Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Renewable Energy in Brunei

The Oxford Business Group reported the following:


Brunei Darussalam: US offers helping hand with renewable energy
Asia | 20 May 2013

With solar and biowaste power plants already under development, Brunei Darussalam has demonstrated its willingness to meet the renewable energy goals set by the ASEAN community. A recent agreement with the US could provide an extra boost to these efforts and encourage investors.

In March 2013, the US Department of Energy deputy secretary, Daniel Poneman, and the Brunei Darussalam minister of energy, Mohammad Yasmin Umar, met at the prime minister’s office, with the officials proposing to set up a joint working group on renewable energy.

The group, to be called the East Asia Summit Energy Cooperation Task Force, follows in the wake of a larger initiative, the US-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Partnership for a Sustainable Energy Future, which is committed to increasing access to electricity across Asia. In line with regional priorities, the partnership is focused on renewable energy, encouraging the use of wind, solar, geothermal and other sustainable sources. The US has committed to providing up to $6bn in support through the partnership, in part through financing from the US Export-Import Bank.

A number of projects have been proposed for the task force, such as the establishment of a public-private dialogue on removing barriers to investment in alternative energy projects. The group will also promote the dissemination of information that could facilitate investments. This will include releasing data on solar power technology testing at Brunei Darussalam's new demonstration facility, mapping renewable energy resources in South-east Asia and improving access to resources of the US-based Clean Energy Solutions Centre.

The Sultanate has the capacity to generate 1.2 MW of renewable energy, all from the Tenaga Suria Brunei solar plant in Seria. However, like other ASEAN countries, Brunei Darussalam has committed to having 15% of total installed power coming from renewable sources by 2015, meaning the country will need to install more than 50 MW of new capacity. While solar is one of Brunei Darussalam’s most promising forms of alternative energies, hydro and wind-sourced power have been identified as possibilities. In 2011, energy officials also started looking at biomass and recycled waste heat from existing natural gas-fired power plants to boost energy supply from renewable sources.

To this end, in March the government opened tenders for the construction of a waste-to-energy plant in Telisai. This project is part of an ongoing feasibility study being conducted by the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies on alternative energy sources in Brunei Darussalam.

The waste-to-energy facility is expected to have the capacity to produce about 24 MW of energy and will open up new job opportunities for locals and reduce pollution. Minister of Finance II Abd Rahman Ibrahim indicated that the project will take the form of a public-private partnership.

To boost solar efforts, the government is keen on establishing feed-in electricity tariffs to provide incentives for Bruneians who invest in renewable energy for their homes. In January 2013, officials confirmed that citizens who sell the excess power generated by their rooftop solar panels could be rewarded under the feed-in scheme.

Another facet of energy sustainability that leaders are being encouraged to examine is power consumption management, with a visiting expert saying last September that conservation efforts are just as important as generating electricity through alternative means. In an interview with the Brunei Times, Alan Dale Gonzales, the chairman of the World Alliance for Thai Decentralised Energy Association, highlighted the benefits of lowering usage.

"Energy efficiency, especially in a place like Brunei where people are not really conscious of the energy they consume... they can save so much. And once you start saving energy, that is when you start thinking about renewable energy because your consumption is reduced, your demand is reduced and therefore the capacity of renewable energy you need to implement is also reduced," he said.

While promoting efficiency could be an important element of the government’s plans, it will also need to continue its efforts to develop alternative energy sources if it is to meet ASEAN objectives.


Friday, May 17, 2013

New Era for Farm and Food Production in Brunei

Oxford Business Group reported the following:


Brunei Darussalam: New era for farming and food production
Asia | 9 May 2013

A drive to improve food security under way in Brunei Darussalam will see the government release land for livestock production, develop irrigation systems and step up cooperation with other countries. The move forms part of a broader bid to galvanise the agriculture sector into helping the Sultanate achieve food self-sufficiency in the longer term.

