Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia

The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector

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 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:

  • Consider the place of renewables in overseas aid and investments strategies in Asia, including in China’s Belt and Road Initiative;
  • Assess the role of clean energy in Asia’s goal to develop sustainable energy that serves the needs of the poor;
  • 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.


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Sam Geall
Chatham House and Chinadialogue
Peter Hefele
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung RECAP
Carl Middleton
Chulalongkorn University