EMA reviewing existing regulatory, licensing framework to further bolster it

Wholesale electricity prices have surged in Singapore as a result of the global energy crisis since September last year. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore is reviewing the existing regulatory and licensing framework for electricity retailers, with a view to strengthening it to better protect consumers, Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng told Parliament on Thursday (March 3).

In response to a question by Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC), Mr Tan said consumers seeking recourse and keen to file appeals could approach the Consumers Association of Singapore, Singapore Mediation Centre or Small Claims Tribunal for advice and assistance.

Responding to Mr Perera's question on the possibility of creating some kind of standardised mechanism for filing appeals to ensure that all consumers had fair access to the process of seeking ex-gratia payments, Mr Tan said: "Indeed, that is also one of the considerations that we are also considering."

He added: "As I shared earlier, the EMA is also conducting a review in terms of how we can further strengthen the framework and also to ensure that in a very unprecedented crisis such as this, what other measures will we be able to leverage on to support our general population and also many of the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) at large."

Wholesale electricity prices have surged in Singapore as a result of the global energy crisis since September last year, driven by increased demand worldwide, production outages due to cold winter months and disruptions to piped natural gas supply from Indonesia.

This sparked the exit of six electricity retailers in Singapore from the open market between October and December last year and another two prematurely terminated some of their customers' contracts, thereby affecting about 9 per cent of all electricity consumer accounts, Mr Tan said in Parliament last month.

Mr Tan reiterated in Parliament on Thursday that exiting retailers are required to refund all security deposits collected from household consumers after offsetting outstanding charges and are not permitted to charge consumer an early termination fee.

"Exiting retailers must also approach other retailers to seek their interest and agreement to accept the novation of the contracts on the same terms and conditions, before the consumer can be transferred to SP Group under the default supply arrangement," he said adding that consumers were also free to switch to other retailers of their choice.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, welcomed the move by EMA to strengthen the existing framework.

“There is room, however, to see how to support the SMEs and some customers who have relied on wholesale routes,” he said.

“This is an exceptional time with the global energy crunch and the Temporary Electricity Contracting Support is one option for those exposed to the volatile wholesale prices.” 

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises vice-president Ang Yuit said SMEs would be looking for more certainty in terms of how Singapore will be tackling this situation in the coming months, particularly with the worsening situation in Ukraine.

“Electricity prices will create an impact on already escalating costs of supply chains,” he said.

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