Ensuring energy security also vital: Tan Wu Meng

Several parts of Singapore, such as Sembawang, were hit by a blackout in the wee hours of Sept 18, 2018. PHOTO: ST READER

Singaporeans may know how crucial water security is to the Republic's survival, but they also need to keep an eye on its energy security.

After all, the country's water facilities such as Newater and desalination plants require large amounts of energy to operate, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs Tan Wu Meng said yesterday.

Energy security was thrust further into the limelight after Tuesday's power outage, he said at the Energy Innovation event organised by the Energy Market Authority (EMA).

"I was up late that night after meeting some of my residents and saw the social media reports. And also saw the many e-mails and WhatsApp messages from the EMA team which was working hard throughout the night."

On Tuesday at 1.18am, 146,797 residential and commercial customers were plunged into darkness for 38 minutes, Singapore's worst blackout in 14 years.

He said that two tripping power generating units were the cause, adding: "EMA is continuing its investigations. Whatever the findings - we will learn, we will improve."

At the event, a $15 million research grant was awarded to academics from a range of institu-tions to improve the resilience of Singapore's power systems and energy markets.

The seven projects, chosen by EMA and scheduled to end by 2021, will be carried out in collaboration with industry players, and use technology such as blockchain and artificial intelligence.

To strengthen the ability of small and medium-sized enterprises to create and export solar energy and energy management products, EMA and Enterprise Singapore also jointly issued a grant call that closes on Nov 23.

The Government is also extending the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme to graduates from polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education who are pursuing power-engineering roles in the public sector, giving each individual $5,000.

This, said Dr Tan, is the first of many such new programmes that power-engineering workers in the public sector can expect.

Referring to the seven projects that are receiving $15 million in total, EMA chief executive Ngiam Shih Chun said the power industry must ride on emerging trends transforming the energy sector, such as smart grids.

"While Singapore has one of the world's most stable and reliable power systems, this cannot be taken for granted," he said.

The institutions involved in the projects include the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

One of the projects aims to create software that analyses large and complex power systems by machine learning, thus allowing it to immediately detect attacks on any part of the network.

The project's principal investigator, Professor David Yau from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said: "We believe that it is not possible to create defences on the perimeters of these systems because attackers are smart and could also attack from within the organisation."

He said: "With our software, we can learn the normal profile of the network so that it will be able to send out an alert the moment it detects something that isn't supposed to happen."

His $1.5 million project is being carried out in collaboration with ST Engineering's electronics sector.

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Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2018, with the headline Ensuring energy security also vital: Tan Wu Meng. Subscribe