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The Future of Clean Energy Is Present

August 24, 2017
Stuart Dean, CEO, GE ASEAN
Clean and sustainable energy is more than just ‘important’ to GE, it’s an absolute and urgent necessity. With resources dwindling and damage to the environment steadily accruing, I believe that there is simply no question that GE has to strive, as a responsible provider of energy, for the very best solution for our planet.

The energy ‘dilemma’ is perhaps best exemplified in areas such as the ASEAN region, where the number of new energy users is rapidly growing, and supply has to meet astonishing demand. Alongside such demand is the need for clean and sustainable energy. But with crude oil prices dropping dramatically, the take up of alternative energy solutions can seem less attractive.

AT GE, we aim to find alternative means of developing power that are practical, effective and above all efficient compared to cheaper but dwindling natural resources.  At the same time we must be ready to lead on the production of the types of distributed power networks that are best suited for the challenges of the region.

Only in this way can we produce energy in the right way, and still deliver cost savings for the end-user.


Rapid growth leads to more demand

On a daily basis, I am lucky enough to witness the rapid growth in ASEAN, and a natural rise in energy consumption to go along with that growth. As a region, it can expect to see a rise in energy consumption from 427 million tons of oil equivalent (MTOE) in 2010 to a staggering 1018 MTOE in 2030. This is not sustainable without an alternative being in place.

GE aims to be an integral part of that alternative. Since 2005, with the launch of the Ecomagination program, the company has developed a strong push in R&D, financing around $13 billion of work since 2005. This R&D has been in the area of cleantech, because, like everyone else, GE recognises the role of cleantech in a sustainable future.


Beyond 2015: what GE plans to bring to ASEAN

I feel that there is tremendous growth potential in the region, where the population is expected to grow from 633 million to 717 million by 2030.

GE is just getting started with Vietnam, for example, and I genuinely believe that wind power in particular will transform the energy landscape in that country. But perhaps the jewel in the GE crown is Myanmar, where huge investment in key areas like healthcare and power are bringing about a surge in growth. From GE ASEAN’s point of view, we’re looking at a major point of focus. I can see us investing much more, and in doing so help to transform the country beyond recognition.


Addressing ASEAN’s energy challenges


However, countries also have to step up to the plate on this and take a view on the available technology. Cost savings and efficiencies have to be made, and it is my opinion that this level of effort will reduce costs for the end users, while at the same time work to limit the carbon footprint.

Some countries are managing this well. Take Vietnam for example, which has installed 10 GE wind turbines in Bac Lieu, with a view to eventual expansion to 52 turbines. This will add 99.2 MW of wind energy. And I call that resourceful and sustainable.

But we also have to be aware of the challenges in providing that energy to the market.  While the area of the Greater Mekong region, comprised of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, share a valuable sub-regional infrastructure, the power network throughout the ASEAN region more widely provides a challenging energy landscape, both geographically and politically.  We have to be prepared to provide distributed power networks and on-site power production that meet needs locally, especially in more rural areas.

The solution isn’t simply clean energy, but adapting production to the local environment, whether that is through our collaboration with a local partner in Malaysia to utilise biogas from palm oil mill effluents, our production of energy from rice husks in Cambodia, or our work in Indonesia, where GE are generating 1MW of electricity in partnership with PLM to power a biomass plant with woodchips.

Clean solutions can work, and are working right now in ASEAN.


Unsettled, but not undoable


Some would say we are playing with fire a little. There aren’t many regions in the world that contain this level of uncertainty. But I know that GE is a pioneer, and pioneers don’t tend to stand in the shadows. The rewards for the region and its people are just too great to ignore. Here is a chance for real growth, and a huge, tangible improvement in the quality of life for millions. Personally, I don’t want to miss a thing.

GE ASEAN is looking at the ‘Big 3’ as the way forward. Wind, gas and biomass are vital, and will become the foundation for growth in ASEAN. But as a company, we are able to deliver on this now, which is what truly excites me as the CEO of this region.

In the months ahead, you can expect to see further strong strategy decisions being implemented in the region, with a clear focus on building an energy infrastructure that delivers local solutions, sustainability, and the kind of growth that actually means something to a population that has so far faced a future where it has been literally powerless.

And that is a future I am proud to be a part of.


Watch Stuart Dean who spoke at the recent INYT: Energy for Tomorrow Conference at Kuala Lumpur on ‘The Innovation Imperative’.

Video credit to INYT.