Powering Asia's Growth
Meeting Rising Electricity Needs

by Mikkal E. Herberg
March 20, 2012

This paper provides an overview of Asia’s electricity and energy challenges and outlines the fuel and power generation choices that the region faces as it seeks to meet rising demand and move toward a cleaner power future.

Download the Vietnamese translation.



Asia faces enormous challenges in meeting rapidly rising power demand to fuel economic growth, while at the same time shifting to a cleaner energy mix and extending the benefits of electricity to rural and urban areas as a means to reduce poverty. Policymakers will need to mobilize and incentivize all potential sources of new power generation, including natural gas, nuclear,
renewables, hydroelectric, and cleaner coal-burning technology. They will also need to enable major new investments in more flexible and efficient electricity grids by utilizing every potential
source of financing, including private capital, multilateral financing, and government support. Mobilizing all available power resources and investments will require important but politically
sensitive reforms and unbundling in the power industry across the region.

  • Governments in Asia need to provide a policy environment conducive to investment and technology development and the requisite deployment needed. This means stronger and
    more supportive domestic energy policy environments to promote investment in new supplies, more efficient generation technologies, and cleaner power sources, including renewables.
  • Power industry reform, unbundling, and the introduction of greater competition are critical to increasing investment and production, improving efficiency and reliability,
    lowering costs, and introducing and deploying renewable and cleaner technology. Electricity price reform and reducing costly and inefficient subsidies are essential to
    accelerating investment and reducing chronic power shortages. Price reform is crucial to introducing renewables, which require effective “feed-in” tariffs and investment in more flexible grid systems.
  • Efficiency gains are critical to slow demand growth and can be supported through price reform and regulatory programs that promote best practices and strong efficiency
  • Special efforts are needed to reduce growth in coal-fired generation and raise the thermal efficiency of new coal-fired units. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology needs to be promoted as the long-term solution to rising air pollution and carbon emissions coming from coal in power generation.

This working paper was commissioned for the 2012 Pacific Energy Summit on “Innovation Generation: Powering a Prosperous Asia.”