Renewable energy source in Malaysia preferred in electricity import trial: EMA

Singapore hopes to tap regional energy grids to supplement the nation's access to renewable energy sources.
Singapore hopes to tap regional energy grids to supplement the nation's access to renewable energy sources.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - A renewable energy source in Malaysia will be the preferred choice for Singapore under the upcoming electricity import pilot, said the Energy Market Authority (EMA).

"EMA prefers to import electricity from a renewable energy source," the agency told The Straits Times on Monday (Oct 26). "Potential importers will need to specify the sources of their supply, which will be one of the factors that EMA will consider in evaluating the proposals."

They will also have to demonstrate their supply reliability, credibility and track record, and ability to secure demand from Singapore consumers, as well as manage the carbon output of generation supply, said EMA.

One importer will be appointed through the selection process.

EMA's comments come after Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing announced at the start of the Singapore International Energy Week that Singapore will be importing 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity from Malaysia over a trial period of two years.

The amount will make up about 1.5 per cent of Singapore's peak electricity demand.

"This will allow the region to share the green energy sources that different countries may have," Mr Chan said in his opening speech.

The EMA, an agency under Mr Chan's ministry, plans to issue a request for proposal by March next year for 100 MW of electricity imports.

The imports could begin as early as end-2021, via the existing electricity interconnector between the two countries, EMA said.

The Singapore-Malaysia electrical network interconnection is an undersea cable that is used to transmit electricity across the two countries.

It is now primarily used for mutual support between both countries' power systems, said a spokesman for EMA, adding that the interconnection is being upgraded and will be used to facilitate the trial for electricity imports.

As the quantity of electricity being imported is relatively small, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the wholesale electricity prices in Singapore, the spokesman added.

After the two-year trial, plans for further imports will be considered.

But imports will be introduced progressively in tandem with electricity demand growth. Added the spokesman: "This will need to be balanced with considerations of energy security, price competitiveness, and environmental sustainability."

A pilot for more renewable energy

Singapore hopes to tap regional energy grids to supplement the nation's access to renewable energy sources, and the trial with Malaysia will lay the groundwork for this.

Currently, solar energy remains the most viable option for Singapore, which lacks access to other forms of renewable energy, whether wind or tidal power.

But there are challenges to harnessing sunshine, including the lack of space to deploy solar panels and the intermittency of sunshine due to cloud cover and urban shading.

The Republic hopes to meet around 2 per cent of its total electricity demand in 2025 with solar energy.

Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive of the National University of Singapore's Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, said that electricity imports are a necessary consideration for Singapore if it wants to incorporate more renewable energy in its fuel mix.

Currently, more than 95 per cent of Singapore's energy comes from natural gas - the cleanest form of fossil fuel, but a fossil fuel nonetheless.

The burning of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change.

"If you want to get a much higher (proportion of renewables) than what we can generate on our own available land, then we definitely have to talk about imports," he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Singapore International Energy Week.

"And of course, the immediate neighbours are the best solutions to start with - with Malaysia but also possibly some of the Riau Islands in Indonesia... It also works from areas farther up into Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indochina, which have ample resources of hydropower. So there's plenty of opportunity."