Scheme to support large electricity users extended till June amid Ukraine crisis

EMA warned that most consumers will face higher electricity bills when they renew their contracts. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A scheme that allows large energy users to buy electricity at capped prices will be extended till June 30 in view of the global energy crunch and the Ukraine crisis.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) said on Thursday (March 31) that the scheme and measures to secure Singapore's energy supply and stabilise the energy market have been extended because of the global energy situation.

But it warned that most consumers will face higher electricity bills when they renew their contracts, or in the case of regulated tariff consumers, during the quarterly tariff adjustments.

Singapore relies on imported natural gas for about 95 per cent of its electricity needs, and prices here have shot up since September last year after gas prices started rocketing worldwide.

This was sparked by increased economic activity following a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, along with cold winter months that depleted natural gas reserves.

While the global gas crisis was expected to ease once winter ends, the Russia-Ukraine war has further exacerbated the risk of disruptions in gas and oil, said EMA on Thursday.

The impact of prices is most immediate on the 1 per cent of consumers who purchase electricity directly from the wholesale market - where electricity prices fluctuate every half hour, it said.

This has led the regulator to extend the Temporary Electricity Contracting Support Scheme (Trecs), which supports these large electricity users, till the end of June.

This is the second time that Trecs has been extended since it was launched in January this year to cushion the impact of volatile prices in the wholesale electricity market on large electricity users, which include shopping malls and coffee shops.

These users that have an average monthly consumption of at least four megawatt-hour (MWh), or 4,000 kilowatt-hour (KWh) - about 10 times the average monthly consumption of a four-room Housing Board flat - can buy electricity only under fixed price plans from retailers or from the wholesale market.

They cannot buy at the regulated tariff offered by SP Group.

Under Trecs, large electricity users can secure month-long fixed price plans and retail contracts with significant fixed price components.

For April, the fixed rate under Trecs has been capped at 37.268 cents per kWh.

So far, participating power generation companies (gencos) and retailers have provided "sufficient supply" under Trecs to meet demand on a "voluntary basis", EMA added.

Earlier in March, EMA also announced that it has worked with Sembcorp Power and Keppel Electric to help business consumers facing difficulties in securing long-term fixed price plans.

These plans range from six months to three years, with the fixed rate for two and three-year plans priced at 25 cents per kWh, excluding third-party charges such as transmission and market charges.

This comes amid stiff competition for fixed price plans after the global energy crisis caused six electricity retailers to exit the market here and another two to prematurely terminate some contracts.

EMA said on Thursday that it will also extend measures introduced in October last year to ensure sufficient fuel and electricity as the global energy crunch persists.

These measures include establishing a standby liquefied natural gas facility, which gencos can draw from to generate electricity when their natural gas supplies are disrupted.

Such measures have stabilised the Uniform Singapore Energy Price to around the cost of electricity production - an average of $350 per MWh in the first quarter of this year, compared with an average of $460 per MWh in the fourth quarter of last year, said EMA.

Households and businesses affected by the cost pressures can turn to government support schemes.

For instance, the Household Support Package introduced as part of Budget 2022 will help eligible households defray the costs of higher electricity bills. These households will receive double the quantum of their quarterly U-Save vouchers in 2022.

On Thursday, the regulator also urged consumers to do their part in conserving energy where possible.

Said EMA: "Our energy market is being tested by unprecedented shocks and volatility in the global energy markets.

"Nevertheless, EMA is committed to ensuring that Singapore's power supply remains secure and reliable, and to supporting consumers through this period."

Meanwhile, it will monitor the situation and consider extending the measures further or introducing more support if necessary.

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