Tuesday, October 15

Brunei eyes Feed-In Tariff System

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EDPMO and BNERI conducting feasibility study, says minister

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Electricity bills could potentially be lowered, the country’s environmental footprint could be decreased, and a more efficient use of energy are just some of the benefits that Brunei could look forward to should the implementation of a Feed-in Tariff system come to fruition, Borneo Bulletin reported.

The possibility of a feed-in tariff system was suggested by the Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office, Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, while delivering a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of a Workshop on Policies, Feed-in Tariff Frameworks and Best Practices for Grid Connected Solar PV Projects at the Rizqun International Hotel.

The system is essentially an economic policy that allows users of renewable energy sources to sell energy back to their energy provider – a system that rewards the use of renewable energy, such as solar power.

“I believe that implementing such a scheme in Brunei Darussalam would have numerous benefits,” he said in his speech. “An introduction of such a system would spur home ownership of solar PV (photovoltaic) technology.”

This, said the minister, would give homeowners a personal stake in the development of renewable energy in the country.

He also noted that global experiences have shown that a feed-in tariff system is effective in attracting private sector investments for rapid deployment of renewable energies.

“I believe that Brunei will benefit from feed-in tariff schemes and we look forward to adopting and implementing similar schemes in Brunei Darussalam in the near future,” he said.

“I personally look forward to the workshop achieving its key deliverable, which is to come up with a best practice guideline document on feed-in tariff frameworks and grid-connected solar PV projects to be developed by Brunei and the US.”

Elaborating further in an interview, the minister explained, “This offers users a platform where they can sell back their power to the government, which will contrast with their electricity bills. So in a way, their electricity bills will be cheaper, and we encourage every house to have their own power generation, because this way we give back some power to the national grid.”

He underlined though that this is still a work in progress.

“There are a lot of things they have to do,” he said, referring to those involved in the workshop. “They have to look at the possibility of the tariffs. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

He affirmed that the results of the workshop will contribute towards the process, because they will discuss the finalisation of the feed-in tariff, the policy and how to make it as friendly and easy as possible to implement.

Asked when the feed-in tariff system could be implemented, the minister responded, “In the very near future, maybe in the next 18 months to two years.

“When we work on this, we want to work with our financial institutions so that people can set it up, and the returns that they get will come from the savings attained from selling back the power to the government.

“That is the basic principle,”, he said. “I think there are other issues that we have to look into.”

The minister also highlighted that a feed-in tariff system would contribute enormously towards the country’s climate change agenda.

“You will use less electricity as opposed to the normal way of burning gas,” he said. “You will make use of renewable energy.”

This, he shared, is why the Energy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EDPMO), in the Energy White Paper, has targeted for 10 per cent of their energy needs to come from renewable energy by 2035.

Speaking on the required infrastructure development involved in such a project, the minister said that a Smart Grid – a modernised electrical grid used to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics and sustainability of electricity production and distribution – would be a major infrastructure investment.

Adding on, the minister said, “The EDPMO and Brunei National Energy Research Institute (BNERI) are conducting a study into the benefits and opportunities offered by a feed-in tariff system.

“If the feed-in tariff has benefits for the country and its people, we will do it,” he said. “These studies, and the result of the workshop, will guide us in terms of what sort of framework and other research we need to do to confirm whether it will work in a Bruneian context.”

“We have to look at how it can benefit the people and the nation,” he added.

Professor Hidetoshi Nishimura, the Executive Director of the Economic Research Institute for the Asean and East Asia (ERIA), also spoke at the opening ceremony, and reinforced the positives of the system.

He highlighted that the potential of new renewable and geothermal power generation is promising, provided that the East Asia Summit countries implement relevant policies and measures.

“Promotion of new, renewable and geothermal energies with appropriate energy policy is also important in view of enhancing energy security and coping with global warming issues.” said Nishimura.

He said that most of the new and renewable energies are used for electric power generation, while actual usage of new and renewable energies started as a standalone power supply system at remote areas.

‘After the introduction of the feed-in tariff mechanism, many of these, such as mega solar power system, are now connected to the electric power grid.’

He said, however, that new and renewable energy power generation is dependent on the weather, and thus still not stable enough, and that the high cost of power generation also hinders installation of new and renewable energy systems.

On this point, Professor Nishimura added that it is vital for “not only the introduction of a feed-in tariff system, but also policy and measures to provide support for R&D activities to improve stability and reduce the power generation cost of new and renewable energy systems”.