Southeast Asia: Alternative sources of energy

Due to skyrocketing oil prices, many Southeast Asian countries are intensifying efforts to tap alternative sources of energy. Even oil producing countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei are investing on renewable energy.

Use of alternative energy is expected and necessary. Recent fuel hikes have caused widespread protests in Malaysia and Indonesia. Expensive oil is also exacerbating the economic crisis in the region, which is still burdened by rising food prices.

Lifestyles are changing since people are now more aware about the oil price crisis. Tree Maple reports that a green complex will soon rise in Singapore. The eco-complex will make good use of alternative energy sources. Tumelor writes about the plan of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to use wind turbines for the electricity requirement of public park lights.

The largest company of consumer products of Thailand has announced its plan to reduce oil consumption by 1 percent this year, using solar energy. Rambling Librarian hopes some day solar energy (through energy-efficient batteries) will power some of the household appliances.

Asiabiofuels’s Weblog notes that state-owned plantation firms have jointly set up a consortium for the construction of a biodiesel plant in Indonesia. While opposition to the use of biofuels is growing in the world, blogger The Poisoned is supporting it. In a related issue, Orangutan Outreach points out that the palm oil industry in Indonesia is causing of local conflicts, displacement, homelessness and morbidity.

Geothermal energy has a lot of potential in the region, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia. A study explains that “both countries are in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area peppered with volcanoes and home to the world’s biggest reservoir of geothermal power.”

The Asia Tomorrow warns of possible obstacles in promoting geothermal energy:

“Some obstacles are affecting other potential new projects in any location. A fairly extensive amount of drilling is involved to drill deep enough in the earth to reach hot water or steam so that turbines can be powered. Furthermore, the legal formalities needed to organize and carry out these projects is also hindering progress. Active volcanoes are associated with high acidity, as thus cause the corrosion of pipes involved in geothermal power projects.”

But the writer insists geothermal plants are less expensive to operate:

“Although drilling and plant construction, not to mention exploration, costs are high in comparison to other alternatives, the maintenance and operation costs of a geothermal plant are significantly lower in comparison. Typically it takes 7 to 8 years for a geothermal project to go from an exploration to production stage. Road costs to remote areas are also a factor. Carbon credit eligibility would make investments in these projects more likely, as well as help with some of the initial project cost.”

Use of nuclear energy is now being considered by Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. A regional cooperation on nuclear safety issue was recently initiated by these countries with China, South Korea, and Japan. But nomad4ever opposes the building of nuclear plants in Indonesia:

“Due to its growing economy, there is demand for an additional 5.000 megawatts of electricity, building nuclear plants is said to make the country less dependent on fossils like oil or coal, while providing the necessary power at ease. The question is: why build nuclear reactors in an area plastered with volcanoes and prone to earthquakes, flooding and tsunamis? Aren’t there any alternatives? Geothermal Energy can be a valid green alternative, which could help satisfy Indonesia’s rising energy demands and boosting its reputation for Global Warming topics beyond the ‘warm words’ of the Bali Climate Conference.”

Bellamy Budiman also opposes the construction of nuclear plants, for another reason. Instead, the blogger is promoting wind power.

“If the government is really that concerned about the energy crisis, they should take approximate steps to develop greener energy. Take wind power for example, we have plenty of wind down here. If the government put some effort to install residential-grade turbines on every few blocks or so in the city, I’m sure some of that power consumption need could be taken care of.

“The idea of building a nuclear power plant. Well this just sucks monkey balls. If our country can’t even take care of simple matters such as garbage or traffic, I don’t see why we SHOULD build a nuclear power plant. I can envision the comeback of Chernobyl, or the second coming of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Without the bombs, of course. We won’t need them as it would probably explode on its own. Even developed countries are now moving away from nuclear power plants.”

Blog of Bobby from Brunei proposes the following:

“A hopeful alternative is the use of novel methods, which are being researched but are not commercially viable. My favorites include Fusion, Cold fusion, and zero point energy. Nuclear Fusion is a huge contender, but it has yet to produce more energy than it consumes.”

Sarawak Headhunter on the potential of natural gas:

“Sarawak has a wealth of alternative energy resources such as natural gas. According to the Bintulu Development Authority, the state has a total known gas reserve of about 50 trillion standard cubic feet.”

moglie's recycled ramblings emphasizes the importance of energy conservation:

“Perhaps we should learn by now that these are not renewable energy and if we failed with our conservation then that could spell our pitfall. I’m not being overly pessimistic but we got to change our mentality that easy oil is thing of the past. We’re already struggling with secondary oil/gas extractions and our next best source would be from deep water exploration.”


  • […] Mong Palatino in Global Voices has an excellent roundup of regional initiatives in this regard, and again, government has to take the lead in ensuring the country’s part of these regional undertakings (an ASEAN consensus on nuclear energy, for example). And past issues that bedeviled development projects need to be addressed (opposition to power plants, including geothermal plants, even nuclear energy, etc. among others). […]

  • Thanks so much for mentioning Orangutan Outreach. The plight of wild orangutans is 100% tied in to the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia (and to a lesser extent in Malaysia).

    Palm oil corporations are destroying the forests– and in the process slaughtering thousands of defenseless orangutans. These innocent beings need to be protected. They do not deserve this heinous mistreatment at the hands of greedy palm oil barons.

    The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation is helping protect and care for over a thousand orphaned orangutans– and needs your help!

    Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn how you can help save the orangutans! Adopt a baby orangutan today!

    Thanks for your support!

    Richard Zimmerman
    Director, Orangutan Outreach
    Reach out and save the orangutans!

  • […] Global Voices Online » Southeast Asia: Alternative sources of energy […]

  • […] Global Voices Online » Southeast Asia: Alternative sources of energy […]

  • B

    Remember, in areas like the Philippines where forest cover is shrinking way beyond what is reasonable to provide ecosystem services like water, flood control, and oxygen to its people, renewable does not necessarily mean sustainable.

    To raise these questions is to be called “anti-development” by some, but it is the only smart thing to do by those who have a planning horizon of more than a few months.

    Kanlaon Natural Park is a recent example. PNOC-EDC is looking to create a geothermal plant there, in an area where about 40% of Negros’ remaining 4.9% forest area is. It is not some irrational idea of conservation, but good planning– the necessity of asking whether there are other options, given that about 40-50% of forest cover (at least 10 times what exists now) is needed to retain ecosystem services to the people.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.