The rapid economic growth and industrialization in ASEAN region is characterized by a significant gap between energy supply and demand. The energy demand in the region is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years which will have a profound impact on the global energy market. In addition, the region has many locations with high population density, which makes public health vulnerable to the pollution caused by fossil fuels.
Another important rationale for transition from fossil-fuel-based energy systems to renewable ones arises out of observed and projected impacts of climate change. Due to the rising share of greenhouse gas emissions from Asia, it is imperative on all Asian countries to promote sustainable energy to significantly reduce GHGs emissions and foster sustainable energy trends. Rising proportion of greenhouse gas emissions is causing large-scale ecological degradation, particularly in coastal and forest ecosystems, which may further deteriorate environmental sustainability in the region.
The reliance on conventional energy sources can be substantially reduced as the region is one of the leading producers of biomass resources in the world. The energy generating capacity of biomass-based CHP plants is comparatively much higher than other alternative energy technologies like solar, wind and geothermal energy. In addition, solar and wind projects are confined to remote rural electrification and community centres, where the required installed capacity is low. On the other hand, biomass-based cogeneration plants can generate higher capacities of electrical and heat energy that could benefit an entire township and industries in the immediate area.
Southeast Asia, with its abundant biomass resources, holds a strategic position in the global biomass energy atlas. There is immense potential of biomass energy in ASEAN countries due to plentiful supply of diverse forms of wastes such as agricultural residues, woody biomass, animal wastes, municipal solid waste, etc. ASEAN region is a big producer of wood and agricultural products which, when processed in industries, produces large amounts of biomass residues. According to conservative estimates, the amount of biomass residues generated from sugar, rice and palm oil mills is more than 200-230 million tons per year which corresponds to cogeneration potential of 16-19 GW. Woody biomass is a good energy resource due to presence of large number of forests and wood processing industries in the region.
The prospects of biogas power generation are also high in the region due to the presence of well-established food-processing and dairy industries. Another important biomass resource is contributed by municipal solid wastes in heavily populated urban areas. In addition, there are increasing efforts from the public and private sectors to develop biomass energy systems for efficient biofuel production, e.g. bio-diesel from palm oil. The rapid economic growth and industrialization in the region has accelerated the drive to implement the latest biomass energy technologies in order to tap the unharnessed potential of biomass resources, thereby making a significant contribution to the regional energy mix.