Asia’s rapid population and economic growth are creating a demand for energy as its power grid is getting close to its total capacity.
The rising electricity demands are due to a growing middle class in the region, yet a vast number of people – 700 million still lack access to power.
The Economist Intelligence Unit article, “Asia’s energy transition: a tough balancing act“, projects the region will be the fastest in terms of electricity consumption based on its 10-year forecast period. The area continues to rely on coal for its power generation.
The current high global energy prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only push them to rely more on fossil fuels, making decarbonization difficult.
Asia is also the largest investor in renewable energy, with the lion’s share going to China, India, Japan, and South Korea. Renewable energy production will increase in the next ten years.
Many governments will also invest in nuclear to wean dependence on imported energy. However, this will not impact short-term demands.
The transition to renewable energy presents an excellent opportunity for the region to expand their grid infrastructure to support its growing energy demands.
Yet, its dependence on coal challenges the transition without compromising energy security.
The share of renewables in the grid is also expected to increase in the next decade.
According to the article, China’s share of non-hydro renewable energy for electricity generation will rise from the current 15% to about 26% in 2031. India’s share from 11% to 21%, Japan’s from 15% to 23%, and South Korea’s from 7.5% to 19.5%.
Narsingh Chaudhary, Executive Vice President of the Asia Power Business at Black & Veatch, says that the region needs to stay committed to providing universal access to electricity, sustainability, and energy efficiency.
Below are some excerpts from the article:
The energy transition presents an opportunity for the region to expand and upgrade its grid infrastructure to support its rapid growth.
“An integrated power infrastructure takes advantage of various generation, transmission and distribution technologies to help utilities overcome the pitfalls of aging infrastructure assets while meeting rising customer demand for energy that is renewable and reliable.”
Chaudhary cited a result from an annual customer survey where respondents agree that there “is a need to have a balanced generation mix with a diversity of fuel choices to meet energy demand with reliable baseload generation.”
For him, the energy transformation in the region will include the growing uptake of electric vehicles, estimated to increase by 20% by 2025 in Southeast Asia, and the expansion of microgrids and hybrid systems, especially in remote, disaster-prone areas and locations that have little infrastructure.
These solutions can also ease the strain on the national grid; Investments in battery storage systems and conventional gas-fired plants to stabilize power fluctuations from intermittent renewable energy sources; and scaling up digital transformation (internet of things, artificial intelligence, and smart grid) to expand capacity.
But for the energy transition in the region to be a success will require the following strategies, according to Chaudhary.
- First, robust regional leadership should be demonstrated by understanding a truly integrated power infrastructure plus the knowledge of technologies that come with it.
- Second, the availability of business partners that can provide technical and expert support, procurement, and construction solutions to reduce project risks.
- Third, reliance on Asset Management experts that can provide asset management tools and processes can help address challenges with existing plants and facilities and extend their useful life, improving efficiency and implementing remote monitoring tools that diagnose problems before they occur.
- Fourth, collaboration with regional experts who can bring global best practices tailored to local needs, and lastly, invest in strategies that address complex issues of resilience, reliability, sustainability, and affordability.