by Narsingh Chaudhary*
Southeast Asia nations have committed to achieve 23 percent share of renewable energy in total primary energy supply and 35 percent renewable share in the regional installed power capacity by 2025.
The pace of decarbonization efforts across many countries in the region has been remarkable. Singapore is considering combining the use of hydrogen with its existing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) mix for a cleaner energy mix. The city is targeting to achieve 1.5 GWp of solar generation by 2025.
The Philippines has prepared guidelines on the energy conserving design of buildings that include a requirement for new and existing buildings to install solar photovoltaic technologies. The country has also conducted the opening of Applications for the 3rd Open and Competitive Selection Process (OCSP3) which allows for 100 percent foreign participation in large-scale geothermal exploration, development, and utilization projects.
Indonesia has identified Solar Power Plant (PLTS) as the best option to increase its renewable energy generation capacity. The country is preparing a national energy plan for the medium term until 2035 to support the achievement of its renewable energy targets. Under this plan, PLTS will be prioritized in future energy development through the provision of special incentives.
To achieve regional targets, more integrated solutions across generation, transmission and distribution; the expansion of gas-fired generation; commercial advancements in energy storage; and a role for hydrogen in baseload power will be needed to improve grid efficiencies and resilience.
As multiple moving parts in an integrated power infrastructure increases grid management complexities, investments in digital transformation and smart grids will be required to match power supply and consumption.
According to the Black & Veatch 2021 Strategic Directions: Megatrends Report, leveraging smart infrastructure to enable data-driven utility operations has long been a work in progress, and advancement has been uneven.
The survey, mainly based on North America experience, provides a good indication of trends emerging in other regions, including Asia.
While many utilities in North America have access to vast amounts of data due to deployment of advanced metering infrastructure and sensors across new and legacy assets, only a few early adopters have operationalized the data in a significant way.
One early adopter of smart infrastructure is the New York Power Authority (NYPA), one of the largest state public power utilities in the United States. It is actively transforming itself into a true “digital utility.” Recognizing the need to gain comprehensive insight into the systems within their jurisdiction, the NYPA is creating digital twins of all their assets, deploying technology capable of modeling how their systems might react to major storms, cyberattacks and other risks.
Like the NYPA, a growing number of large investor-owned utilities in North America are making major commitments to using data to truly transform their operations. These utilities are enabled by the availability of software as a service and cloud-based solutions from third-party vendors, making it easier to close the digital divide.
One digital application that is drawing the interest of utilities in North America is asset management software which provides the ability to anticipate equipment failures and avoid costly outages.
Another digital application is predictive analytics. Better system intelligence and analytics facilitate better and more reliable operation of utility systems and facilities.
Beyond enhancing reliability, utilities are also seeking to leverage data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to build resilience. Data-driven modeling is a key for power utilities to anticipate and control the behavior of distributed energy resources (DER) and improve distribution grid resilience.
To this point, the data-driven integration of utility planning is emerging as a fast-growing use case. More than three-quarters of power utilities in North America surveyed agree that integrated information technology (IT)/ operational technology (OT) planning will deliver significant benefits.
Opportunities, Challenges of Digitalization
Globally, the pandemic has proven data and IT solutions are valuable for operations planning, work prioritization and personnel management. Digitization has helped facilitate rapid changes to asset maintenance and incident response protocols, including a move to one-person crews, different work-staging processes and even quarantining on-site staff at critical facilities.
As in other areas of the economy, it also has made it possible for large swaths of utility personnel to work remotely. While some of these changes may be temporary, the cost savings and efficiency improvements are likely to make them permanent in many cases.
With the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) expecting Southeast Asia energy consumption to more than double by 2040, investing in digital transformation and smart grids will take the region one step closer to its energy access, energy security and environmental goals.
This opinion is written by Narsingh Chaudhary, Black & Veatch’s Executive Vice President & Managing Director, Asia Power Business.