Climate Change

If good data is key to decarbonization, more than half of Asia’s economies are being locked out of progress, this report says

Asia is responsible for around 80% of global coal consumption, but over half of Asia lacks power data transparency.

Asia is responsible for around 80% of global coal consumption, but over half of Asia lacks power data transparency. Image: Unsplash/ludenus

Ewan Thomson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate Change

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • A new report from energy think tank Ember highlights major gaps in power-sector data in 24 Asian economies.
  • Reliable data on power generation is crucial to measuring the rate of progress in cutting emissions, the report says.
  • India achieved the highest rating in the Ember report thanks to its work to create a single, open-access data portal that aggregates data from across the country.

If measuring something is the first step towards understanding it, and understanding something is necessary to be able to improve it, then good data is the key to unlocking positive change. This is particularly true in the energy sector as it seeks to decarbonize.

But some countries have a data problem, according to energy think tank Ember and climate solutions enabler Subak’s Asia Data Transparency Report 2023, and this lack of open and reliable power-generation data is holding back the speed of the clean power transition in the region.

Asia is responsible for around 80% of global coal consumption, making it a big contributor to carbon emissions. Progress is being made on reducing these emissions, but without reliable data on power generation, measuring the rate of this progress will be challenging.

These charts show how different Asian economies are faring on data transparency on power generation and what can be done to improve both the quality and quantity of the data.

Over half of Asia lacks power data transparency

Infographic showing the number of economies by overall transparency score.
Over half of Asian countries lack reliable data in their power sectors, Ember says. Image: Ember

There are major data gaps in 24 out of the 39 Asian economies covered in the Ember research. This means it is unclear whether the energy needs of the nearly 700 million people in these 24 economies are being met with renewables or fossil fuels.

“Open and easily accessible power sector data is necessary to enable Asian economies to decarbonize fast, as data enables tracking and monitoring of clean power targets, evidence-based policy-making and grid optimization for better flexibility,” the report says.

Data quality only partially linked to income

Infographic showing the overall scores for data transparency, by economy.
The overall scores for data transparency, by economy. Image: Ember

The report seeks to understand any patterns among the countries that lack reliable data, and the above chart shows that higher-income economies tend to score better than lower-income economies for data transparency – but not always. Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka all rate higher than upper-middle income economies in the region.

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There is a slight positive correlation between the size of power demand and overall data transparency scores, although the bottom five countries, which had no data at all, were from a range of income groups.

With no firm correlation among the lower-performing economies, the secret of success could lie in government initiatives. India’s power data is highlighted in the report as a potential lighthouse showing other economies the way forward.

India held up as an example

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The above chart measures six rating criteria for power data – including fuel breakdown, ease of access, publishing lag and geographical granularity.

India achieved the highest rating thanks to its work to create a single, open-access data portal with the private sector that aggregates data from its 28 states and eight union territories.

The Vasudha Foundation – a non-profit energy think tank that is working with the Indian government – built the one-stop power data dashboard by collecting data from multiple reports and portals, which were manually collated.

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How is the World Economic Forum facilitating the transition to clean energy?

Future ambitions include the development of automated workflows to speed up the process, and the collection of data on energy usage and consumer behaviour. This valuable demand-side data can help to identify customers’ needs while ensuring grid stability, as India ramps up its more intermittent renewable energy supply.

Report recommendations for more transparent data

Reflecting on the success of India’s power data practice, the report also gives nine recommendations for other economies to help improve their data quality, which include;

  • Removing all restrictions for accessing data.
  • Providing data in comprehensive and appropriate formats to enable varied uses.
  • Making data available in one central location in machine-readable formats.
  • Digitizing archival materials and publishing them as bulk data that has permanent, lasting access.
  • Using unique identifiers to avoid erroneous interpretation.

The call for more data transparency is reflected in the World Economic Forum’s Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2022 report, which outlines the need for reliable data to better “determine the magnitude and prevalence of the challenge” across local and national level.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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