Southeast Asia nations are reviewing their generation mix to meet decarbonisation targets. Increasing the renewable generation capacity is one approach they are taking to achieve sustainable generation.
According to the Black & Veatch Strategic Directions: Electric Industry Asia 2021 Report, the most significant investments in new capacity over the next three to five years are expected in renewable energy. Solar (land), energy storage, solar (floating), wind (offshore), and microgrids represent the top five categories.
Regional energy industry leaders caution that the introduction of too much intermittent renewable energy could threaten reliable grid operations and performance across Asian electricity markets.
With the installation of renewable energy resources increasing, Southeast Asia will require more integrated power solutions to improve grid reliability and availability. Key approaches include the following:
Expanding Flexible Generation
When asked about the future of fossil-fuel generation beyond 2035, two-thirds of all respondents believe gas will feature as a significant component of the grid.
Given their ability to quickly flex, ramping up or down following demand peaks and valleys, combined-cycle facilities have a role in stabilizing complex grids, complementing variable renewable energy assets, and, over the longer term, transitioning to hydrogen as a zero-emissions fuel source.
Deploying additional battery energy storage systems (BESS) at existing or new gas-fired assets will enhance this capability further for non-spinning reserve support, just as variable load and generation from more wind and solar begin impacting the grid.
Another opportunity will be to convert gas-fired facilities from simple- to combined-cycle configurations or repower them with more advanced gas turbines that extend the life of the facility.
Planning for Hydrogen
Sixty-two percent of the survey respondents believe hydrogen will take off as a clean and affordable alternative to existing gas generation.
One near-term opportunity will be to blend hydrogen as a component of the fuel mix in gas-powered turbines. Current natural gas turbine technology can support hydrogen as part of their fuel mix at levels approaching 50 percent.
Another opportunity will be to tap on hydrogen for future grid stabilization and management. Hydrogen-based systems could complement renewables and natural gas-fired assets during events, like blackouts, where adequate, flexible supplies of electricity are required to be brought online quickly to meet surges in demand.
Integrating Energy Storage
One aspect of renewable energy power generation is that the electricity produced varies over the course of any day. As a result, clipping can occur when too much solar energy arrives at the panel and surpasses the inverter loading ratio. On the other hand, curtailment may be experienced when production is too high across multiple renewable energy sources on the grid and there is a risk of transmission congestion. Such events lead to a loss of energy and revenue at renewable energy facilities.
Energy storage technology, like BESS, can capture excess energy; this can then be potentially sold back to the grid when energy demands are high, and supply is limited.
Hybrid solar power systems that integrate BESS solutions and other technological advances, such as bifacial solar, will create more efficient and optimal facilities.
Another opportunity is to take advantage of hydrogen for long-term energy storage. While battery storage is effective in the short term, hydrogen can convert and store solar energy generated when generation exceeds demand, for instance, for flexible and continuous dispatch during peak seasons when demand exceeds generation.
Modernizing Transmission Systems
Commonly, renewable generation resources are located where wind or solar resources are strong. These locations may not be where the load centers are. As a result, transmission access is required to move that power to where the load is, which is largely urban areas.
Adequate upfront planning will be critical to avoid having stranded assets or generation assets that cannot generate power because of inadequate transmission infrastructure to move the power.
One approach is to deploy advanced system control devices, such as Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS), to enable re-routing of power flow from congested parts of the grid to less congested portions.
Another approach is to integrate transmission technologies with greater situational awareness of local weather conditions, such as Dynamic Line Ratings, to provide near real-time updates on the available capacity of critical bulk power pathways.
A third approach is to draw on advanced transmission line designs, such as Breakthrough Overhead Line Design® (BOLD), to promote efficient interconnection.
Additionally, in situations where large amounts of power need to be moved across large geographic footprints, for example from offshore wind farms, High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines could be a viable option.
Digitalizing the Power Sector
Transforming Asia’s power sector and optimizing grid performance through digital technology is a compelling proposition. For example, with wind and sunlight as variable factors affecting power generation production, sensors and smart grids help operators ensure renewable energy plants perform to their optimal potential.
Operationally, the development and adoption of predictive asset maintenance systems promise the monitoring of equipment performance in real-time, enabling better forecasting and optimization of maintenance schedules. Achieving such advances will help mitigate costly outages and other equipment failures across entire systems and extend the equipment lifecycles. Further still, the development of prescriptive analytics will enable autonomous management, where machines act on the information the artificial intelligence (AI) has extracted, offering even further operational savings long term.
Such plant-focused digitalization rolls up to asset performance management (APM) solutions in which the health, performance, and optimization of multiple generations, transmission or distribution assets can be managed. The APM approach will minimize failures and improve the operational efficiency of power facilities, ultimately reducing the cost of energy production over time.
Digitization will also enable the holistic management of distributed energy resources across different capacities and installations.
From a project funding perspective, being able to measure and forecast project and portfolio performance accurately can provide lenders the reassurance needed to lower the lending rates.
Achieving Southeast Asia’s Decarbonisation Targets
Accelerating renewable energy penetration will require government support and intervention. Over the next five to 10 years, governments will need to adopt a decarbonization enabling mindset that fuels regulatory reform. Supportive policies and regulations will encourage public utilities and in turn the private sector; related power systems; and the finance sector to take advantage of new and more efficient technologies to achieve a more affordable, resilient, and greener electricity supply.
Additionally, with the Southeast Asia electric industry becoming increasingly complex, the power sector will need partners who are familiar with every aspect in the lifecycle of generation, transmission, and distribution assets. Such partners will need to be experts in integrating these assets to create a stable, efficiently functioning whole. Partners who combine expertise in advanced analytics and practical business sense with extensive technology and engineering capabilities would be well-positioned to meet Southeast Asia’s decarbonization and sustainability commitments.
Written By Narsingh Chaudhary and Yatin Premchand – Narsingh Chaudhary is Black & Veatch’s Executive Vice President & Managing Director, Asia Power Business. Yatin Premchand is Managing Director, APAC, Black & Veatch Management Consulting.