Over the last six months, 20 journalists from six different media outlets across Asia have teamed up to produce 15 unique stories investigating who is funding fossil fuel-based power plants, and why. They were part of an ambitious EJN special project, entitled “Available but Not Needed” (AbNN), which is now drawing to a close.
The project’s title comes from the energy investment term “available but not needed capability”; a play on words given many countries’ continued investment in the fossil fuel sector. This journalistic cross-border collaboration explored why and how public and private backers are still investing in the fossil fuel economy in East and Southeast Asia, even as many worry about an economic recovery maintaining nonrenewable power generation at its core.
The stories themselves have ranged from deep dive analyses to human interest profiles, and the collaboration has even produced a unique output: a journalistic game-based feature exploring Indonesia’s coal oligarchy.
This film was produced with support from Internews' Earth Journalism Network and was originally released by Atmakanta Studios and Project Multatuli in Bahasa Indonesia, with English subtitles, on 18 December 2021.
“I’ve been blown away by the diversity of perspectives and angles the journalists in this group have brought to the project,” says EJN Special Projects Editor Sam Schramski. “’Fossil fuel investment in Asia may seem like a dry topic, but I can assure it isn’t. Just check out the project page!”
“It’s interesting how multiple narratives—very complicated stories and framings—came together from each of [the collaborating] journalists, and for each of our audiences, as this one big thing,” says Lulu Ning Hui, an editor and journalist at Initium Media, one of AbNN’s partners. “Usually, journalists are focused on one problem, one specific issue, so this type of project can give a bigger picture.”
From a news standpoint, AbNN was the beneficiary of a stroke of luck early on, when China’s President Xi Jinping announced his country’s pullback from overseas coal investment. The biggest impact of this move will be felt in Asia. The Chinese government left many details under wraps, and the overseas coal retreat has already encountered obstacles, but it has helped ensure that AbNN, like many EJN efforts, continues to provide fresh perspective on the environmental issues of the day.
Banner image: The Duyen Hai thermal power complex in Tra Vinh Province, in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. The facility includes three individual coal-fired plants and a seaport for importing coal / Credit: Michael Tatarski.