Geopolitics and the Asian energy transition

Panel organised by: Sarang Shidore (University of Texas, Austin)

Panel description

As the renewables transition gathers pace, Asia will be the key geography of consequence as a region in which energy demand is growing quickly. It contains highly advanced energy consumers such as Japan and South Korea, middle-income rapid movers such as China, and lower-middle income growth stories such as India and Vietnam. Some countries such as India Japan and Turkey are major energy importers, having insufficient or minimal home-grown fuel sources. Others such as Indonesia, Kazakhstan and others are key energy exporters. At the same time, hundreds of millions of Asians lack energy access in South and Southeast Asia. All this speaks to a region in which the energy security question comes in radically different forms.

Asia’s energy supply-demand profile is extremely diverse with coal, natural gas, nuclear consumption coexisting with fast-rising solar and wind capacities in countries such as China, India and Japan. Oil remains by the far the key fuel for transport, though electric vehicles are at an early but high-growth stage in China and elsewhere. Concomitant with the market dynamics of energy are two important non-market variables. The first is tendencies for state intervention in the domestic energy sphere motivated by factors such as energy independence, energy access and climate mitigation. Second, geopolitical constraints and enablers on choosing suppliers, contractual terms and choices and delivery modes of fuel.

The panel will query the intersection of geopolitics and energy shifts in Asia. The relevant shifts are not just an embrace of renewable energy but also changes within fossil fuels, such as the coal-to-gas switching underway in China driven by air quality concerns. Relevant questions are along the lines, but not limited to the following:

  • What new strategic convergences are emerging in Asia and how are they driving supplier choices?
  • What are the geopolitical implications of the increasing penetration of solar and wind energy?
  • How do global pressures on coal affect national energy choices?
  • Have global climate agreements such as the Paris Agreement affected energy pathways in Asian countries?
  • How does China’s command of renewables metals and rare earths affect energy security policies of rival Asian states such as India and Vietnam?
  • How does strengthening resource nationalism in Asian states such as Mongolia and Indonesia impact regional energy security?


Paper proposal

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