In March, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) revealed plans to commit 1000 ha of land to livestock farming. Pehin Dato Paduka Bakar said the move would help reduce Brunei’s reliance on livestock imports from Australia, which was limiting domestic production. The land is expected to be used for concentrated animal feeding operations.

In the same month, the ministry said it would release details this year of an irrigation project earmarked for rice-farming sites in Belait. It added that Sengkuang, which spans 300 ha and houses the best paddy plantations in the Belait District, had been identified as a location for large-scale rice production. Infrastructure for the padi fields is now set to be upgraded.

Belait is also serving as a training hub for farming techniques and innovations, such as hybrid rice strains which form a vital part of self-sufficiency efforts, while the Rice Farmers Field School (RFFS) located there is playing a key role in providing farmers with management skills. The site produced a total of 232 tonnes of rice from 328 ha of padi during the 2011-12 period, according to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA).

This is all in addition to the MIPR’s plans, announced in 2011, to increase padi farm hectarage by 285% to more than 5000 ha from the current 1300. Belait is earmarked to play a central role in plans to achieve 60% rice self-sufficiency by 2015. The Sultanate is already self-sufficient in the supply of poultry and eggs, and rice production rose to 2140 tonnes in 2011, up from 1649 tonnes the previous year.

Overall, Brunei Darussalam’s agricultural efforts are bearing fruit, with the value of gross production for agriculture and agrifood reaching a market price of $240.96m in 2011, up from $228.43m recorded the previous year.

Aside from training initiatives, the country has also developed its own rice strain, named Beras Titih, which could potentially yield eight to 10 tonnes per ha, significantly higher than its current levels of 1.74 tonnes per ha.

The head of the Brunei-Muara branch of the DAA’s Agricultural Development Unit, Sanah Burut, highlighted the progress farmers had made in production output since a large-scale padi planting initiative was launched in April 2009. “It is hoped that the rise in yields will continue and contribute towards achieving the targets set,” she said in February.

Mohd Shahlan Hidup, the chairman of Koperasi Setia Kawan Bhd, or KOSEKA, said training courses were important for passing on “critical” know-how. Topics covered included preparing the fields for planting, correct use of fertilizers, pest and disease management, and post-harvest management. Farmers also received training in the planting of rice seedlings, managing and identifying crop problems, and agronomy.

As a joint venture between the DAA and the Philippines Rice Research Institute, the RFFS represents one of several collaborative efforts the country has embarked upon with other Asian countries.

In April, Thai Ambassador Apichart Phetcharatana said he expected his country to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Sultanate this year on agriculture, covering areas such as rice production, fisheries, livestock, land development and water management. Under the agreement, Thailand, which is the world’s largest rice exporter, is expected to share its expertise in the field of rice production, while Brunei could advise Bangkok on the emerging halal food industry, having taken a global lead in the segment.

Cooperation with Vietnam could also be on the horizon after the country’s deputy minister of agriculture and rural development, Ngyuen Thi Xuan Thu, highlighted the potential she saw for collaboration in the field. The deputy minister told local media that Vietnam could help Brunei in its efforts to develop sustainable cattle farming and conduct research on local soil quality which would help improve agricultural production.

The DAA said in March that alongside its rice-based innovations, work was under way to identify fruits that could be improved through new technology such as tissue culture and cross-breeding. The country is also in the middle of a fruit and seed distribution campaign.

The broad range of initiatives augurs well for the development of the agricultural sector. However, if investor interest is to be boosted further, more details will need to be made available of government plans for irrigation and land release.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Brunei's New Airport Design

I was in Tehran last week attending the 1st Cultural Ministers Meeting of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD). It was not the first time I was in Tehran, the last time was in 2008 when I was representing my Minister of Development attending the Asia Pacific Housing Ministers' Meeting. Last time was a much longer trip but this time round I was so busy that I could not go out and see much of Tehran. The place obviously has a lot of progress since the 5 years that I went there.

