Southeast Asia (SEA) is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to the effects of global warming. The region faces increasing risk from rising sea levels and droughts which is expected to affect economies and infrastructure. The region faces two key obstacles. Not only must the governments adjust to climate change, but also introduce efficient and effective policy changes that will reduce the region’s total emissions without hampering economic growth.
As part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, many nations in SEA have announced commitments to accelerate efforts towards greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction, with the primary goal of reducing global warming levels below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
When it comes to energy-related climate change mitigation strategies, every country has unique challenges and concerns. Countries must select which energy sources they want to employ and how energy can be utilised most effectively when adopting new legislation. Improving the process of data collection and analysis will aid in the development, planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies.
This report published by the ASEAN Centre for Energy titled “Guidelines for Developing Indicators to Track Action on Energy-Related Climate Change Mitigation Policies” provides advice for developing suitable indicators that can be used to track energy transition progress. The project includes the active involvement of key ASEAN stakeholders and helps enhance modelling, analytical and regional policy planning capacities within ASEAN.
Timely, reliable, and comprehensive energy data are fundamental to effective decision-making by governments, businesses or consumers. The importance of robust national energy data systems is reflected in major international initiatives and resources deployed to promote more consistent, high quality and comparable energy data and statistics across countries. Key examples are the United Nations’ (UN) International Recommendations for Energy Statistics (IRES), the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Energy Statistics and Energy Efficiency Indicators Manuals and the UN’s work to develop indicators for its Sustainable Development Goals.
To be of use to decision makers, energy data must be comprehensive – covering all aspects of energy supply and demand. Data must also be timely and of high quality, so that the results drawn from analysis can be accepted with confidence. Credible modelling, progress tracking and reporting need accurate data that reflect the most recent state of an energy system.
The effective function of national energy statistics systems depends on a sound data governance model for overall statistics. It includes, but is not limited to a legal framework with statistical acts, mandatory reporting requirements and data sharing across ministries. Standardised statistical methodologies, transparent dissemination of data and protection of confidentiality, together with the professional independence of statistical agencies and the scientific competence and impartiality of their staff, are all needed in order for the public to consider official statistics trustworthy.
The principles of good data governance are clearly set out in the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. Some basic assumptions underlie these principles:
- that statistics make a valuable contribution to debate and policymaking, and as such should be produced according to high professional standards determined by statisticians
- the methodologies and results should be made available to all, ideally following a pre-announced timetable.
These principles also recognise the need for statisticians to have access to both survey and administrative data, to keep in mind the importance of the legal framework for data collection and the essential task of ensuring data confidentiality, and to use it solely for statistical purposes. The type of institutional arrangements and energy statistics system in place also shapes the flexibility to react to changing policy priorities by providing the updated data, and to adopt innovative technologies as they become available.
A comprehensive national energy data system will often include:
- Energy balances, covering production, import and export of primary energy sources; their transformation into fuels for final consumption; and final consumption by sectors (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and transport).
- Data to understand energy efficiency, covering end-use consumption and the various physical and economic activities in a country that drive consumption within each sector.
- Energy-related environmental emissions, which can include CO2, other combustion-related emissions, and non-greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Fuel prices and taxes.
- Socio-economic data, such as population and GDP.
- Developmental indicators such as national and local access to clean energy, or the use of traditional biomass for home heating and cooking.
Ensuring the comprehensiveness of energy data requires resources, but it will lead to better decisions. Successful policies are based on high-quality data.
Policymaking and the use of statistics
Policymaking can be thought of as a cycle, as shown below. It starts with an initial idea of what policy is needed by looking at the options, preparing to put the policy in place, implementing it and then monitoring and evaluating it to see if the policy is working or needs a redesign. However, policymaking is rarely as straightforward as a simple stage-by-stage approach. Policy stages may need to be iterated or repeated if it is evident that the policy is not working as it was intended.
Deciding required policies can be complex. Initially, there may be an overall strategy – a view of the main goals the country needs to achieve. This strategy may well be at a high level such as “improve energy security”, “achieve environmental goals” or “boost the economy of the country”. These overall goals are likely to come from the top of government as part of a manifesto.
