Can the Nordic power mar­ket model serve as a con­cept for a regional, con­nected ASEAN grid?

The con­cept of a regional, in­ter­con­nected ASEAN power grid is noth­ing new, but prob­lems have pre­vented it from get­ting up and run­ning.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - CHEYENNE HOL­LIS

The Nordic regional power mar­ket model is among a few that could be used to help en­er­gise these plans. The de­vel­op­ment of an ASEAN power grid was first floated in the 1980s.

De­spite a gen­eral ac­cep­tance of the ben­e­fits it would bring, trac­tion for the project has been hard to come by. Dur­ing a sum­mit at Singapore In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Week in 2014, ASEAN gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives and heads of pri­vate sec­tor firms all agreed work to­wards a con­nected power grid should be­gin as soon as pos­si­ble.

De­spite this con­clu­sion and sev­eral oth­ers like it over the years, progress has been slow. Nord Pool Con­sult­ing AS is hop­ing to change that. The firm is work­ing on the ASEAN Power Pool (APP) ini­tia­tive that would fur­ther de­velop and es­tab­lish the frame­work for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, trans­mis­sion and trad­ing on a regional level.

The first step of the APP ini­tia­tive will see a doc­u­ment that de­fines all as­pects of the project drafted. The sec­ond step in­volves the cre­ation of an im­ple­men­ta­tion plan and road map for the es­tab­lish­ment of the APP. Nord Pool Con­sult­ing AS is ex­pected to fin­ish this in May.

“We are de­liv­er­ing the de­sign and a sug­gested im­ple­men­ta­tion plan for the APP or­gan­i­sa­tion and frame­work,” Mr Wil­helm Söder­ström, Se­nior Con­sul­tant at Nord Pool Con­sult­ing AS stated.

The project will es­tab­lish the cri­te­ria, struc­tures, roles and re­quire­ments for the for­ma­tion of the APP or­gan­i­sa­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Söder­ström, the pro­posal will as­sist ASEAN mem­ber states in achiev­ing con­sen­sus on the prin­ci­ples, build­ing blocks and frame­work of an in­te­grated regional elec­tric­ity mar­ket.

The APP re­lated project is im­ple­mented by the Eco­nomic Re­search In­sti­tute for ASEAN and East Asia with the Heads of ASEAN Power Util­i­ties / Au­thor­i­ties ( HAUPA) and the ASEAN Power Grid Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tee (APGCC) serv­ing as Nord Pool Con­sult­ing AS’ main stake­hold­ers. Cur­rently, both the ASEAN Power Pool name and the fi­nal struc­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion have yet to be fully de­cided.

“The ASEAN Power Pool is sug­gested to be an in­sti­tu­tion to en­able regional co­or­di­na­tion and later mul­ti­lat­eral trad­ing of elec­tric­ity among ASEAN coun­tries while main­tain­ing the bal­ance, sta­bil­ity and reli­a­bil­ity of the in­ter­con­nected power grids across bor­ders,” Mr Söder­ström said.

Regional power mar­kets have been suc­cess­fully de­ployed in Europe, South­ern Africa and else­where in the world. The Nordic regional power mar­ket model has pro­vided the in­spi­ra­tion for oth­ers in­clud­ing the South­ern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil In­ter­con­nec­tion Author­ity (GCCIA).

“Ex­pe­ri­ences from the Nordics, South­ern Africa and other regional power trad­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions can be utilised in ASEAN,” Mr Söder­ström re­ported. “We have a long-term re­la­tion­ship with the SAPP and as­sist the GCCIA.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence has al­lowed the firm to see how co­op­er­a­tion can be a way to ef­fec­tively op­ti­mise the us­age of en­ergy re­sources and in­fra­struc­ture in a re­gion. It has since brought this ex­pe­ri­ence to the APP ini­tia­tive. Charged up ben­e­fits Pro­po­nents of the APP claim the op­ti­mis­ing of re­sources on a regional ba­sis is the cheap­est and most en­vi­ron­men­tal

friendly method to meet de­mand for elec­tric­ity in ASEAN. Ac­cord­ing to data from the HAPUA Di­rec­tory 2016 and ASEAN Cen­tre for En­ergy, the re­gion’s elec­tri­fi­ca­tion rate is 78.7 per­cent, but coun­tries re­main self-re­liant for power gen­er­a­tion.

