Government mulls trial to give more choice in buying electricity, green energy audit planned

This is the latest development since EMA announced in 2015 that it will fully open up the electricity retail market to competition in the second half of 2018.

SINGAPORE - All households in Singapore will, in the second half of next year, be able to shop for electricity the way they do for a mobile phone plan. However, a select group of consumers may be able to start shopping around for the best electricity deals earlier.

The Straits Times has learnt that the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is mulling over running a trial before the market is fully open.

EMA said, in response to queries from The Straits Times, that it is studying this possibility, and that more details will be released at a later date if it decides to do so.

News of the trial comes after people expressed concern on whether their electricity supply will be affected by opting for a retailer other than SP Services.

However, EMA assured consumers that the reliability and quality of electricity supply to consumers will not be affected by their choice of retailers, as consumers will receive their electricity supply through the nationwide power grid owned and operated by SP Group regardless of the type of electricity package.

This is the latest development since EMA announced in 2015 that it will fully open up the electricity retail market to competition in the second half of 2018.

Currently, only some 33,000 commercial and industrial consumers with an average monthly electricity consumption of at least 2MWh - which amounts to a monthly electricity bill of about $450 - benefit from this flexibility.

This threshold was last lowered from 4MWh to 2MWh in July 2015. The remaining 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, are on the regulated tariff with SP Services. But that is set to change.

With the liberalisation, customers can shop around for the best deals based on their usage patterns or preferences.

The Straits Times reported in October last year that the more than 20 registered electricity retailers are already cooking up a buffet of options for consumers.

Those who work in the day could, for example, sign up for options that allow them to take advantage of lower electricity tariffs at night. For the eco-conscious, there will also be plans that guarantee a portion of energy consumed will be linked to renewable energy, such as solar power.

However, there are currently no mandatory requirements for a supplier of green electricity to have their generation sources audited. This means that while a retailer could claim that electricity sold comes from a green source, there is no way for consumers to verify this for certain.

Homegrown electricity retailer Sunseap has an audit system in place, although this is done voluntarily.

But the National University of Singapore's Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) is involved in an inter-agency initiative led by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to address this issue, said Dr Thomas Reindl, Seris' deputy chief executive.

Having an independent verification process in place is very critical for consumer confidence, especially with the growing number of transactions expected when the energy market fully opens in the second half of 2018, said Dr Reindl.

"This will ensure two things: that customers truly receive green electricity, and that there is no 'double-counting' of the same electricity, by selling it to two different parties at the same time," said Dr Reindl.

EMA said retailers are prohibited from misrepresentations to consumers under the Code of Conduct for Retail Electricity Licensees.

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