The concept of utility-scale energy storage remains fairly uncharted grounds for power utilities, government authorities, and even renewable energy players, and there is a significant lack of knowledge and understanding to combat rising demand challenges. Equip Global recently had the privilege to interview Beni Suryadi, Manager of Power, Fossil Fuel, Alternative Energy and Storage in ASEAN Centre for Energy about his views on common challenges and top innovations in developing a flexible and resilient energy supply and its critical role in global reconstruction.
This is content interview as part of 4th Utility Scale Energy Storage Summit 2021, 22 – 25 November 2021.
Equip Global: I understand that you are heavily involved in Power, Fossil Fuels, Alternative Energy and Storage (PFS), could you kindly share what you think are the 3 most common challenges with regards to Energy Storage and how are you tackling it currently?
Beni Suryadi: In the latest regional blueprint on energy cooperation for Southeast Asia, the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016 – 2025 Phase II: 2021 – 2025 that was launched last year (2020), ASEAN sets an aspirational target of a 23% share of renewable energy (RE) in Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) and a 35% share of RE in total installed capacity by 2025. Based on the 6th ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO6), ASEAN countries would have to significantly strive to add to RE capacity to achieve these targets compared to the current level. ASEAN countries need to step up their game on energy storage development. However, we see some common challenges hampering the process.
Firstly, there is a misunderstanding of the value of energy storage. There is still a gap of knowledge in learning how storage can improve grid design and operations and the challenges in getting the most value out of an energy storage deployment.
Secondly, in many cases, in the region, the cost of renewable energy is still considered higher on average compared to fossil fuel. Then adding energy storage is perceived as another additional high cost into the system. There is a bias on the perception of this cost of energy storage.
Thirdly, although several ASEAN countries have already begun to implement the development of energy storage at the technical level, specific policies to encourage further adoption of these storage systems lag behind, as per the finding from our Policy Brief: Enabling Policies for Promoting Battery Energy Storage in ASEAN.
Equip Global: Do you personally think that Utility-Scale Energy Storage is crucial especially in this pandemic-led environment?
Beni Suryadi: The renewables-based transformation would need a massive investment in electricity infrastructure to maintain the balance of supply and demand. Hence, a flexible power system is urgently required to capitalise on the declining costs of solar and wind power. Energy storage would play a central role in avoiding major infrastructure investment and reducing the transmission and distribution network constraints, accommodating greater flexibility. Based on our evaluation in 2020 until now, as released in our Quarterly Insight Covid-19 vs Energy Sector in ASEAN, renewable energy has seen as much more resilience during this Covid-19 pandemic situation compared to fossil fuel. Hence, this also led to the growth of energy storage, particularly Utility Scale Energy Storage.
We learn that in 2019, the Philippines pioneered the adoption of battery energy storage for grid services with a 2 MW capacity in Luzon. Singapore followed this in 2020, which deployed utility-scale battery energy storage equivalent to the capacity of powering 200 typical four-room apartments in a day. And with early RE penetration into the national grid, Cambodia has secured the financing of utility-scale battery energy storage from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to support 100 MW National Solar Park.
While not immune from the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions, the industry grew and recorded major milestones amid these unprecedented times. It was reported that energy storage deployment doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. As it continues to develop, we see battery business models continue to evolve. In the previous years, see solar-utility integration was very much provided by the EPC or general contractor, where asset owners started to procure solar PV modules themselves. Pandemic reportedly reshaped the scheme, attributed to the need for solar EPC to consider in-house battery production for cost-effective production.
Equip Global: What do you think are 3 top trends or innovations to achieve energy security?
Beni Suryadi: There is a broad range of definitions from each country in the Southeast Asia region on energy security. Hence, ASEAN countries may also have various ways to innovate in achieving energy security. But in general, I think there are some trends and innovations in common to achieve it.
