Renewables Are Changing Asia’s Smart Grid Technology Landscape

Distribution utilities are becoming intelligent grid operators and distribution platform integrators.
Published: Fri 10 Apr 2015

In Asia, in comparison to the United States or Europe, the underlying economies are still growing, driven by growth in manufacturing and increasing standards of living. This growth means that, despite energy efficiencies, the overall electricity load will grow, and some of that growth will be served through renewables, explains Martin Hauske, Managing Director for Accenture Smart Grid Services in Asia Pacific, who will be speaking at Asian Utility Week 2015.

New capabilities for renewables growth

Renewables are certainly changing the technology landscape, says Hauske. Distribution utilities are becoming intelligent grid operators and distribution platform integrators. New capabilities like storage, virtual power plant and demand response will be necessary for that shift.

In mature Asian economies, such as Japan, distribution grids may carry less load in the future but, overall, loads across Asia will increase. So, in developing economies like Indonesia or Thailand, integrating renewables would complement the countries’ growth and could help enhance energy security, energy access, resilience and sustainability.

Looking at Europe, the integration of different grids has contributed to greater energy security and the ability to absorb more intermittent generation like wind or solar. Hauske points out that the ASEAN Power Grid (APG) could bring major benefits to the region’s grid but issues around power trading and emission schemes would have to coordinate for the commercial side to be successful.

Some utilities are taking advantage of microgrid technologies to lower the cost to serve customers in remote areas. Other than increasing access to power, microgrids also improve the reliability of power supply. Hauske points out that there is significant microgrid development in Australia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Smart grid will optimize operations

Hauske adds that the smart grid offers Asian utilities the opportunity to do more with less and improve reliability while managing network investments. “Utilities will also be able to deal with a whole new level of complexity coming from evolving energy consumer demands and the integration of distributed generation technologies. This is particularly important as we will likely see solar reaching grid parity in certain areas of the world, including Australia.”

There are also cost-efficiency benefits from advanced analytics, and technology innovation may help to reduce environmental impact.

Overall, Hauske says that Asia will take a “phased approach” to the widespread adoption of smart grid technologies. He explains, “We’re seeing governments asking utilities to develop smart grid roadmaps, including business cases. We will see those systems in immediate need of upgrades, such as distribution management systems, prioritized and complemented by other technologies such as storage, virtual power plants that offer affordable renewables integration and smart metering deployments.”

Storage-the game changer

Other than microgrids, Hauske views storage as a game changer. He says that many in the energy industry are amazed at the speed at which costs have come down. Many select automakers and semiconductor companies are setting up mega factories and increasing global lithium-ion battery production capacity significantly. “We’ll likely see that continue, which in turn helps lower the cost and speed of adoption.”

“The tipping point for me is if you compare the cost of storage to distributed generation, like peaking generators or gas-fired power plants, the cost per megawatt has already reached parity. So instead of setting up peaking generators to run one hour at noon time, you set up a battery, load it up overnight and then use that battery at noon time instead. With solar also reducing peak demand, this changes the design of the grid.”

“From my perspective, I think utilities should consider quick adoption of storage to reduce the cost of integrating renewables and give themselves more options in running the business.”