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M.E.T.T.S. - Consulting Engineers > Opinion Pieces & Conference Presentations > Overcoming the Challenges of Continuity of Supply in ASEAN's Renewables Centred Power Systems

Overcoming the Challenges of Continuity of Supply in ASEAN's Renewables Centred Power Systems

Dr Michael C. Clarke, M.E.T.T.S. Pty. Ltd., Australia and Dr Duncan Seddon, DS&A Pty. Ltd., Australia

Originally slated for a presentation to: 2020 Asia Conference on Renewable Energy and Environmental Engineering (AREEE 2020), Bangkok, Thailand, April 14 - 16, 2020

A Narrative Preamble to the PowerPoint Presentation

ASEAN straddles the equator and has close to its entire population living in the wet tropics (with the exception of northern Myanmar) with most people being strongly affected by the monsoon, with its wet and drier seasons. ASEAN's people live in ten member countries all of which are classified as developing, however the degree of development varies greatly with Singapore being highly developed and Timor-Leste still lagging post its independence in 2002.

The ten economies vary greatly as do the populations; Brunei has a small population but is rich in fossil fuels resources, Indonesia is one of the most highly populated in the world's and has mineral, fuel, agricultural and commercial riches. All these ten countries have a high and increasing demand for electricity, transport fuels and fuel for new and expanding industries.

Renewable and/or fossil energy resources are relatively evenly spread over the region with the exception of The Philippines, however there are challenges in harnessing those renewable resources in terms of solar PV, solar thermal and wind, as well as the more exotic renewables like waste-to-energy (direct combustion and biogas production), dendro-thermal, OTEC, tidal and wave.

ASEAN nations have a high irradiance of available sunlight. In Indonesia the sun swings to the north and south of the equator providing around 1kW/m2 over the peak hours, however the useable energy is much lower due to high humidity, cloud, haze (from forest burning), urban pollution and dust during the drier season. As to wind, much of ASEAN is affected by typhoons (which increase average wind speeds but do not offer useable electricity). Note: The Coriolis effect usually deflects extreme weather events, such as typhoons and hurricanes, 5 degrees above or below the equator. Reliable winds generally start to occur at greater than 20 degrees and peak 40 to 50 degrees from the equator. The usual wind technologies thus have only marginal application in the ASEAN region.

The lack of high intensity solar related raw energy as sun and wind is an impediment to ASEAN becoming a "Great Renewable Energy Region", however renewable can be a supplementary energy resource that will reduce the need for fossil fuels (gas, oil, shale-gas, lignite, coal and condensate) and conserve those valuable resources. The utilisation of coal middlings, coal rejects and lower grade lignite to produce synthetic petroleum in Indonesia should also be considered.

A relatively plentiful renewable energy resource in the ASEAN region is hydro. In the Greater Mekong System (GMS) it supplies water to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and in the future could be a major renewable electricity source feeding into the GMS Grid and potentially further into the Malay Peninsular and Myanmar. The Mekong is however also shared with China and Chinese hydro and irrigation schemes are likely to take a major share of the water and its potential energy. Hydro schemes as could be built in Borneo and Sumatra, and Myanmar would result in significant populace displacement.

The efficient distribution of energy across ASEAN has for over thirty years been looked at as an achievable goal. Two regional grids are being considered, these being the Trans-ASEAN Power Grid (TAPG) and the Trans-ASEAN Gas Grid (TAGG). Slides 2/3 show the present targets with the TAPG. It can be noted that there are already sections of the TAPG that are operational; Singapore - Malaysia and Malaysia - Thailand.

Slides 2/3 are identical except for the addition of Timor-Leste in Slide 3. Petroleum finds in the Timor Sea have meant that Timor-Leste can participate in the gas supply to ASEAN; an eventual gas pipeline and an immediate LNG tanker/barge system could be a reality lasting decades.

In the more rural parts of ASEAN, village and sub-regional communities are, have and will construct small renewable plants; these will complement the grid supply and reduce transmission upgrading costs. Big ASEAN cities and their satellite cities will produce roof-top PV power, provided that the sun does really shine.

An important role of major fossil fuel generation plant is to stabilise the electricity produced by renewables; the large turbine-generation sets maintain voltage and frequency, and remove fluctuations in wave-form from PV generation. The fossil fuel base-load generation plants should be of the most up-to-date technologies, producing low sulphur, nitrogen oxides and particulates and through their innate efficiencies produce low carbon dioxide emissions per unit of power produced.

In the ASEAN region Nuclear Power base-load generation to provide additional power supplies for new and expanding cities, EVs, and light and heavy rail services should be considered, even in the face of "green" opposition. Politicians and other leaders should be aware of community outrage when power supply fails. The loss of power to commerce, industry and government will increase public concern far quicker than will well planned and situated nuclear power projects.

PowerPoint Presentation

Click here to view PowerPoint Presentation (PDF file)


COVID-19 has disturbed the world's economic order and could lead humanity into a depression that will match those of the 1890s and 1930s; the differences with this depression are that it will cause human misery and disruption (political, military, social and commerce). The ASEAN nations will be affected but through the good fortune of having, extended yearly growing periods, experience mild seasonal climate variations, have generally mixed economies, being at the hub of many trade routes and populations that are generally self-disciplined will prevent the worst excesses of a depression.

The dual concept of having regional grids for power and gas will provide energy certainty that will in time include transport fuels, fuel for industries (e.g. steel and metals smelting) as well as electricity security for its cities and mega-cities. One possibility for the future TAGG will be delivering gas to Gas-to-Liquids complexes that will also include, refining, power generation and chemicals (e.g. fertiliser) functions.

Renewable energy has a role in ASEAN. Existing and developing technologies must be understood for their applicability to the ASEAN climate and agriculture/horticulture. Having a secure and continuous quality electricity flow from various raw energy sources is an absolute necessity.

ASEAN's strength will be enhanced by co-operating and supplementing the industries and commerce of Australasia, East Asia and South Asia.

The authors wish the promoters (AREEE) of the April 2020 Conference the best for rescheduling into 2021/22.

You are welcome to quote up to a maximum of three paragraphs from the above conference presentation, on condition that you include attribution to this website, as follows:
SOURCE: M.E.T.T.S. Pty. Ltd. Website http://www.metts.com.au

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