits for clean energy development.

  • Create a network of interested experts who can develop further research proposal(s) and collaboration on these topics.

 Key outcomes of the events will be:

  • Sharing lessons on how clean energy enhances both energy security and climate change mitigation;

  • Enhanced understanding of the importance of Asian, and in particular Chinese, sustainable energy investment in the global market;

  • Examining how and where Asian countries can draw on both good and bad experiences of their own and other countries’ energy and development policy with regard to sustainable energy that serves the needs of the poor; and,

  • Develop plans for the creation of a network with an understanding of the opportunities for common research and activities.

Program and List of Panelists:

08.30 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks 

  • Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, Dean, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • Dr. Sam Geall, Chatham House

  • Dr Peter Hefele, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

09.15 - 10.45  Panel 1: Trends and Emerging Opportunities

Chair: Dr. Carl Middleton, CSDS, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • “Energy Transition Pathways for the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific” by Hongpeng Liu, Energy Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

  • “Energy Trading in Thailand” by David Martin, Power Ledger, Australia/Thailand

  • “A Power Sector Vision for the Greater Mekong Region“ by Shannon Siyao Wang, World Wildlife Fund

  • “Energy transformation and the role of civil society in Thailand” by Suphakit Nuntavorakarn, Healthy Public Policy Foundation, Thailand

10.45 - 11.15 Tea Break

11.15 - 12.45  Session 2: Aid and investment agendas supporting an energy transition

Chair: Dr. Champa Patel, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House, London

  • “How EU development cooperation can support the energy transition” by Jerome Pons, Delegation of the European Union to Thailand

  • “Role of business and private actors in the process of low-carbon transformation in China” by Dr. Wei Shen, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, United Kingdom

  • ‘'Climate finance and the sustainable energy transition in Asia” by Yossef Zahar, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)/IGES

12.45 - 13.45 Lunch

13.45 - 15.15 Session 3: Enhancing Energy Sector Investments in Asia: Assessment and Inclusive Decision Making

Chair: Ellen Kelly, Department for International Development (DFID), UK

  • “Transforming Southeast Asia’s electricity sector through Impact Assessment” by Dr. Decharut Sukkumnoed, Faculty of Economics, Kasetsart University

  • “Towards Strengthening Environmental and Social Safeguards in Southeast Asia” by Matthew Baird, Asian Research Institute for Environmental Law and Visiting Scholar, Vermont Law School

  • “Environmental Assessment in Energy Projects in Myanmar: Civil societies experience and recommendations” by Pyi Pyi Thant, Heinrich Böll Stiftung

15.15 - 15.45 Tea Break

15.45 - 17.15 The Way Ahead: Realizing opportunities for sustainable electricity transformation

Chair: Dr. Jakkrit Sangkhamanee, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • “Hydropower vs other renewables in the Greater Mekong region: Ensuring the resilience of Asian Deltas” by Marc Goichot, World Wildlife Foundation

  • “Green Jobs and Energy Transition in Southeast Asia” by Chariya Senpong, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia

  • “Lessons learned from China’s solar boom, and implications for Asia” by Dr. Sam Geall, Chatham House

  • “Off-grid solutions in rural Myanmar: Innovation in technology and approach” by Nathalie Risteau, Yoma Mandalay

17.15 - 17.30 Wrap-up and Closing Remarks

  • Dr. Champa Patel, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House, London

  • Dr. Carl Middleton, CSDS, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

To register for this forum, please e-mail us your name, organisation, and position to  Anisa Widyasari (CSDS) at The seat is limited and registration will be accepted on first come first served basis. 


UPCOMING PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Water scarcity and disaster recovery in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar: Technical problem or governance challenge?" [5 July 2017]

14:00-16:00, Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Co-organized by the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Master of Arts in International Development Studies of the Faculty of Political Science Chulalongkorn University.

This event will be broadcast on Facebook live:


Hakha town is the capital of Chin State, Myanmar, located in the mountainous Northwest of the country. Chin State is one of the poorest states in Myanmar, including in terms of economy, basic infrastructure, and access to health care and education. This reflects a lack of long-term investment in basic services, as well as being the product of Myanmar’s long-standing conflict.

In recent years, the town’s population has faced growing water insecurity. This has created great hardships for the local population, especially in the dry season. For those who cannot access water from private springs, or afford to buy water, they must queue sometimes for hours to collect relatively small amounts of water. This situation has caused discontent towards the Municipal, State and Union level government, and has also on occasion caused conflict amongst the local population themselves.

Compounding the difficulties faced by Hakha’s population, in June 2015, Hakha town suffered a major landslide. As a result, over 4000 people living in at-risk places were moved, many permanently to a new settlement. In the settlement, the government has provided land or houses, yet basic services including water and schools were lagging behind. In the longer-term, the resettled people, who are mostly farmers, are uncertain about how they can make a living without access to farming land, and a perceived limited support from the government.

Research presented at the seminar will show how water insecurity is the product of physical, social and political processes that are inter-related, including: rising water demand due to a growing population without systematic town planning; deforestation of the surrounding watershed which has reduced water supply; and underinvestment in water supply infrastructure. The seminar will explore the underlying causes of these dynamics, as a basis for deliberating approaches to ensure equitable and reliable water access for all of Hakha’s residents.

Seminar speakers

  • “Water insecurity in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar” by Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (Director of CSDS) and Orapan Pratomlek (CSDS project coordinator)
  • “Prospects for improved water security: Municipal water, watershed protection, and urban planning” Van Bawi Lian (CSDS researcher)
  • “Lessons learned from landslide disaster recovery in Hakha town, and how to strengthen resilience” by Hlawn Tin Cuai (Master Student of Architecture (IMARCH), Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University; and ex- Operation Manager of Hakha Rescue Committee, September 2015 to February 2016)
  • Discussant: Pastor Lai Cung (Hakhathar Baptist Church)
  • Chair: Asst. Prof. Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon (Director of MAIDS Program, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University)
  • Opening remarks: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, Dean of Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University (t.b.c.)

For further details on CSDS’s research on Water governance and access to water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar, visit here:

This research is supported by Chula UniSearch under the Human Security Cluster. 


UPCOMING PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Building Infrastructures. Monitoring Development" by Casper Bruun Jensen [24 January 2017]

UPCOMING PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Building Infrastructures. Monitoring Development" by Casper Bruun Jensen [24 January 2017]

Casper Bruun Jensen is an Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, Osaka University. He is a Science, Technology and Society (STS) scholar. His theoretical and ethnographic works cover a wide range of issues such as Practical Ontology, Symmetrical Anthropology/Amodernism, Lateral Analysis, Multinaturalism/Environment, Development and Infrastructure.

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