A lack of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion in Cam­bo­dia (66 per­cent) and Myan­mar (32 per­cent) weigh down the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion rate quite a bit. No other coun­tries in South­east Asia have an elec­tri­fi­ca­tion rate of less than 88 per­cent. In­fra­struc­ture in both Cam­bo­dia and Myan­mar would need to be built up in or­der for them to re­alise the full ben­e­fits, but the fruits of the APP would be more im­me­di­ate for most other coun­tries.

“All the in­volved coun­tries would ben­e­fit from a regional co­op­er­a­tion. Coun­tries with hy­dropower or low cost re­sources could po­ten­tially sell power to coun­tries op­er­at­ing more ex­pen­sive gen­er­a­tion such as oil, diesel and gas,” Mr Söder­ström said. “This gives the ex­port­ing coun­try in­creased earn­ings and the im­port­ing coun­try a re­duced cost of power gen­er­a­tion.”

He added that coun­tries with a large por­tion of hy­dropower might po­ten­tially need elec­tric­ity im­ports dur­ing dry pe­ri­ods where the reser­voirs and rivers don’t pro­duce at suf­fi­cient lev­els. In this sit­u­a­tion, neigh­bour­ing coun­tries with ther­mal based gen­er­a­tion could po­ten­tially step in and as­sist by ex­port­ing power into the deficit area. So, the col­lab­o­ra­tion is mu­tual.

Should large in­vest­ments in re­new­able en­ergy, such as wind and so­lar, oc­cur, an in­ter­con­nected grid could as­sist in the in­te­gra­tion of these new re­sources while off­set­ting some of the risks they present.

“The volatile na­ture of re­new­able en­er­gies cre­ates a need to sup­port power when the wind and so­lar fore­cast is not ac­cu­rate,” Mr Söder­ström noted. “This power sup­port could po­ten­tially be pro­duced by a hy­dropower sta­tion in a neigh­bour­ing coun­try in­stead of hav­ing a gas power plant on standby, for ex­am­ple.”

Sup­ply se­cu­rity and grid sta­bil­ity are two of the pri­mary rea­sons an in­ter­con­nected grid would ben­e­fit ASEAN, but this col­lab­o­ra­tion may also al­low closer co­op­er­a­tion be­tween coun­tries. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Söder­ström, the amount of cap­i­tal re­quired for gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity ex­pan­sion in South­east Asia would de­crease if this were to take place.

Pow­er­ing through

It will take time for ASEAN to move away from in­di­vid­ual mar­kets and morph into a regional en­tity. Mr Söder­ström pointed out that regional mar­ket im­ple­men­ta­tion takes time to de­velop and needs to hap­pen in­cre­men­tally, not all at once.

“The po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion needed to move ASEAN to­wards a regional mar­ket can of course be time con­sum­ing to reach.” Mr Söder­ström said. “When speak­ing of regional co­op­er­a­tion, it needs to be men­tioned that in­creas­ing regional co­op­er­a­tion does not di­rectly cor­re­late on los­ing na­tional con­trol of the elec­tric­ity sec­tor. Both Euro­pean co­op­er­a­tion and SAPP co­or­di­na­tion are liv­ing ex­am­ples of this ide­ol­ogy.”

But this is only half the bat­tle. In ad­di­tion to clear­ing all of the po­lit­i­cal hur­dles, more in­ter­con­nec­tors will need to be built and other ob­sta­cles must be ad­dressed. This can only hap­pen through regional co­op­er­a­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant to use es­tab­lished ASEAN regional or­gan­i­sa­tions for agree­ing on the needed points and to use the knowl­edge that these or­gan­i­sa­tions pos­sess,” he noted. “Aside from the reg­u­la­tory dif­fi­cul­ties, another chal­lenge is to build an ef­fi­cient and se­cure IT in­fra­struc­ture for con­nec­tion of the coun­tries in­volved.”

