Heading to the greener energy journey in Southeast Asia - Renewable energy generation is not the end of the story
Standfirst: With improvements in battery technology and artificial intelligence (AI), green hydrogen helps overcome obstacles in adopting renewable energy.
In Southeast Asia, one of the world’s fastest growing regions, the need for green energy has never been clearer than in recent years.
Too often in the past, the lack of a consistent supply of renewable energy has been an obstacle for its takeup. Now, that’s changing. Moreover, when we hear about clean energy / decarbonization, we tend to think about changing the way we generate electricity. However, true decarbonization is achieved by going clean energy for entire energy journey, from generation, storage, distribution, smart usage to management.
With developments in green hydrogen, batteries and AI that enable “virtual” power plants away, it is becoming easier and viable to tap on greater amounts of renewable energy.
First, green hydrogen. This is a form of hydrogen that is produced without emitting any carbon because it is created with renewable sources such as solar or geothermal.
It can be used to generate electricity when needed and also stored and distributed in a way that reduces the uncertainty of renewable energy, which may vary with day, weather and season.
Hydrogen is not a new fuel. While most of the world’s hydrogen is still created by separating the components of water using fossil fuels, there are efforts to turn to renewable energy instead.
The green process is helped by the falling prices of renewable electricity, particularly from solar and wind, which can be used to generate hydrogen. This can then be released to generate electricity that is delivered to homes, offices and factories.
Takeup in green hydrogen
Some testbeds have carried out green hydrogen trials in Southeast Asia in recent years. In 2019, SP Group successfully established the first zero-emission building in the region that is powered by green hydrogen.
It used Toshiba’s pure hydrogen fuel cell system, a hydrogen-based autonomous energy supply system that produces hydrogen and stores the fuel for producing electricity later with its Fuel Cell technology.
The system uses a special metal alloy as a storage medium to bond with hydrogen, allowing for the storage of a large volume of hydrogen at a much lower pressure over a long period of time without any deterioration.
When electricity is needed, the stored hydrogen is released slowly and regulated, making it safer and more compact to be stored and managed.
Besides Singapore, the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines are working with Toshiba to provide green hydrogen as an off-grid energy source to power their remote islands.
Just as important as producing renewable energy is storing it for use later. Here, advancements in rechargeable batteries are set to make a big difference.
With them, solar or geothermal energy that is harvested can be converted into electricity and stored on a battery for use later to deliver power when needed.
To do this, Toshiba’s SCiBTM battery uses lithium titanium in its anode to deliver safety, long life, low-temperature performance and rapid charging and high effective capacity.
It has been used by energy companies, such as Tohoku Electric Power Co in Japan, as a way to store energy and reduce grid frequency changes at a substation.
In portable form, the SCiBTM battery is used in electric buses for public transport to automated guided vehicles and mobile robots on a factory floor. It is even used by some of Japan’s famous Shinkansen trains to move to a safe place should a power outage occur.
A virtual power plant (VPP)
Besides green sources of energy, what will also help to decarbonize the environment is improved management of the energy that is supplied and consumed. Here, a transformation is happening with smarter software systems driven by AI and the Internet of Things (IoT).
A VPP is possible now with recent advances. It calls for all the distributed sources of energy, including the solar panels and batteries in homes and offices and renewable energy produced by generation companies, to be managed as one virtual power plant.
Using AI and IoT to predict how much energy is expected to be used and supplied, this system can manage the delivery of energy in a more efficient way. It helps to match demand with supply, catering to the peak and troughs of a usage cycle and reducing waste.
With all the data on hand, consumers can also smartly manage their energy use. They can gain credits or discounts when they agree to a request to scale down their usage during a period of high demand.
Already, Toshiba is seeking to launch VPPs across Japan as early as next year in a shift away from a power grid centralized around a single energy generator.
Finding a path forward
Ultimately, the goal is to find a way to use energy more efficiently and to generate that energy through green sources that do no further harm to the planet.
Toshiba is utilizing its wide range of products and services in the generation, distribution, and storage of power, while actively pursuing carbon capture and utilization technologies
“Renewable energy shows us a path forward to a future where economies can grow while being sustainable in the long term,” said Mr Hiroshi Fukuchi, Corporate Representative – Asia Pacific, Toshiba Corporation and Managing Director, Toshiba Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd.
“With a strong foundation forged by more than 140 years of experience, together with our partners, we are confident we are making progress and delivering holistic and sustainable solutions to our most pressing challenges today,” he added.
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