Possible trial of upcoming electricity retail market

When the electricity market is fully open to competition in the second half of next year, all households will be able to shop for it the way people do for a mobile phone plan.

But some households may be able to do so earlier, as the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is considering running a trial to ease the transition, The Straits Times has learnt. A system to audit sources of green energy is also in the works.

In response to ST queries, the EMA said it will "fully open the electricity retail market in the second half of next year. We are studying the possibility of running a trial before full opening".

EMA had in 2015 said it will fully open up the electricity retail market to competition. In the wake of this, people expressed concern about the reliability of electricity supply, and whether it will be affected if they choose to opt for a retailer other than SP Services.

But EMA said reliability and quality of electricity supply will not be affected by choice of retailers, as consumers receive supply through the nationwide power grid owned and operated by SP Group.

With the liberalisation, customers can shop around for the best deals based on their usage patterns or preferences. ST reported last October that registered electricity retailers - numbering more than 20 - were 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 be plans that guarantee a portion of energy consumed will be linked to renewable energy, such as solar.

It is not mandatory for a supplier of green electricity to have its generation sources audited. Those that have, like home-grown electricity retailer Sunseap, do so voluntarily.

The National University of Singapore's Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore is part of an inter- agency initiative led by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to address this issue, Dr Thomas Reindl, its deputy chief executive, told ST.

An independent verification process is critical for consumer confidence, especially with the rising number of transactions when the electricity retail market fully opens to competition, said Dr Reindl.

"An independent verification process 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," he said.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'Possible trial of upcoming electricity retail market'. Print Edition | Subscribe