It will take years, pos­si­bly even decades, for the APP to be fully re­alised, but Mr Söder­ström doesn’t be­lieve this is a bad thing. He cites re­cent ex­am­ples of how a me­thod­i­cal process ended up ben­e­fit­ing all par­ties.

“Both the de­vel­op­ments in the Nordic and the South­ern African re­gion has taken sev­eral years and have been based on a step-by-step process which al­low mem­ber states to evolve at their own pace but mak­ing sure all are mov­ing in the same di­rec­tion,” Mr Söder­ström ex­plained. “One should aim for mar­ket de­vel­op­ment through evo­lu­tion, not rev­o­lu­tion when it comes to these types of im­ple­men­ta­tions.”

The APP may still be in its in­fancy, but it could prove the foun­da­tion that sparks ASEAN en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion af­ter al­most 40 years of try­ing. If the process is about tak­ing steps, Nord Pool Con­sult­ing AS is hope­ful the first one might be taken soon.

“The ben­e­fits of regional co­op­er­a­tion are start­ing to be­come ac­cepted and un­der­stood among many of the stake­hold­ers in­volved, so we are op­ti­mistic to­wards the fu­ture of the ASEAN power grid,” Mr Söder­ström con­cluded.

“The land area for tra­di­tional so­lar so­lu­tions is scarce. The land for the best so­lu­tions has al­ready been taken,” Dr Bjørnek­lett said. “You need to open up new ar­eas and new sur­faces for so­lar power sys­tems. Bod­ies of wa­ter are a good place for this.”

Re­search from the UN found that nearly half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives within 200 kilo­me­tres of coast­line. Mean­while, 20 of the world’s megac­i­ties, metropoli­tan ar­eas with more than 10 mil­lion res­i­dents, are costal. Float­ing so­lar can ben­e­fit these ar­eas.

For large cities, float­ing so­lar can be placed closer to cities than land-based so­lar power sys­tems mean­ing less en­ergy is lost dur­ing trans­port. Smaller cities in coastal ar­eas, such as ar­chi­pel­a­gos, can also ben­e­fit from us­ing the tech­nol­ogy.

While many ar­eas in places such as the Philip­pines and In­done­sia don’t have a large enough land area for a so­lar plant, float­ing so­lar can pro­vide them with a chance to utilise re­new­able en­ergy. Many is­lands in South­east Asia are still re­liant on fos­sil fuel power gen­er­a­tion, which can be both ex­pen­sive and harm­ful.

“The tech­nol­ogy al­lows us to build for less cost than land-based so­lar and with a bet­ter yield thanks to the wa­ter cool­ing,” Dr Bjørnek­lett said. “When im­ple­mented it can give ac­cess to cheap, re­new­able en­ergy to new parts of the globe where it may not cur­rently be avail­able such as South­east Asia. In the ar­chi­pel­a­gos, it can be hard to cre­ate the space needed for land-based so­lar de­spite these ar­eas want­ing to utilise the en­ergy source.”

Since the tech­nol­ogy is not a one­size-fits-all so­lu­tion, it can eas­ily sup­port a re­mote fish­ing vil­lage or a large city.

“The Ocean Sun so­lu­tion al­lows for the us­age of so­lar power on bod­ies of waters in a way that wasn’t pos­si­ble in the past,” he stated. “The so­lu­tion is also scal­able. This means it can be used to pro­vide suf­fi­cient re­new­able en­ergy to dif­fer­ent ar­eas to suit all types of de­mands.”

In ad­di­tion to the test­ing in Nor­way, the com­pany has also set up a test bed on waters just off Pu­lau Ubin, an is­land in north­east Singapore. This is Ocean Sun’s bench­mark study with air­cooled mod­ules. It is the com­pany’s first op­por­tu­nity to see how the tech­nol­ogy per­forms in equa­to­rial waters. Ar­eas in the lower lat­i­tudes reap the great­est ben­e­fits from float­ing so­lar tech­nol­ogy.

