Parliament: Plans to make energy greener as Singapore rebounds from 2020 electricity demand fall, says Tan See Leng

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said solar energy is the most viable source of renewable energy in Singapore.
Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said solar energy is the most viable source of renewable energy in Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Overall electricity demand in Singapore is expected to have fallen by between 2 per cent and 4 per cent last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but energy use is expected to rebound as the economy recovers and grows.

Singapore wants to green its energy mix as this happens, but is also taking steps to ensure electricity supply remains stable and reliable, said Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 5).

"We will harness four switches to transform and diversify our energy supply, so as to achieve our vision of a clean and efficient energy future," he said in response to four MPs who had asked about Singapore's efforts to tap renewable energy and the country's electricity import plans.

Currently, 95 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated from burning natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel, but a fossil fuel nonetheless.

The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, which trap heat on the planet, causing the climate to change.

Dr Tan said this fuel will continue to be the main source of energy for power generation to serve households and industries here reliably in the medium term, given that the Republic does not have access to other renewable energy sources, such as hydro or wind power.

But he said the country is taking steps to increase the proportion of renewables in its energy mix in the longer term.

For one thing, it will increase the amount of sunshine it harnesses.

Dr Tan said solar energy is the most viable source of renewable energy in Singapore, and pointed to how installed solar capacity has increased more than a hundredfold over the past decade, from 3.8 megawatt-peak in 2010 to around 400 megawatt-peak in mid-2020.

"We are accelerating our efforts and we will almost quadruple our solar capacity to 1.5 gigawatt-peak by 2025, and to 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030," he said.

Currently, less than 1 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated by solar panels. But by 2030, Dr Tan said solar energy could supply around 3 per cent of the country's total electricity consumption.

Another option for Singapore, he said, is to tap regional power grids that would allow the country to access its neighbours' renewable energy sources.

Last October, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing announced that Singapore will be importing 100 megawatts of electricity from Malaysia over a trial period of two years. This makes up about 1.5 per cent of Singapore's peak electricity demand.

Dr Tan said on Tuesday that Singapore prefers to import electricity from renewable energy sources. "Therefore, the cleanliness of the generation source will be a major consideration in selecting the importer," he said.

In response to Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who asked for an update on solar firm Sun Cable's plan to supply solar power from northern Australia to Singapore via the world's longest subsea high-voltage cable, Dr Tan said discussions are ongoing and that the Energy Market Authority under his ministry is unable to share details due to commercial sensitivities.

But he added: "While we welcome these interests, we have to pace these imports to ensure that they do not undermine the reliability of our electricity supply and the stability of our electricity market."

Dr Tan also said that Singapore is also looking to science and technology to make electricity generation greener.

"We are working with the industry and research community to study emerging low-carbon technologies, such as hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage," he said, pointing to the new $49 million Low-Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative.

This funding initiative, first announced last October, will explore areas such as the supply, storage and downstream uses of hydrogen - which has the potential to be an environmentally friendly fuel since it produces no emissions when burned - as well as carbon capture and storage for use in building materials or fuels, he said.

Dr Tan said that by tapping all four switches - using natural gas instead of other fossil fuels, tapping solar energy, importing electricity and studying low-carbon alternatives - Singapore will be able to diversify its energy sources.

"This will enhance our access to secure and competitively priced energy supplies, which will reduce our energy security risks," he added.