Singapore in trials to prepare for electricity imports

Energy Market Authority has announced three trials with Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos

Singapore has been preparing for future electricity imports by embarking on trials with partners.

Three such programmes have been announced by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) - with Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos.

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said yesterday at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week: "Today, most of our energy depends on supplies which are imported. Instead of importing all of it in molecules, we will import some of it as electrons."

Currently, more than 95 per cent of Singapore's electricity is generated with natural gas - a fossil fuel imported via pipes from neighbouring countries and in liquefied form from all over the world.

The trials allow EMA to assess and refine the technical and regulatory frameworks for importing electricity into Singapore, said the authority.

Last year, EMA announced that it will be embarking on a trial to import 100 megawatts of electricity from Malaysia - preferably from a low-carbon source. This amount will make up about 1.5 per cent of Singapore's peak electricity demand.

EMA said yesterday that it has appointed YTL PowerSeraya for the two-year trial, and that it was selected as its proposal was best able to meet EMA's requirements to trial electricity imports via the existing interconnector.

This is expected to commence early next year. The imported electricity will be from gas-fired generation, EMA told The Straits Times.

EMA said it recognises that non-renewable sources may be needed as a start to make the imports commercially viable or available as baseload power. For example, this may be needed to smoothen intermittency from solar generation.

EMA is also embarking on a pilot with a consortium led by power generation company PacificLight Power to import 100MW equivalent of non-intermittent electricity from a solar farm in Pulau Bulan, Indonesia.

Electricity will be supplied via a new interconnector that directly connects a solar farm in Pulau Bulan to PacificLight's power station in Singapore. The pilot is expected to be commissioned by around 2024, EMA said.

As for the Laos pilot, EMA said Singapore is also working on the Laos-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project to import up to 100MW of power from Laos to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia using existing interconnections from next year to 2023. Cross-border power trade is expected to commence next year.

Last Friday, Malaysia's Energy and Natural Resources Ministry said it will allow only non-renewable energy exports to Singapore, while power sales to the island through self-developed transmission and interconnection facilities will not be allowed.

Asked to comment on the latest development, an EMA spokesman said: "The learnings from this trial (with Malaysia) will enable us to facilitate the development of regional power grids, and tap low-carbon energy sources from other countries in the region."

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Initiative @ Nanyang Technological University, said he believes Malaysia would review its policy over time.

"Malaysia, with its land area and natural resources, has the tremendous potential to be a net renewable energy supplier to the region," he said. "I'm optimistic that significant private investments would also over a period of time make it possible for Malaysia to export renewable energy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2021, with the headline 'Singapore in trials to prepare for electricity imports'. Subscribe