, Indonesia

Why hybrid power systems can't penetrate Southeast Asia yet

Cost and land availability remain as major blocks.

When energy storage provider Qinous announced that it will develop hybrid microgrids in Indonesia, industry experts had mixed reactions. For its proponents, hybrid power systems are the dream of the future, integrating traditional power sources with renewable power sources, but experts warn that it can turn into a technical nightmare.

There is an array of technical challenges that must be overcome to ensure that present levels of reliability are not significantly affected when operating a hybrid power system, says Amit Gupta, chief of electrical capability group-Asia at Rolls-Royce Singapore Pte Ltd, Singapore.

One key task is to design new market models that allow competitive participation of intermittent energy sources, and provide appropriate incentives for investment. There is also a need to design appropriate demand side management schemes to allow customers to react to the grid needs.

Asian countries like the Philippines also face an uphill battle when it comes to funding and site availability. Malin Östman Manager, project development at Wärtsilä Finland Oy, Singapore reckons there is excellent potential for PV-engine hybrids in the Philippines due to a good level of irradiation and widespread diesel use as a generating fuel, which supports their economic feasibility. But cost and availability of land remain as major challenges to implement solar PV and PV-engine hybrids across the islands.

The rising complexity of hybrid systems should also keep operators on their toes.

“The development of more energy sources or storage technologies will increase the complexity on hybrid systems, and together the control systems that will be needed to manage all these systems and guarantee their optimal operation,” says Fernando Niggli, technical manager at DEIF Korea, South Korea.

He reckons that individual sources cannot operate if the integration to the other sources is incomplete. This only causes more problems, especially in the microgrid level of applications, and puts pressure on the industry to roll out better systems.

“The continuous development of the energy management system to englobe and integrate always more sources is necessary for the microgrid industry to succeed,” he adds.

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