ASEAN’s 50th anniversary marks progress in energy cooperation

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By Aloysius Damar Pranadi

THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) commemorated a golden jubilee on Aug. 8.

As the current chair of ASEAN, the Philippines has been hosting numerous ASEAN meetings this year, including the last 35th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) in September. This meeting of the highest level in ASEAN energy has prompted the member states to reflect on their energy cooperation, its achievements, and challenges.

Throughout the 50 years of ASEAN, the region was successfully transformed into a promising economic community. Today, ASEAN is the sixth largest world economy with $2,559 billion of gross domestic products (GDP), which skyrocketed from $23 billion in 1967.

This ASEAN’s rapid development was inevitable due to the role of energy cooperation which is fundamental for the region.

The journey of ASEAN’s energy cooperation started in the oil and gas sector, with the declaration of the ASEAN Council on Petroleum in 1975. Then, on Feb. 24, 1976, the ASEAN founders signed the ASEAN Concord with which each member state made the commitment to assist each other by prioritizing supply of individual country’s needs and commodities (in particular food and energy). These moves show that the ASEAN Member States (AMS) realize the importance of energy in strengthening the economy and unity of ASEAN.

Following the ASEAN Concord, the Meeting of the ASEAN Economic Ministers on Energy Cooperation (now AMEM) was held in September 1980. This meeting aimed to formulate a framework of energy cooperation within the region. In 1986, an Agreement on ASEAN Energy Cooperation was signed by the Member States.

In April 1981, ASEAN expanded its cooperation to coal and the power sector by conducting the First Meeting of ASEAN Experts Group on Coal (now ASEAN Forum on Coal) and the Heads of ASEAN Power Utilities/Authorities. ASEAN then widened the cooperation to renewable energy (RE) by conducting a first review meeting on the new and renewable sources of energy in 1987.

In 1993, the establishment of experts group on energy efficiency and conservation (EE&C) was initiated by the Member States.

On Dec. 15, 1997, ASEAN declared the ASEAN Vision 2020. The Vision declared that interconnecting arrangements for natural gas through the Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline (TAGP) and the establishment of electricity interconnecting arrangements within ASEAN through the ASEAN Power Grid (APG) are the ASEAN’s vision on energy in 2020. APG and TAGP were also highlighted in the Hanoi Action Plans, which was established on Dec. 16, 1998.

In the objective of strengthening energy cooperation within the region, the ASEAN-EC Energy Management Training and Research Centre (AEEMTRC) was established in 1988. This center was what is today the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE), currently the intergovernmental organization that represents the 10 AMS’ interests in the energy sector by accelerating the integration of energy strategies within ASEAN.

To support the energy cooperation agenda under Hanoi Action Plan, the first series of guiding policy documents were established in 1998. The document, known as ASEAN Plan of Actions on Energy Cooperation (APAEC), laid the foundation for sound policy frameworks and implementation strategies for energy cooperation with relevant dialogue partners and international organisations. The APAEC then continues on a five-year basis, consisting of 7 program areas: the APG; TAGP; Coal & Clean Technology; EE&C; RE; Regional Energy Policy & Planning; Civilian Nuclear Energy.

With the existence of the APAEC, the AMS have clear and measurable objectives in their energy cooperation, which enabled them to attain progress throughout the years. The APAEC 2016-2025 took the theme “Enhancing Energy Connectivity and Market Integration in ASEAN to Achieve Energy Security, Accessibility, Affordability and Sustainability for All.”

This is in line with the ASEAN Economic Community’s (AEC) blueprint, which aims to achieve energy security cooperation and move towards greater connectivity and integration for a well-connected ASEAN to drive an integrated, competitive and resilient region.

And connectivity has been achieved by the AMS, step by step.

By the year of its 50th anniversary, ASEAN has successfully built 3,673 kilometers of existing pipelines that connect six (6) AMS and six (6) liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasification terminals with a total capacity of 22.5 million tons per annum (MTPA) under the TAGP Program.

In the power sector, a number of cross-border interconnections under APG were established, amounting to 5,212 MW. Furthermore, on 27 September 2017, the Philippines as the ASEAN’s chair during this year of anniversary, hosted the historic signing of the Energy Purchase Wheeling Agreement (EPWA) during the 35th AMEM in Manila. EPWA is the first multilateral electricity transaction among the ASEAN member states that targets to advance electricity trade in the region under the APG. The signing of the EPWA among Lao PDR, Thailand and Malaysia (LTM) implements Phase 1 of the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP), and will enable the purchase of up to 100 MW electricity power from Lao PDR to Malaysia using Thailand’s existing transmission grid.

As written in AEC’s blueprint, the promotion of cleaner energy technology is pursued by ASEAN. By 2015, ASEAN reduced its energy intensity by 18% compared to 2005.

Meanwhile in RE, ASEAN managed to double its installed capacity by achieving 205 GW in 2015 in only a decade. RE share in energy supply was increased from only 9.6% in 2005 to 13.6% in 2015. The Philippines was one of the biggest contributors in solar and wind energy, as this archipelagic country achieved more than its target in solar power due to its feed-in-tariff scheme for RE. The absence of fossil fuel subsidies in the Philippines is also a major factor to boost RE in the country.

The achievements above show that ASEAN has come a long way in its energy cooperation to improve its economy through energy supply and to contribute to climate change mitigation.

However, the leaders of the AMS acknowledged that stronger efforts are still needed to reach their regional targets, and they agreed that 50 years of cooperation should drive all member states to continue the collective progress.


Aloysius Damar Pranadi is a Technical Officer for the Policy & Research Analytics at the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE).