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Hybrid energy takes off in SE Asia

Posted: 09 Mar 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:clean energy? solar energy? renewable energy? hybrid power?

The renewable energy sector in the Southeast Asian region is getting electrified. The past few years has seen the global attention focus towards climate change, and countries all over the world are addressing the climate crisis by implementing national-level targets to find sustainable energy resources.

In the Philippines, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) is rebidding this month a solar-diesel hybrid power plant on the Limasawa island in the western island province of Palawan.

The prices of a piece of forested land in Limasawa, a Unesco World Heritage site, have risen steadily over the past year. Residents began clearing the land and building their homes in the area upon hearing that a Singaporean company had its eyes set on building a solar power plant there.

Singapore's WEnergy Global is planning to build a US$10 million hybrid micro-grid in the protected nature area. The facility will have a capacity of 1.4 megawatt-peak (MWp) solar power, a 1 MW diesel generator and the largest clean battery in Asia at 1.7 MWh.

A growing number of companies listed on the Singapore Exchange have, in recent years, embarked on projects ranging from solar-power installations in India to hydropower plants in Indonesia. Examples are Charisma Energy, SHS Holdings and ISDN Holdings.

The nascent clean-energy sector in Singapore follows years of government-led investment in research and development (R&D) efforts in renewable energy.

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) was the first of a string of research bodies. It was set up in 2008, with the aim of cementing the Republic's position as a solar energy hub in the Asia-Pacific.

In the Philippines, bringing electricity to rural areas has been one of the driving forces of the government to make renewable energy accessible and cost-efficient. Based on the latest count by Napocor's small power utilities group, the country has 303 solar energy plants with a rated capacity of 368.18MW serving a total of 254 missionary areas. Under Napocor's plan, the country's remote areas will need a capacity addition of 251.55MW from 2015 to 2020.

Oly Serafica, president of the Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines, has stated that government-led initiatives by the Department of Energy (DOE) can be traced as far back as the 1990s.

However, there are challenges faced by the renewable energy sector in the Philippines. Serafica believes a change of policies on the national and local level is necessary, as well as the building of sufficient number of transmission lines to carry all the projects.

Serafica says that for the successful deployment of a robust renewable energy programme to be possible, the industry must be resource-driven, not technology-driven. Careful assessment of renewable energy sources like biomass and hydro must also be considered.

Napocor VP for corporate affairs Urbano C. Mendiola Jr., said in a briefing last week: "We will have a 25 per cent local and 75 per cent foreign [ownership share for the Limasawa project]."

Although modest in size and price at $1.22 million, the proposed Limasawa solar-diesel hybrid power project could usher in similar projects in the next five years. The scope of work includes the building of a 120kWh grid solar photovoltaic system and 100kW modular diesel generation set.

Project rebidding for the solar-diesel hybrid power plant on Limasawa is currently ongoing.

- Toni Urrutia

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