PM Lee spells out plans for energy sector

He charts three paths to stay ahead while taking full advantage of falling cost of producing clean energy

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday mapped out Singapore's action plan to take full advantage of the changing energy landscape, in which oil prices are low and the cost of producing clean energy is falling.

Mr Lee charted three paths that will help the country to stay ahead in the energy and chemicals sector, which makes up one-third of manufacturing output.

It also provides good jobs for more than 25,000 people, about 70 per cent of whom are professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

Speaking at a dinner to mark the 125th anniversary of petroleum giant Shell in Singapore, Mr Lee highlighted that countries and companies have to deal with political and strategic uncertainty, such as the Middle East conflicts and United States-China ties.

"We just witnessed a momentous US presidential election... (the) outcome will not just impact the US, but every country in the world, and we are all pondering the implications and next moves."

While holding up these challenges, Mr Lee also noted that Shell is transforming itself into an energy solutions company.

Similarly, Singapore is working on reducing its carbon emissions, transforming the energy and chemicals industry, and upgrading its workforce.

Taking a wefie with PM Lee during his visit to Shell yesterday are (from left) Mr Muhammad Shahid Abdul Wahab; Mr Muhammad Haikal Mohamed Azminsham; Mr Maarten Wetselaar, Royal Dutch Shell's director of integrated gas and new energies; Ms Goh Swee Ch
Taking a wefie with PM Lee during his visit to Shell yesterday are (from left) Mr Muhammad Shahid Abdul Wahab; Mr Muhammad Haikal Mohamed Azminsham; Mr Maarten Wetselaar, Royal Dutch Shell's director of integrated gas and new energies; Ms Goh Swee Chen, chairman of Shell companies in Singapore; and Mr Chad Holliday, chairman of Royal Dutch Shell. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Singapore's target is to stop further increases to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030. It also pledged to be greener economically, by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product - by more than a third.

The damage from carbon emission, in causing extreme weather and rising seas, has led many countries, including Singapore, to sign the Paris treaty which took effect last week.

Singapore's target is to stop further increases to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

It also pledged to be greener economically, by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product - by more than a third.

It will work towards the goal "in an economically efficient way that will enable us to remain competitive", Mr Lee said.

These include pricing energy right for vehicles, as well as electricity for homes and industries.

"We cannot and will not subsidise energy prices," he said. But lower-income families receive government help for their electricity bills.

Another measure he highlighted was giving priority to reducing emissions that are least costly, like mandating minimum energy efficiency standard for new buildings and home appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners.

Singapore is also working with the biggest carbon emitters, like the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors, which collectively contribute more than three-quarters of manufacturing emissions.

He acknowledged that "we are not best-in-class by some distance" because Singapore's refineries are old, adding that Shell's refinery was built in 1961.

While it is difficult to compete with the efficiency of newer plants elsewhere, he noted that Shell had installed a co-generation unit at its Pulau Bukom refinery to improve energy efficiency.

But upgrading refineries is just part of the broader task of improving industries and companies should also tap technology to boost productivity, Mr Lee said.

He cited how Shell had partnered local start-up Avetics, to use cameras on drones to inspect manufacturing facilities instead of having workers climb up and down pipes and reactors, saving time and manpower.

Identifying new technologies and capabilities to invest in would also help make Singapore an innovation hub.

"To transform the industry, we need not only world-class infrastructure, but also world-class workers," he said.

Singapore in counting on SkillsFuture to ensure workers' skills remain continually relevant.

He lauded Shell for being one of the most active companies in taking part in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme for the energy and chemicals sector, training 14 process technicians under an 18-month programme of on-the-job training and mentorship.

Mr Chad Holliday, chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, said Singapore and Shell had made the future together for the past 125 years.

He commended the courage of the late president S R Nathan, who in 1974, as a civil servant, led a team that exchanged themselves for ferry crew held hostage by terrorists, who had landed on Pulau Bukom.

Citing this example of courage, he said: "Singapore and Shell have made the future together for 125 years. This will continue as we tap the courage, teamwork and creativity of the next generation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'PM Lee spells out plans for energy sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe