Norwegian energy executives in ASEAN recently met in Singapore to lay the groundwork for the next push forward.
This year’s Norway-ASEAN Energy Workshop shed light on the opportunities available to Norwegian energy companies with renewables in particular shining.
Another key theme to emerge from the event was collaboration, which could be expanded. There are plenty of opportunities for renewable energy in Southeast Asia with solar, hydropower and geothermal all realistic options.
This, combined with strong GDP and population growth, could be a boon for Norwegian firms utilising renewable energy innovations.
“ASEAN is the region with the best economic opportunities according to European companies. Norway is developing projects with the ASEAN Centre of Energy. This is a wide study of energy policy happening both at the regional and country level,” H.E. Mr Morten Høglund, Norway-ASEAN Ambassador, said. “There is a huge conglomerate of different groups taking part of this. The key is connecting all of them on every level of the energy field.”
He added the goal for all parties was to focus on climate change and renewable energies while also modernising the entire energy structure.
After Mr Høglund’s speech, attention turned to the individual countries of the ASEAN. The goal was to provide attendees with a better idea of the status, opportunities and challenges available in each country.
Ms Hai Anh Tran from Innovation Norway Vietnam offered insights into the market. It was noted that nuclear power plans in the country had been cancelled and the focus was now on solar and wind. There is also a growing dependency on fossil fuel in the country. She added that Vietnam would need more power to support its manufacturing growth that has been the powering economy.
“The solar industry needs investors and it is only viable in the south and southeastern areas of Vietnam. It will also need better integration into the country while storage will be important as well,” Ms Hai Anh stated. “Companies wanting to enter Vietnam will need to work with local partners. At the moment there are opportunities in all of Vietnam’s energy sectors.”
Thailand also has a growing demand for electricity with alternatives to gas the most needed. The Thai government had floated plans to use coal, but these have been met with oppositions from locals and no longer seem plausible. According to Mr Axel Blom, Director at Norway Connect in Bangkok, bio-energy has potential, but it is currently spread out and not connected. Other renewables also present good opportunities.
Like Thailand, opposition to coal in Myanmar has stopped plans for its use. The country is struggling in several areas including grid stability and LNG production. The country itself has an enormous need for electricity with only an estimated 35 percent of the public having access to it.
Mr Blom noted that there are some opportunities in Myanmar but government subsidiaries as well as difficulties working in the country make it hard for foreign firms to be successful.
That is not the case in Malaysia where Mr Thomas Sjøberg, Norway Connect’s Executive Director in Kuala Lumpur, believes Norway has a lot to
contribute to the country’s renewable energy push.
“Solar is the flavour of the month in Malaysia. Hydropower is an upand-coming sector and there is lots of interest here too,” Mr Sjøberg explained. “Concessions for many good projects have been given out, but little-to-no movement has taken place. Norway could help provide expertise to these and get them off the ground. Additionally, Malaysia needs a financing counterpart to China and Norway could fill this gap as well.”
Indonesia is targeting 100 percent electrification by 2020 and the country has abundant renewable energy potential creating plenty of opportunities. These include capacity building, skilled human resource training, advanced technologies, independent power producers and hydropower solutions, according to Ms Priscillia Tanumihardja, Senior Market Adviser, Innovation Norway Jakarta. She pointed out government regulations are difficult to navigate and can change quite a bit when the government turns over.
Once the market roundup was complete, representatives from GIEK and Asian Development Bank provided some insights on how Norwegian companies in the energy sector could obtain financing for overseas plans.
After lunch, the attention turned from countries to the companies that can help provide renewable energy solutions to them. Mr Tom Preststulen,
Managing Partner at Elkem Singapore got the session underway by detailing the company’s leapfrogging autonomous micro-technopolis in boxes (LAMTIB) initiative. The technology sees easily portable shipping containers equipped with the tools needed to electrify off grid areas. Mr Preststulen noted this could be a valuable tool for underprivileged areas in Southeast Asia with no or limited electricity.
Ocean Sun’s Dr Børge Bjørneklett gave the next presentation. He offered a glimpse of the firm’s floating solar solution that is currently being tested in both Norway and Singapore. Up next was energy sector veteran Mr. Knut Kise who shared some insights on the hydroelectric challenges facing Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines.
The potential of geothermal energy was introduced by Mr Audun Hassel, CEO and Founder of Nova Terra. His company has developed technology that allows for the creation of small, geothermal power plants that can be built everywhere in Asia. He explained that the plants can be built quickly and produce cheap electricity within a small footprint.
Tinfos was one of a few companies to have a track record of success in Southeast Asia having installed several small and mid-sized hydro electrical solutions in Indonesia. The technology creates little pondage and can be scaled to fit remote areas where large dams or windmills might not be feasible.
Up next was Viking Heat Engines, a company that has developed products that turn low temperature waste heat into something useful. Its CraftEngine is able to transform waste heat into electricity. Viking Heat Engines CEO, Mr Tor Hodne, pointed out the CraftEngine could be combined with a waste incinerator or biomass furnace to create electricity.
CAMBI is another firm turning something unwanted into a useful end product. The company has created thermal hydrolysis solutions that allow for optimal sludge management. Their technology reduces the volume of sludge cake produced and fully sterilizes it. Mr Marius Kleiven, Business Unit Manager Asia Pacific at CAMBI, added the end product could be turned into a class A fertiliser.
The energy producers’ session of the workshop was concluded by Mr Terje Hauglum, Contract Consulting Engineer at TH Lao Enterprise & Partners. He said there were several innovative and sustainable power solutions that could be used along the Mekong River, but these should be integrated. In his view, this collaboration would be good for both the environment and people of the Mekong.
The final session of the workshop focused on working in Southeast Asia. Highlights includes Mr Jomar Eldøy, Buri Energy Managing Director, offering a first hand perspective of Singapore’s electricity retail market, Mr Roar Haaland Johansen, Vice- President of Sales at Jacobson Elektro AS, providing examples of his firm’s work in Asia and a lively debate on expanding into the Myanmar energy market.
The workshop ended with everyone wanting to know what would be next. Attendees agreed the information and experiences shared during the event were valuable, but more collaboration was also needed moving forward.
It was agreed the Norwegian Energy Collaboratorium (NEC) concept should be expanded. Innovation Norway Singapore will work to create a framework for this in the coming months. The NEC was created in 2017 to support Norwegian companies and research institutions by connecting them with local partners, customers and investors in order to develop and expand their business.
The focus of the endeavor has mostly been in Singapore, but the expanded NEC will look to all of Southeast Asia. The plan is to involve other support entities in the region, such as embassies, Innovation Norway offices, business networks and funding agencies, into the revamped NEC.
A final thought was provided by Dr Per Christer Lund, Science & Technology Counsellor at Innovation Norway Singapore, who observed that Norwegian firms have the opportunity to expand into the Southeast Asia energy sector, but they must be willing to take them. At the moment, their activity in the market is limited and unconnected,.
“Norway has a strong presence in maritime and oil and gas in Asia, but not energy. The region has huge potential for energy growth. It is the most interesting region for sustainable energy in the world,” Dr Lund said. “With Norway’s leading experience within several energy sectors there should be huge opportunities for Norwegian companies and institutions in this region.”
Above left: Participants at Norway-ASEAN Energy Workshop 2018 organised by Innovation Norway. Above: Viking Heat Engines’ CraftEngine is able to take waste heat and turn it into electricity.