From these goals, the next step is to define what they mean in practical terms. Enhancing security could mean many things, including embarking on a programme of energy efficiency (to reduce demand), diversification of electricity supply, changing the way fuels are used in homes and business and enhancing energy interconnection. At this point, work is needed to transform the strategic goals into actual policies. It is a case of looking at all the components that could make up the goal and working out what the current situation is, what is the problem and what could be done using a policy or intervention from the government.
From there, work can start on the actual policy design which will need some form of energy modelling work, which itself relies on very good quality energy statistics. The skills needed for the evaluation of options and policymaking are broad, hence a wide range of experts from government and beyond should be consulted. Policymaking needs input from all analytical professions (statisticians, economists, operational and social researchers), engineers, technical energy specialists and policy advisors.
The role of statistics and statisticians in the policy cycle
The role of statisticians may seem to be that of measuring what happens as a result of a policy, i.e., they create a monitoring form. This is of course essential. However, if that is the only role for statisticians and statistics, then the policy design may not be comprehensive.
Initially, energy statistics help us to understand the situation, show what is happening, why there may be unknowns through missing data, and allow us to start working on how to measure a policy’s impact. Through this stage and into developing options, there may be a need to review what other countries have done, which again may require looking at their energy data to see how the results of similar policies led to changes.
From the start, it is important to think of the benchmark, i.e., the base year of the data from which change can be measured. These data may already exist from energy statistics, but new work may be needed to produce additional data, and work on that will have to start very soon in the policy cycle to be completed by the end of preparing for the delivery component. During this phase, statisticians should be finalising the means of having data to monitor the policy, which is likely to involve discussions with policy advisors and implementing agents to have the correct information recorded as part of the administrative information that will be captured as part of the policy.
If a policy is piloted, statisticians should be involved in assessing the results of the pilot. Finally, as the policy is launched, the role is as described above: ensuring the effective monitoring of the policy so its impact can be properly understood.
Energy is central to nearly all aspects of everyday life and business activity. Therefore, developing long-term energy policies is most successfully achieved in a collaborative way that involves all government ministries and outreach to the public, including authorities and businesses. A specific aspect of this interaction is with the producers of energy statistics.
There are two aspects to this collaboration.
- statisticians provide the essential information needed to understand the current energy situation. These data need to be effectively used in the policy planning and modelling work, and then in the monitoring of policies that are ultimately established.
- statisticians need to work efficiently across institutional and organisational boundaries (department, ministerial, NSI or otherwise) in coproducing data and knowledge. Energy-climate data, for example, can be distributed in various institutions, such as ministries of energy, transport, environment, or finance. Each might have their own statistics division. It is important to ensure that complete and reliable data are collected as infrequently as possible but are fully used in effective ways.
Monitoring and evaluation
An essential part of the policymaking process is to effectively monitor the outcome of the policy. Monitoring and evaluation should be seen as essential features of the policy process and as being linked but distinct.
- Monitoring provides headline data on policy performance, that is: what happened as a result of the policy.
- Evaluation covers the impact, economic and process elements and provides an understanding of what is happening/has happened in practice and why.
As indicated in the definition above, monitoring and evaluation are not something that just happens at the end of the policy. It is something that needs to be conducted continuously.
Before the launch
Action prior to launching a policy relates mainly to planning. Steps involved will likely include setting the target and reviewing the evidence, ascertaining whether there is a policy gap or just insufficient evidence on what is happening. Policy mapping is performed to understand how the policy is intended to work and to assess if the goals can be met. This is also the stage for work on what the policy will deliver, which means deciding the outcomes to measure, examining the assumptions that need to be tested, and laying out the priorities and challenges.
Undertaking this work can be helped by considering: the evidence base for similar programmes, which could possibly come from other countries; how much the policy will cost and whether the costs will likely be lower than the benefits; and how the policy will be implemented, including the actors, the specific actions and the timing.
The pre-delivery stage is also when work on data and statistics needs to start in relation to the policy, covering:
- What data are needed for monitoring and how they can be collected
- How to produce a baseline (that change is measured against)
- Piloting the policy and/or undertaking pre-launch research before going live
- Agreeing on a process by which updates to the policy will be published.
The entire report can be accessed here.