Firstly, the most notable innovation to achieve energy security has always been about energy storage. Energy storage can serve multiple purposes along the chain of an electricity system according to its technical specifications, namely the capacity and discharge times. Understanding technical suitability is essential to effectively plan different energy storage applications such as the support of grid infrastructure, isolated grid, or self-generation and consumption in residential buildings.
Second is digitalisation in the power sector, particularly the Internet of Things (IoT) on decentralised Energy generation. Traditionally, electric power systems use a central architecture during construction, bringing new challenges to the industry. IoE addresses several of these challenges and
offers greater efficiency and optimal design for building energy systems. According to ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025, The Internet of Energy (IoE) has a vital role in making buildings more energy-efficient, enabling smarter use of transport systems, and improving stock control. While its use consumes electricity, the ratio of energy saved through the use of digital services to the energy consumed in using them is growing.
Thirdly, regional integration. In today and future challenges on energy, it would be challenging for the country to address it individually. Several countries may have more resources but lack demand, while others have high demand but lack supply. It includes the context of the power sector. In ASEAN, we have Lao PDR, which has and its significant hydropower potential, which could power the neighbouring countries in the Mekong Area. It is one of many reasons why we are developing the ASEAN Power Grid (APG). Through the cross-border interconnection between the countries in the region with higher penetration of renewable energy, we hope to increase the region’s energy security at a much affordable cost.
Equip Global: Do you think more has to be done on the international level to establish policies and guidelines for the regulation of energy storage at a utility scale?
Beni Suryadi: As renewable energy sources will play a more prominent role in the region’s sustainable development, integrating energy storage systems in Southeast Asia is imminent. Energy storage seems to be facilitating the transition towards clean and sustainable energy, particularly for islands and rural areas within the region.
Considering countries in the region are still at the initial stage, international support is crucial. World Bank forecasts that approximately 10 GW storage capacity might be realised. Although most of the projected 10 GW capacity would probably be contributed by pumped hydro storage, it deems battery technologies are beginning to make impacts. But for this to happen, there has to be an energy storage target as most countries in ASEAN do not have rules regarding the storage or fundamental commercial structures to support such emerging technologies.
Government support in terms of policies, regulations, and laws are now in the spotlight as the push for the adoption of energy storage takes place. The regulatory uncertainties pose an obstacle to equity investors and debt funders regarding deploying these essential technologies.
Equip Global: Any advice or lessons learnt from your vast experience in PFS you would like to share with the industry? Beni Suryadi: Energy is a key component in advancing the ASEAN Economic Community’s pursuit for an inclusive and dynamic regional economic integration towards 2025 and beyond. It has been a valuable input for a well-connected ASEAN which continuously drives a highly integrated, competitive, innovative, and global ASEAN.
The economic growth of ASEAN has been one of the most dynamic and the fastest in the world. ASEAN is one of the most preferred investment destinations globally, and the region’s economy is expected to grow at over 5% per year to become the 4th largest economy in the world by 2030. Yet, such economic growth prospects could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused unprecedented shocks to industries and sectors across the global economy. The energy sector, which is vital to economic growth, has not been spared. However, energy has the potential to play a critical role in global reconstruction and recovery efforts.
ASEAN remains cautiously optimistic that economic growth would rebound or achieve an even higher growth if ASEAN addresses, at the regional and national levels, the challenges of greater integration and innovation in the areas of trade, investment, human capital, and regulatory coherence, while capitalising on global megatrends and other emerging trade-related issues.
Hence, the energy transition path in Southeast Asia is critical and needs support and involvement from all stakeholders, including industry. As an intergovernmental organisation that is representing the interest of 10 countries in Southeast Asia on the energy issue, our work is advising the policymakers, and for this, there is a crucial need for input and involvement from the industry – to support the knowledge and technology transfer to advance innovation and financing.
Content of this interview was also prepared with the support from Dr Akbar Swandaru, Senior Officer, Power, Fossil Fuel, Alternative Energy and Storage (PFS) of the ASEAN Centre for Energy.