Feb 09 2023

Enabling the digital transformation of Asia’s energy sector with satellite broadband

Satellite broadband is a key enabler of the digital transformation of the renewable energy sector across the Asia Pacific region.

Facing soaring demand, the APAC energy sector is under enormous pressure to adopt digital transformation initiatives to enhance efficiency and innovate at scale. The need for energy is expected to increase by almost 20% by the end of the decade and nearly 40% by 2050. This upward trend goes hand-in-hand with the rising demand for investment in the renewable energy sector, which relies heavily on modern technology.

According to Norwegian independent energy research company Rystad Energy, the installed renewable energy capacity in the APAC region is expected to reach 815 GW by 2025, up from 517 GW in 2020. Onshore wind currently holds the biggest market share, with the region installing a record-breaking 30.6 gigawatts of wind energy capacity in 2019. Solar is a close contender and is expected to overtake wind as the number-one renewable energy source in 2025.

Why the energy sector needs dependable broadband connectivity

In the past, utility grids relied wholly on the local production, delivery, and energy monitoring. By contrast, modern power grids are highly complex, interconnected networks of facilities that constantly communicate with one another. Therefore, dependable internet connectivity is vital for maintaining normal operations.

Various technological components facilitate this impressive feat of engineering. For example, today’s power grids rely heavily on internet-connected supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to monitor facilities and their various components and proactively prevent hardware failures. The sector is rapidly heading towards becoming a US$1 billion global industry as utility companies increase their investment in the internet of things (IoT) and other connected systems.

These systems, which often span huge physical sites, depend on internet connectivity. A conventional local power station is not likely to have a problem with connectivity because they are typically located in populated areas where the necessary infrastructure is already in place. It is quite a different matter in the case of many renewable energy facilities. For example, wind farms are often located in remote and hard-to-access areas, such as mountainous regions or offshore. Solar farms are often similarly remote and typically span huge areas, part or all of which may lack reliable broadband coverage. The same might be true of hydroelectric dams and remote geothermal power stations. For example, Indonesia has enormous potential in the geothermal energy sector, albeit primarily locked away in remote and hazardous locations that lack accessibility and connectivity.

With climate change being the century’s concern, the energy sector faces an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and fill a rapidly growing market need. However, it is necessary to overcome the key connectivity challenges for that to happen. In achieving that lofty goal, energy companies can benefit from numerous valuable opportunities, all of which depend on internet connectivity:

How satellite broadband can help bridge the connectivity gap

Despite positive developments in the renewable energy sector, the burning of fossil fuels still accounts for the vast majority of energy generation in the APAC region. While there are many reasons for this, one of the most often overlooked is the lack of internet connectivity which, in turn, hinders the deployment of IoT systems. Both solar and wind farms, for example, tend to be located well outside populated areas, where fixed-line or mobile broadband connectivity is usually lacking. At the same time, countries like the Philippines and Indonesia are among the best candidates for solar and wind energy, owing to their highly varied local topographies and favorable geographic locations. Kacific FlexVNO gives the energy sector dedicated bandwidth to support their operations no matter where they’re located, and for smaller sites, a Gigstarter plan can also support operations.

For example, in the Philippines, our local Internet Service Provider partner, Transpacific Broadband Group Incorporated have installed a 50 Mbps in download and 15 Mbps in upload speeds plan for Aboitiz Power, one of the major power suppliers in the Philippines. Located at Binga Dam, the employees of the dam used the satellite connectivity to send reports and attend online meetings with their colleagues and external vendors. The high speed and reliable connectivity, powered by Kacific, has improved the productivity of the operations at Binga Dam, as well as the welfare of the employees at the far-flung site.

While remotely located energy-generation facilities might be able to function without the internet, just as they have always done before, broadband connectivity is vital for the reasons mentioned above, and it is a critical success driver in the renewable energy space. Satellite broadband has proven vital for closing the connectivity gap, given the relatively remote locations of facilities like solar and wind farms and energy storage facilities. Satellite internet is ideal for such use cases since all it needs is a line of sight to the sky, which is not likely to be a problem in a remote wind or solar farm!

For energy companies to enjoy the full range of benefits from IoT, they must have a sufficiently robust communications network that gathers and transmits data from remote and often hostile environments. In such environments, satellite broadband is often the only option. Fortunately, however, the technology has advanced to the point that it is now more affordable and offers greater performance. For example, compact VSAT terminals are around one meter in diameter and can be deployed in a huge range of locations quickly and easily, making them ideal for small- and mid-sized energy facilities. Larger facilities can use 2.4m or even 4.5m antennas for greater bandwidth and coverage.

Equipped with satellite broadband connectivity, energy companies across the APAC region can realize the full potential of IoT technology across a broad range of use cases. To name a few, these include using connected sensors for predicting renewable energy production, using real-time data to detect and remediate system errors almost instantly, and contributing to the continuous optimization of energy generation and distribution. These advantages combine to enable more efficient and sustainable energy systems when facing a future of rapidly growing demand and the ever-present combined threat of climate change and rising costs.

Kacific is a next-generation broadband satellite operator providing coverage throughout the Asia Pacific. We are committed to bringing universal connectivity to facilities like solar farms, battery storage facilities, and other energy assets using compact and cost-effective VSAT terminals. Contact us today to find out more.