Energy Resilience in the Asia-Pacific through Small-Scale Power

A closer look at CESP and APEC’s shared priorities in supporting the Asia-Pacific energy transition.

By Victoria Glasgow, CESP Fellow

During my time as a CESP Fellow, I’ve seen the center grow in its scope and impact. On April 17th we hosted a successful Municipal-Academia Cooperation for Climate Action conference, which facilitated local government, state agency, and federal program collaboration; CESP faculty and Schar students have worked closely with communities to develop comprehensive climate action plans; and the center has put forward a GMU student area emphasis on Energy and Climate Change Policy.

These experiences have been primarily Virginia-East Coast focused, but CESP’s overarching vision is to promote energy security, sustainability, and resilience in any geographic region. CESP affiliates in the news have weighed in on Middle Eastern affairs, US federal recommendations, and are working with USAID in Moldova: now, as energy delivery becomes even more crucial to economic security, it is time to address the key role of the Asia-Pacific in the next energy transition.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an economic forum whose primary goal is, like CESP’s, to support sustainability and prosperity. While their focus is more on economic measures than CESP’s core energy focus, many aspects of these two mission statements align. APEC’s 2023 theme of “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All” is centered around pragmatic solutions that emphasize interconnectivity, innovation, and inclusivity – including, but not limited to, climate change, environmental sustainability, and connectivity. Infrastructure, disaster risk reduction, climate mitigation, and improved preparedness all fall under APEC’s 2023 goals, and all can be supported by diversified investments in energy generation.

Like most global economies, the Asia-Pacific region needs to fast-track its carbon reduction in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The area is particularly vulnerable to storms, droughts, heatwaves, and flooding as temperatures increase. This poses a challenging situation: how can one of the most economically important areas of the world, where 7 of the top 10 US trading partners are APEC members, both adapt for a new environment and reduce emissions without hurting its fiscal future?

Last semester I wrote an independent study paper seeking to fully understand the energy grid’s vulnerabilities and actional approaches to a new organization of our existing technologies. I found that resiliency and security, both to climatic and external threats, are the driving factors for installing renewables on a local level. Increased power outages due to extreme weather events are shortened and even avoided by having small-scale power generation and storage; multiple energy connections, or “redundancy,” increases grid resiliency; and, while dependent on the human capital available, a locally focused microgrid can take advantage of the energy strengths of each community.

While my research does not directly transfer to APEC economies – each has challenges, qualities, and cultural aspects that are uniquely different from the United States – it does present the ways in which microgrids strengthen municipal resilience and supplement centralized energy production. My paper is not meant to propose any sweeping top-down changes, but instead advocates for a business climate that fosters the installation of renewables and novel ways to slowly but surely integrate known technologies into a new sustainable normal. It is by involving all stakeholders, from neighbors to industry, that both CESP and APEC will achieve the goals of a more prosperous future.

To learn more, visit my website for Repowering Americans: A Decentralized Approach towards Energy Generation for Ensuring National Security and Municipal Resilience.