Sustainable and Affordable Energy Access-for-all in Southeast Asia

ISSUE #60 –

Improved quality of life is tightly connected with better and more affordable access to energy

 

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During the next few decades, we will witness a bifurcation of the energy transition challenges to be faced worldwide:

  • In developed countries, the challenge clearly needs to be the reduction of the carbon footprint. This can be achieved through the increased penetration of renewable energies supported by suitable energy storage, on one hand, and through the pursuit of a more rational end-use of energy, on the other. Since the vast majority of the renewable energies to be relied upon use electricity as the preferred energy vector, a resolute move toward an electric world needs to be pursued.
    The overriding societal challenge is to maintain an overall positive outlook for future generations as to their quality of life; it is no longer acceptable that present generations plunder natural resources at the expense of future generations;
  • In developing regions, the challenge is to meet growing aspirations for a better quality of life. The ubiquitous availability of worldwide information continues to drive these ambitions. It is well recognised that improved quality of life is tightly connected with better and more affordable access to energy. So the challenge is to meet these fully justified aspirations while avoiding irreparable damage to the environment we all share.

 

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TAKING ON THE SOUTH EAST ASIAN CHALLENGE

The two major regions of the world where the challenges to better and more affordable access to energy are most acute are Africa and South East Asia. The Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator – Singapore (REIDS) seeks to first address the South East Asian challenge while remaining aware of the African challenge.

The population of the 10 countries generally grouped under South East Asia – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – presently stands at 625 million. Some 100 million people live in 11 large metropolitan agglomerations. Another 125 million have either no access at all or very sporadic, unsatisfactory access to energy.  Clearly better serving the energy needs of this ladder group is a both a societal necessity but also the formidable economic and market development opportunity that REIDS and its industrial partners seek to address.

Another characteristic of South East Asia is that it is geographically quite spread out, with large sparsely populated regions in some countries and a very high number of islands in others – over 17,000 in Indonesia and 7,000 in the Philippines alone.

As a result, it is technically and financially unrealistic to cover South East Asia with large and integrated electrical transmission systems like the ones now in operation in North America and Europe.

Instead, the key energy infrastructure required to address the need for better and more affordable energy access in the region relies on microgrids.

Therefore, the REIDS technology path is focused on the planning, deployment and operation of physical microgrids as suited for islands and isolated villages in rural South East Asia.

VISION

REIDS is a Singapore-based R&D platform dedicated to designing, demonstrating and testing solutions for sustainable and affordable energy access-for-all in South East Asia.

Paving the way towards sustainable multi-activity off-grid communities, REIDS fosters systemic R&D in the broad energy arena in support of Singapore-based corporate and public stakeholders, thereby strengthening their position on the rapidly growing renewable energy and microgrid markets.

OBJECTIVES

We aim to test and demonstrate, on a large-scale level, the proper integration of a broad range of renewable energy production options (both onshore and offshore), energy storage, and rational energy end-use technologies to supply of a wide palette of industrial, commercial and residential loads.

Our R&D platform is a neutral setting that benefits private and public sector entities in support of their on-going efforts, as required for prototyping, testing, largescale demonstration and, eventually, showcasing activities along the complex energy technology and product development cycle.

 

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IMPLEMENTATION

REIDS is being implemented on Semakau Island, located 8km South of Singapore’s mainland. Semakau was planned and is now operated as Singapore’s main landfill where the inorganic waste from the four waste incineration plants in Singapore are barged in from the mainland and are then distributed on the island.

The symbolic image of demonstrating the vast potential of renewable energies for South East Asia, starting from what is the end point of the emblematic Singapore waste management programme, is also at the core of the REIDS value proposition.

Semakau is not just any island, it is an emblematic site to be emulated by other countries in the region.

PURSUING OFF-GRID MICROGRIDS

The deployment of renewable energies is being massively pursued in North America, Europe and China. For all of these applications, the electricity is injected in a very large existing transmission / distribution network.

The microgrid application pursued by REIDS is quite different: off-grid microgrids.

Three separate microgrids will be built on Semakau on a 64,000-m2 plot of land set aside for this purpose. The intentis to be able to operate each microgrid separately and also to interconnect them to demonstrate how different systems can operate together – interoperability.

TIMELINE

Major funding for REIDS is provided by the Economic Development Board of Singapore. Proactive support from other Singapore public agencies and the National Environmental Agency is also acknowledged. REIDS is built as a consortium with several large industrial partners from Asia, Europe and North America such as ENGIE, Schneider Electric and GE-Alstom, with ERI@N as the responsible party. It was formally launched in October 2014.

The physical deployment planning and early implementation of the three microgrids is underway since Spring 2016.

 

By Hans B. (Teddy) Püttgen, Professor and Sr. Director, Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, Principal Investigator and Director, REIDS, and Roch Drozdowski-Strehl, Deputy Director, REIDS

 


PHOTO 1:  REIDS is being implemented on Semakau Island located 8km South of Singapore’s mainland

PHOTOS 2 & 3: Artist rendition showcasing the transfer station, solar panels, control centre, AC/DC hybrid grid and energy storage capabilities

 

Article published in the FOCUS Magazine “Green Power” – Issue #2 2016