Gearing up for growth of distributed power in Asia

By Steve Hodgson

It’s no coincidence that global energy and engineering giant GE launched its new distributed power business in Jakarta, Indonesia ” the company then announced that it has nearly completed the supply of 100 gas engines for on-site power projects being carried out by Navigat Energy in Indonesia and Thailand. The size of its collaboration with Navigat illustrates the current market available to GE Distributed Power, said the company, but other initiatives point to a wider optimism for this part of the world.

The potential market for decentralised energy in Asia is attracting the attention of major companies, with some forming joint ventures to meet what they clearly see as a healthy level of opportunity. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Hitachi have signed a collaboration agreement on distributed gas engine activities in China; and Gas Malaysia and Tokyo Gas are working together on industrial CHP projects in Malaysia. Meanwhile, both the industrial CHP and district heating sectors in South Korea continue to be buoyant.

GE’s 100 gas- and biogas-fuelled Jenbacher engines will provide a total of 330 MW of on-site power capacity to remote parts of Indonesia and Thailand, in many cases where grid power is unavailable or less than reliable. And, while natural gas is very much the fuel of choice, 30 of these engines are for palm oil biogas projects. Navigat also operates GE gas engines in Singapore, and is currently developing a 50 MW power plant based on 16 more GE gas engines in Myanmar.

GE is also developing, with local consultant PLN Enjiniring, a local power solution for Indonesia’s many small islands ” combining small-scale gas fuelling systems with gas turbine and gas engine generation technologies. Local gas-fuelled generators will minimise the need for pipeline infrastructure on many islands, assist with peaking power demands and replace diesel generators.

The company says Southeast Asia is an important growth area for its distributed power offerings, as governments increasingly encourage the use of small-scale power systems that are easier to finance and install than larger power stations. But patchy grid coverage and reliability, and the existence of many small islands, may be equally important factors in some countries.

Moving north to China, MHI and Hitachi say they anticipate a rapidly expanding market for gas-fuelled distributed power; indeed, the government plans 50 GW of new capacity by 2020. MHI says it has a well-established record of introducing distributed power systems to Japan, and the two companies now plan a ‘full-scale entry’ into the Chinese market.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gas’s specialist energy services, CHP and district energy company, Energy Advance Co, plans to export the cogeneration know-how it has built up in Japan to serve industrial customers in Malaysia, working with the country’s gas supply company. Just one scheme is currently identified, but the two companies have much wider ambitions; Gas Malaysia is keen to explore all options for new uses of gas.

Finally, the first weeks of this year saw the announcement of a 250 MW coal-fired cogeneration scheme being built to serve South Korea’s Gunjang industrial zone ” featuring steam turbine technology from Siemens Energy. And Korea’s KEPCO Engineering and Construction has announced plans for an even bigger 440 MW gas-fuelled cogeneration plant to supply heat and power to Osan City, south of Seoul, using gas turbine technology from MHI.

With the more traditional markets of Europe and North America hardly breaking any records, these are welcome moves.

Steve Hodgson
Contributing Editor

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