Coal and EEC framework highlighted in Energy White Paper
Danial Norjidi

THE EXPLORATION of new resources such as coal, enacting a regulatory framework on energy efficiency and conservation (EEC) and significantly enhancing local content are just three of the initiatives lined up by the new Energy White Paper.

Launched by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday in tandem with Energy Week 2014, the Energy White Paper sets out a framework for action for the Energy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EDPMO). Through the Energy White Paper, the EDPMO has outlined three strategic goals to realise Brunei’s energy vision, each with their own key performance indicators (KPIs) and supporting initiatives. The first goal is to strengthen and grow oil and gas upstream and downstream activities.

This has three of KPIs and a number of initiatives, one of which has to do with ensuring Brunei continues to benefit from production in the long-term and that it is able to sustain its reliance on self-produced oil and gas. This particular initiative pertains to the exploration of new resources, one of which is coal. As is stated in the Energy White Paper, “The Government of Brunei Darussalam via the EDPMO is currently assessing the potential of coal resources.”

It is mentioned that, from preliminary assessments, the Sultanate has “significant thermal coal endowment” within the country’s interior. It is also noted however, that there are hurdles to commercial development of this, such as the potential impact it could have on the Heart of Borneo area. An alternative possibility is coal bed methane (CBM), where gas is produced from and stored in low permeability coal streaks. If it proves feasible, it is stated in the Energy White Paper that the development of CBM could potentially be utilised for domestic power purposes, adding significantly to Brunei’s gas resources by 2035. Unconventional gas is also mentioned as a possibility, with studies already ongoing in current concessionaires.

Another initiative is that the EDPMO will review existing and draft new energy legislation to facilitate exploration activities to ensure the expansion of exploration in areas that are yet unlicensed. The implementation of all this is expected to draw earnest players with strong expertise and broad experience to spur high exploration activities in the country.

The second strategic goal is to ensure the safe, secure, reliable and efficient supply and use of energy, with the targets focused on having zero major accidents, reducing energy intensity by 45 per cent by 2035, as well as to increase the share of renewable energy in Brunei’s total power generation mix. Also targeted is the increase in reliability of domestic power and fuel supplies, so as to lessen the country’s vulnerability and economic risks that are associated with interrupted power and fuel shortages.

Worthy of note is that EDPMO is currently in the process of enacting a regulatory framework on energy efficiency and conservation (EEC) through the National EEC Committee – a platform that both coordinates EEC efforts with various stakeholders and oversees the implementation of the EEC Plan of Action. This plan of action focuses on four major sectors: residential, commercial, industrial and transportation, each of which involves its own initiatives.

To realise these initiatives, the EDPMO, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Development and Ministry of Education are currently considering a number of legislative measures, such as: appliance energy efficiency standards and labelling; building regulations; energy management; fuel economy regulation; electricity tariff reform; financial incentives; and awareness-raising.

Strategic goal number three puts emphasis on maximising economic spin-off from the energy industry – to boost local content and secure significant participation of local workforce.

As it states, “The maximisation of local industry contribution is premised on the foundation of strong local companies, with the ability to compete successfully and fairly for domestic contracts.”

For local content, the target is to have local industry contribution grow from 15 per cent in 2010 to 50 per cent by 2017, and then to more than 80 per cent by 2035. As for total employment, EDPMO is eyeing for the total Bruneians employed to reach 20,000 by 2017 and 40,000 by 2035.

As the local industries develop strong domestic presence, the EDPMO has stressed the importance for these local companies to go on to establish a regional or international footprint. The target here is to have at least eight local companies go international by 2017, and a total of 30 companies by 2035.

All these are just some selected points from the very comprehensive Energy White Paper. In addition to this, four key enablers are to form the core support mechanisms so as to ensure that “commitments are met” and that “outcomes are achieved” on a timely basis. As a whole, these enablers put an imperative on making sure Brunei’s economy is accessible and conducive for investments, and so that Bruneian people are equipped with the right sets of skills that will make them highly employable in the energy sector.

Speaking to the Bulletin, 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 said, “The white paper is a guideline; a directive. We need to work hard, it’s not going to come easy. I need people in the industry to work hard as well to achieve what we are trying to do.” - Borneo Bulletin (25 March 2014)