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MESfIA: International Conference

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The Mastering Energy Supply focusing on Isolated Areas (MESfIA) project, co funded by the
ERASMIUS+ programme of the European Commission, organized the MESfIA 2021 International
Conference during 31 August to 01 September 2021. The conference was hosted by the Asian Institute
of Technology (AIT), Thailand through the online platform Zoom.

The online conference started with welcoming remarks delivered by the Conference Chair, Prof.

Sivanappan Kumar, followed by opening remarks by AIT President, Dr. Eden Y. Woon, who highlighted
AIT’s long partnership with ERASMUS and European Commission through capacity building for higher
education projects. The event was also graced by Ms. Francesca Gilli, Attache, Cooperation Department
of the Delegation of the EU to Thailand, who noted that the MESFIA Project was at the intersection of
many EU policy initiatives on higher education, research and development, and international
cooperation and partnerships. Dr. Antonios Tsikalakis, the MESFIA Project coordinator from the
Hellenic Mediterranean University of Greece, then highlighted that the project particularly aims to
provide high quality postgraduate education on energy supply for students and professionals in the
energy sector through an effective knowledge and experience sharing link between academic and
research institutions in EU member countries and in Southeast Asia.

The MESFIA 2021 International Conference has achieved its stated objectives through

• three key note presentations from regional and international organisations,
• six utility speakers from Asia and Europe,
• twenty eight presentations from more than 16 countries, and
• Five exhibitors from Asia and Europe

The topics covered in the conference include electricity access; microgrids; renewable energy
resources utilization; energy access in remote locations, mountainous areas and islands; and clean cooking.

The Mesfia activities project were in line with the Sustainable Development Goal number 7,
namely, to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
On the first day, Dr. Priyantha Wijayatunga, Chief of the Energy Sector Group of the Asian Development
Bank (ADB – Headquarters in Metro Manila, Philippines) gave an interesting key note presentation titled
“The Last Mile: the longest – 21st century Energy Services for Remote Communities” that energy service
from the users’ point of view must be given more focus than looking from the energy supply side.
Answering a question, he noted that educational institutions could collaborate with ADB in addressing
energy access issues in rural and remote areas through practical research and pilot projects.

A second keynote address on “Renewables for Energy Access in Asia: Key Lessons and Way Forward”
was delivered by Mr. Divyam Nagpal of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) from Abu
Dhabi, UAE. Mr. Nagpal pointed out that solutions should be tailored according to the needs of the
particular area while emphasising that in remote areas, renewable-based clean cooking options can
play a significant role in bridging the access gaps with significant social economic and environmental

On the second day, Mr. Michael Williamson, the Section Chief of the Energy Division of the United
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand
further highlighted clean cooking issues in the region through his presentation “Closing the Gap: Insights
into Clean Cooking in the Asia-Pacific”. He noted that clean cooking is still not on target. Complexity of
available solutions is in play as there’s an overlay of sociocultural, technological, and economic factors.

Thus, there is no one size fits all solution and a tailored approach is necessary. Mr. Williamson
mentioned that UNESCAP and educational institutions can combined forces and help close these gaps
through collaborative research.

The conference also heard a panel discussion among representatives of the electricity utility sector
from Thailand, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Greece and Spain. The Asian speakers gave their country
specific insights on the various barriers their countries had to address in providing electricity access.
In the case of isolated areas, Thailand is implementing two PV-microgrid projects in the northern part
of the country through its Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA). The country targets full electrification
of all its households. Electrification rate currently stands at 99.72% of households. PEA plans to use
microgrids with Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) in non-electrified islands in the south. Bhutan’s
topography which consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift
rivers along with its difficult weather conditions provide very challenging obstacles to electrifying the
kingdom, which it has successfully addressed. Indonesia is also challenged as it is an archipelagic
country and a significant number of its non-electrified areas are geographically scattered. Meanwhile,
road access, distance from existing energy infrastructures, few households that can merit licensee
investment in remote areas of Cambodia are just some of the main barriers their government is facing
to provide electricity access. Representatives from Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operation
(HEDNO), Greece and Enel Green Power, Spain presented their respective countries electrification and
decarbonisation plans for its islands and remote locations, particularly Crete in Greece and Canary
Islands in Spain.

Speakers to the conference ranged from students to experts to practitioners, who presented their
research findings on various aspects of the conference theme. Exhibitors (ALECOP, EMIN, GEM ORION,
QUADRAN and SUMMIT TECHNOLOGIES) also had a chance to showcase their latest energy and
power-related equipment, renewable energy devices and energy saving equipment. This exhibition was
shown during the online conference.

The key findings from the presentations and discussions are:

• Rural electrification is high in the agenda in the countries, mostly for health and educational
• Renewables can play a vital rule for rural electrification especially when combined with storage
• Biomass and LPG can help in meeting cooking needs (not realized in Europe)
• There are solutions which can enhance our green future especially for those in isolated areas
and operate these microgrids.

The training needs and expectations in the countries were:

• Good command of STEM
• Good understanding of the local needs
• Problem –solving and communication skills
• Specific technical issues for isolated areas
• Project management skills and logistics to accommodate for difficult infrastructure
• Business skills in order to identify cash flows for implementing such projects.
• IT skills and Good Command of English

Overall, the MESFIA 2021 international conference was able to present details of the recent research in
the region as well as the latest technological achievements in the field of isolated power systems. It
also brought to a common platform, the stakeholders from financial institution, multilateral
organizations, utilities, and universities to discuss energy access issues in remote areas.

The whole conference was conducted smoothly in the Zoom platform and was streamed live through
the Mesfia project Facebook page.

To read the presss release click here.