Using Climate Models to Predict Resilience of Energy Systems in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is well acquainted with the impact of climate change, but less so with the resilience of energy systems. A collaborative and regional approach to climate modelling of energy systems can inform the development of effective adaptation policies and drive deeper energy integration.

Southeast Asia is well aware of the human, financial and economic tolls that climate change has brought, but insufficient attention has been paid to the energy systems of the region. Climate change poses two types of challenges to energy systems. First, climate change will impact the availability of resources used for energy generation. For example, inconsistent water flow is expected to reduce hydropower capacity in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Heat waves and droughts will influence the availability of water required for cooling thermal power systems, thereby reducing generation capacity. Secondly, extreme weather events pose threats to physical infrastructures, including power plants and electricity grids. Increasing intensity and frequency of wildfires, flooding, heavy winds, landslides and storms will threaten transmission grids and renewable energy technologies. Between 2009-2020, natural hazards resulted in more than 33,000 fatalities and economic damages exceeding US$97 billion in the region.

Achieving energy transition goals in Southeast Asia will require the development of energy systems that are not only low-carbon but also resilient to the impacts of climate change. The immediate priority of Southeast Asian governments is mitigation, as currently around 80 per cent of the region’s total primary energy supply comes from fossil fuels. Yet, scientific evidence suggests that climate change will undermine the efficiency and reliability of energy generation, transmission and distribution. While mitigation efforts must continue, policymakers should also prioritise the adaptation of energy infrastructures.

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