One of the images which I did not realise during my last trip was the Khomeini Airport in Tehran. It looked like this:

And I thought to myself where have I seen this curved structure before?

Then I remembered, we have the same style of airport terminal currently being built here in Brunei at the Brunei International Airport:

Hmmmm.... Not a really original design....

Though I have to admit that the curved parking roofs at our airport are an innovation. I have not seen those before in other airports.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Place names give insight into Brunei's local culture

Geographical place names give insight into country's local culture

Bandar Seri Begawan, 13th May 2013 - GEOGRAPHICAL place names allow the rest of the world to get a clear insight into the local culture of a country, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) said yesterday.

Speaking during the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names Asia, Southeast Seminar, Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos said there are many theories about the origin of the name of this country "Brunei Darussalam" with the most famous being that it was passed down the generations through a poem by Awang Semaun.

"It is about how the exclamation 'Baru Nah' on the discovery of the Brunei River that was to be used as a new settlement for families later became 'Brunei'," the permanent secretary said in his keynote address, "An Introduction to the History of Geographical Place Names in Brunei".

"In this country, according to one research paper in the 1996-1997 issue of the Brunei Museum Journal, toponymy (the study of place names) is still more or less an open field.

"If taken in earnest, the study of toponyms can provide significant knowledge about the culture of Brunei, whether in the past or present."

Hj Mohd Rozan went on to say that according to a paper done by a Universiti Brunei Darussalam lecturer, the main toponym classification of importance to Brunei catalogued descriptive names, associative names, historical names, commemorative names, commendatory names and numerical names.

"In descriptive names, an example would include Kampung Muara, which means the village near the estuary of the river. Associative names include Kampung Pandai Besi in Kampong Ayer, which means the village of blacksmiths," he said.

"For historical names, examples include Jalan Kustin, where Coastin was a construction company which used to be based at the end of the airport runway when the new airport was being constructed. This was officially renamed Jalan Terunjing Baru but recently re-appeared again as Jalan Kustin when the Public Works Department put up the signboard at the new roundabout near the airport."

The permanent secretary then said a prime example of a commemorative name is Bandar Seri Begawan, which commemorates Sultan Hj Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Saadul Khairi Waddien, who took the title Seri Begawan Sultan when he abdicated in 1967.

"On commendatory names, an example would be the Chinese shophouses with fancy commendatory names when the Chinese names are translated into Malay, such as Kedai Sumber Makmur Mulia or Kedai Kekayaan Berpanjangan.

"For numerical names, we now have many streets in the housing development estates that use these such as Jalan 10 or Jalan 77 in the Lambak Kanan area or use alphabets such as Jalan 'A' in the Mentiri area."

In the third part of his keynote address on tracing place names in Brunei, he said that even though the origin of a name can sometimes by a mystery, even the lay public could guess that Kota Batu must have had a stone fort at some time in its history.

"True enough, there used to be a stone fort built across the river as the main fortification of the Kampong Ayer settlements," he said. "Traditional formal history suggests that when the capital of Brunei was moved from Puni to the present area, the name Brunei came into being when the founders discovered the capital and exclaimed 'baru nah', which is literally translated to 'now we found it'."

A statement said an atlas of place names with the correct spellings and location avoids the likelihood of duplication or misunderstanding, which is of particular importance in search and rescue operations.

Correct place names and pronunciations can also indirectly assist in national censuses and boost tourism, the statement said.

-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times --

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Brunei and Borneo Map 1882

I purchased this 1882 map of Borneo and the Celebes recently. Even though Sarawak has more or less expanded by then, this map curiously enough still noted that Sarawak was still owned by Brunei or Broenei as noted by the German carthographer who did the map. Half of North Borneo or Sabah as it is known today seemed to be administered by the 'Soeloe' as spelled by that German cartographer. Whereas Sarawak is restricted to the mouth of the Sarawak River. This map shows the political Borneo of around mid 19th century and not during the later 19th century even though it was produced during the latter end of the 19th century.

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