Singapore takes multiple steps to ensure greener energy mix

Electricity import pilot, ramping up solar deployment and investing in low-carbon tech among plans

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing laid out the steps that Singapore will take to become a "bright green spark".PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The little red dot wants a greener energy mix and is taking multiple steps to achieve this - from an electricity import pilot with Malaysia, to soaking up more sunshine at home and investing in research on emerging low-carbon technologies.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday laid out the steps that Singapore will take to become a "bright green spark" - where ideas and applications can help to create more sustainable living environments.

For one thing, Singapore hopes to tap green energy from around the region through regional power grids. The groundwork for this will be laid through an electricity import trial with Malaysia over two years.

"We will kick this off by importing 100MW of electricity over a trial period of two years," Mr Chan said at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), an energy conference. This 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," he added.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA), an agency under Mr Chan's ministry, plans to issue a request for proposal by March next year. Electricity imports could begin as early as the end of next year, via the existing electricity interconnector between Singapore and Malaysia.

EMA said it prefers to import electricity from renewable energy sources. "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," said a spokesman for the agency.

The Republic will also ramp up its drive to tap more sunshine here, with a goal of achieving 1.5 gigawatt-peak (GWp) of solar deployment by 2025. This will meet about 2 per cent of Singapore's energy demand in 2025.

This is an acceleration of the solar deployment plan that Mr Chan announced at last year's conference, which was to have an installed solar capacity of 2 GWp by 2030.

Over the longer term, Singapore could also potentially tap emerging low-carbon technologies such as using hydrogen as a fuel or deploying carbon capture utilisation and storage to "suck" planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the air.

Such technologies are still relatively nascent, said Mr Chan, but the Government has set aside $49 million to fund low-carbon energy research and test-bedding efforts in hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage.

Hydrogen when burned produces water and no greenhouse gases. If used in large enough amounts, it could significantly reduce demand for fossil fuels.

The new Low-Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative includes agencies such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, the Economic Development Board, EMA, the National Climate Change Secretariat and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng said that such technologies are essential for Singapore to achieve its energy and decarbonisation goals.

"Both technologies are still relatively nascent. More research and development is required to increase their technological readiness and lower their costs in order for them to be commercially viable," said Professor Low.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute, said that it is unlikely that Singapore will be able to produce "green" hydrogen locally due to its limitations in harnessing renewable energy.

He said the Republic may import "green" hydrogen instead.

"Green" hydrogen - considered the cleanest form of hydrogen - is produced using solar, wind or hydro power to split water into oxygen and hydrogen.

"But it is important to understand the entire value chain from generation to storage, transportation and end use," he told The Straits Times.

Singapore's research strengths in materials and process technologies such as catalysis will make it possible for the nation to make significant contributions to this value chain, he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore takes multiple steps to ensure greener energy mix'. Subscribe