Underpinning Asia’s economic transformation is an ever-growing demand for reliable energy for power and transport. While a lot of it is currently generated by coal and oil, natural gas and renewables are also altering the region’s future energy mix.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that natural gas will soon account for a quarter of all energy consumed for almost all of Asia by 2040.
So what fuels are likely to become part of the region’s expanding energy mix?
- Natural gas: Gas will continue to play a strong role in the future energy mix and an exceedingly important role in helping countries such as China and India to tackle air pollution. The IEA expects natural gas to account for almost half the increase in primary energy consumption worldwide, with China alone responsible for more than 40 percent of global gas demand growth to 2024.
- Solar: Turning sunshine into energy has become common practice. Last year Vietnam even overtook Australia for new solar installations. However, solar only generates power when the sun shines. Turning solar into a reliable, 24/7 source of electricity would take ambitious energy storage research to keep the power flowing to meet demand at night.
- Wind: Wind is rapidly becoming a major source of power across the world, generating 597 gigawatts globally last year. As of 2018, China is the world’s largest wind power generator and the Asia Pacific region alone accounts for almost half of the world’s wind generation. The IEA expects wind power in Asia to grow by nearly 65 per cent between 2018 and 2023, although wind investment has slowed in China over the last two years.
- Biofuel: Biofuel may become a major transport energy source in the future. Algae biofuel unlike corn and soy, doesn’t take a food source off the table or require a lot of fresh water to produce. A variety of biofuels are already powering cars around the world, and in 2018, Qantas carried out the world’s first biofuelled flight between Australia and the US. It plans to have all its Los Angeles fleet powered by non-food biofuel by 2020.
- Hydropower: Water generates the world’s largest amounts of renewable electricity. One of the largest hydropower stations, the 22,500-megawatt Three Gorges Dam, is in China, where nearly half of the world’s largest hydropower stations are found. According to the International Energy Agency, hydro will remain the second-largest source of power in China until 2030.