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The heterogeneous role of energy policies in the energy transition of Asia–Pacific emerging economies


The achievement of sustainable energy systems requires well-designed energy policies, particularly targeted strategies to plan the direction of energy development, regulations monitored and executed through credible authorities and laws enforced by the judicial system for the enhancement of actions and national targets. The Asia–Pacific region (APAC), responsible for more than half of global energy consumption, has enacted a large number of energy policies over the past two decades, but progress on the energy transition remains slow. This study focuses on the aggregate effect of energy policies on the progress towards sustainable targets in 42 emerging economies from 2000 to 2017. We find that energy policies have contributed to improving access to electricity (3.0%), access to clean cooking (3.8%), energy efficiency (1.4%) and renewable electricity capacity (6.9%), respectively. Among different types of energy policy (strategies, laws and regulations), strategies have greater impacts on advancing electrification, clean cooking and renewable electricity capacity than laws and regulations, whereas the laws are more effective for achieving energy efficiency.

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Fig. 1: Progress towards energy transition in the APAC emerging economies during 2000–2017.
Fig. 2: Performance of APAC emerging economies’ energy transition with and without energy policy.
Fig. 3: Impact of energy policies on energy transition by country during 2000–2017.
Fig. 4: Impact of different types of energy policy on energy transition in typical economies.

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Data availability

We employ three sets of data for the Asia–Pacific region over the period 2000–2017 in this study: socio-economic data, energy policy data and SDG7 indicators data. The socio-economic data are collected from the World Development Indicators database58 and World Economic Situation and Prospects 201832, including the level of income, country’s income and geographic classifications, urbanization rate, GDP per capita, export and import shares, service shares and energy import shares.

Energy policy data are collected from the Asia Pacific Energy Portal Policy database. The database consists of 2,112 energy policies from 42 emerging economies in APAC over the period 2000–2017. After collection, we collated and calculated the number of existing policies for different countries and sorted all policies into three policy types according to the type of document (Supplementary Table 7), which are laws (Law or Act in original policy document category), regulations (Rule or Regulation) and strategies (Strategy or Plan). If a policy includes more than one type of document, all such types will be considered in the respective stock calculations. In Fig. 4, the effect of ‘other’ is the total policy effect minus the sum of the effects of the three types of policy, which includes Standard, Agreement and Government Report documents that are not prominent in energy policy stocks.

Data about the SDG7 indicators in APAC are obtained from the Global SDG Indicators Database29. The renewable energy capacity data are collected from the International Renewable Energy Agency59. We control the differences in policy implementation using a number of indicators, including voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, control of corruption and rule of law56, which are exported from the Worldwide Governance Indicators60.

Code availability

Code is available on Github (


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We acknowledge support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (72091415, 41921005 and 72140001 to D.G.), the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NE/V002414/1 and 2021GRIP02COP-AQ to J.M.), the Royal Society (IEC\NSFC\191520 to J.M.), the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ES/S010688/1 to D.L.), and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation action (730403 to D.L.).

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Authors and Affiliations



P.C., Y.W. and J.M. designed the research. P.C. and Y.W. collected the data. P.C. and J.M. led the study and drafted the manuscript with efforts from all authors (P.H., D.L., D.C., X.L. and D.G.). P.C., P.H. and D.L. constructed the statistics model.

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Correspondence to Jing Meng.

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Nature Energy thanks Paola D’Orazio and Shaikh Eskander for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–3 and Tables 1–8.

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Chen, P., Wu, Y., Meng, J. et al. The heterogeneous role of energy policies in the energy transition of Asia–Pacific emerging economies. Nat Energy 7, 588–596 (2022).

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