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Locally appropriate clean energy strategies in the Lower Mekong region

Introduction

Southeast Asia is shifting the center of global energy demand. According to the IEA, Southeast Asia will be responsible for 40% of the increase in global energy demand by 2030. Total energy demand in Southeast Asia is expected to double by 2035. To meet growing demand, many new energy infrastructure projects are underway. There IS renewed public and private interest in the Mekong Basin, where over 44 GW of hydro capacity is currently being planned. Thus energy development planning is of increasing importance alongside investigations of demand-side management and efficiency efforts and their potential impact on supply.

Research objectives

Using future energy demand projections, the team will assess capacity expansion alternatives across countries in the region against criteria such as technical feasibility, economic cost, emissions, direct land loss, environmental and biodiversity impact, and displaced communities. The research will explore the economic, technical and land-use trade-offs of various system configurations under different scenarios and in this way support the ongoing planning/policy process. The aim is to explore how these conclusions can collectively contribute to a development discourse and subsequent public policies in the Lower Mekong that prioritize both social and environmental objectives. As a region with a largely rural population that is transitioning to an industry-based economy, it is important to create linkages between local and commercial-scale energy futures for the Mekong.

Research areas

The project analyzes the impacts of different potential energy fuel types/generator mixes on the Lower Mekong Region by building an integrated long term energy system model specific to one country (e.g. Lao PDR), and lay the foundation to model the other countries (such as Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar) and then the region as a whole.

Methodology

Alternative economic scenarios with differing levels of projected demand growth will be constructed. The level of anticipated energy demand can change the expected generation needs and optimal energy mix. The team will generate a number of demand-growth scenarios for one country based on current projections and historical experience. These demand scenarios will feed back into the energy model developed for that country, and may possibly be used to inform its dependence on an upstream source - for instance power from another nation – in the aggregate model framework.