“There is enor­mous in­ter­est in Ocean Sun all across the globe. The in­ter­est is ev­ery­where plus or mi­nus 40 de­grees of the equa­tor,” Dr Bjørnek­lett noted. A cheaper, Flex­i­ble Al­ter­na­tive

Float­ing so­lar is a rel­a­tively new in­dus­try, but the progress has been im­pres­sive. Dr Bjørnek­lett, along with Ocean Sun co-founder Dr Øyvind Chris­tian Rohn, started the com­pany in 2016 to ex­ploit Dr Bjørnek­lett’s pa­tent ap­pli­ca­tion. Shortly af­ter, Dr Arnt Emil In­gul­stad made the first im­por­tant in­vest­ment and also joined the man­age­ment team. Later they re­ceived a grant from In­no­va­tion Nor­way and to­gether with a Nor­we­gian in­dus­try con­sor­tium con­sist­ing of Ber­gen Kom­mu­nale Kraft­sel­skap, Norsk Hy­dro, REC So­lar, Lerøy Seafood and Grieg Seafood they were able to build the first pro­to­type.

“I was in the photo voltaic busi­ness at REC So­lar man­ag­ing the de­sign of the mod­ule. When REC So­lar moved to Singapore in 2011, I left the com­pany and went on to work in the oil and gas in­dus­try, build­ing large hy­dro elas­tic struc­tures stretch­ing from the blow out pre­ven­tor up to the float­ing rig used in ul­tra-deep-wa­ter drilling,” he ex­plained.

These ex­pe­ri­ences have served Dr Bjørnek­lett well at Ocean Sun, Dr Rohn also had ex­pe­ri­ence with busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion in the oil and gas in­dus­try and the pair saw great po­ten­tial for float­ing so­lar as an al­ter­na­tive to the oil sec­tor in which they were work­ing in.

“When we started Ocean Sun, there was al­most no one else in the float­ing so­lar in­dus­try,” Dr Bjørnek­lett said. “I was most con­cerned about the cost on a dol­lar per watt ba­sis. We tried to cre­ate the sim­plest and low­est cost so­lu­tion to carry the so­lar PV pan­els in or­der to make it ef­fec­tive.”

Float­ing so­lar also has another key ad­van­tage when com­pared to land based gen­er­a­tion. Since the pan­els are lo­cated on top of wa­ter, this pro­vides nat­u­ral cool­ing that makes pro­duc­tion more ef­fi­cient.

“The pri­mary ad­van­tage of the Ocean Sun so­lu­tion is the di­rect cool­ing of the so­lar PV pan­els,” Dr Bjørnek­lett stated. Another ben­e­fit is the to­tal amount of poly­mers go­ing into the struc­ture. Our com­peti­tors aren’t able to match this.”

It is not just out at sea where Ocean Sun’s float­ing so­lar so­lu­tion can be ef­fec­tive. The tech­nol­ogy is also be­ing touted as a way to im­prove ef­fi­ciency at hy­dro­elec­tric dams.

“Hy­dro­elec­tric dams can suf­fer from wa­ter evap­o­ra­tion and this can be a prob­lem. With the Ocean Sun so­lu­tion, you can use so­lar power dur­ing the day and then switch tur­bines dur­ing the night to save po­ten­tial en­ergy,” Dr Bjørnek­lett pointed out.

The po­ten­tial of Ocean Sun and float­ing so­lar could pro­vide a mas­sive boost to the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor in South­east Asia. At the mo­ment, the com­pany is fo­cus­ing on its progress.

“We are look­ing to ex­pand and con­tinue to de­velop the prod­uct. We want to keep pro­gress­ing the project and build larger demon­stra­tion units,” Dr Bjørnek­lett con­cluded. “We are up to six peo­ple now and are grow­ing rapidly.” Left: A thin, one mil­lime­tre thick poly­mer mem­brane makes it pos­si­ble for in­stall­ers to walk on the Ocean Sun so­lar so­lu­tion

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

PHOTO: CH. KARNCHANG (LAO) CO., LTD.

Above: Should a sin­gle ASEAN power grid be es­tab­lished, the Xayaburi Dam in Laos is one of many projects that could sell power across bor­ders

PHOTO: OCEAN SUN

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