The A-Z of energy transition

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SINGAPORE - Energy accounts for about three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions globally, the main cause of global warming.

Nations are trying to tackle the climate crisis by transitioning to clean energy sources.

In conjunction with Singapore International Energy Week, which starts on Tuesday, Ang Qing, Shabana Begum and Miel Prudencio Rosales Jr look at the nuts and bolts of the energy transition. 

A for Ammonia

The chemical can be burned as a carbon-free fuel and also used as a medium to carry hydrogen fuel.

Three firms are exploring the possibility of building an ammonia-fired gas turbine on Jurong Island.

B for Bioenergy

 Renewable energy generated from organic materials such as plants or animals.

Examples include liquid biofuels made from sugarcane pulp and wood pellet-powered heating systems.

Bioenergy makes up around three-quarters of the world’s renewable energy.

C for Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)

CCUS systems capture carbon dioxide emitted by power stations and industrial facilities.

The captured carbon dioxide is either stored underground or repurposed for other uses, including making plastic or concrete.

D for Distributed energy resources (DERs)

The small-scale generation of electricity near consumers.

Examples include rooftop solar panels and battery storage systems.

DERs are expected to increase in the next few decades as Singapore plans to ramp up its solar power. 

A management system will be needed to have DERs incorporated into the national grid.

E for Energy storage systems

Such systems store energy for later use, allowing households to tap solar power even at night, for instance.

Singapore is looking to set up systems to store 200 megawatts of energy after 2025. This is equivalent to about 240,000 mobile phone batteries.

F for Fossil fuels

Burning fossil fuels, which include coal, oil and natural gas, is the main cause of global warming.

About 95 per cent of Singapore’s energy comes from natural gas, touted as the cleanest fossil fuel.

G for Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy stems from heat within the earth, which can be harnessed to generate clean electricity.

Singapore is located within a region of high heat flow underground. Geothermal potential has been identified in the island’s northern and eastern parts.

The Energy Market Authority is working with researchers and engaging industry players to explore the potential of geothermal energy in Singapore.

The cost-effectiveness of harnessing such energy is still unclear.

H for Hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel is mainly produced by running an electric current through water - a process called electrolysis - to separate it into hydrogen and oxygen.

The fuel is considered green only if renewable energy is used to produce it.

Hydrogen does not emit any carbon dioxide when it is burned.

By 2026, Singapore is expected to have its first hydrogen-ready power plant on Jurong Island. It will be able to power around 864,000 four-room flats a year.

A rainbow of colours has been assigned to hydrogen gas, depending on how the fuel is produced.

  1. Brown hydrogen made by burning coal and the least environmentally friendly
  2. Grey hydrogen is produced using natural gas
  3. Blue hydrogen is produced using natural gas, but the carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored underground
  4. Turquoise hydrogen is made when methane is broken down with heat into hydrogen and solid carbon, which is stored
  5. Pink hydrogen is produced from nuclear energy
  6. Green hydrogen is created from other renewable energy, such as solar and hydropower.

I for Imports

Importing renewable energy allows Singapore to use resources that it does not have.

Singapore first started importing low-carbon electricity in June.

It is exploring ways to tap regional power grids to access cleaner energy from other countries.

J for Jurong Island

The industrial island is set to become a sustainable energy and chemicals park.

The new Institute of Sustainability for Chemicals, Energy and Environment, set up on the island by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, will advance research and development in areas including low-carbon tech and green manufacturing.

The island is a test bed for novel clean energy solutions, such as a floating solar panel system out at sea.

K for Kilowatt-hour (kWh)

kWh is a measure of energy that you see on your electricity bills.

1kWh = 1,000 watts used for an hour. 1kWh can power a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours.

1 Megawatt-hour = 1,000kWh

Megawatt-peak is a unit of measurement for energy generated by solar or wind power systems under ideal conditions.

L for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)

Natural gas is cooled to -162 deg C which turns it into liquid form for shipping and storage.

Singapore has been importing LNG since 2013.

LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel and seen as a transition fuel to help Singapore reach its net-zero emission goals.

M for Multi-layered grid

A multi-layered grid manages electricity generated from distributed energy resources as well as the central system.

It optimises distribution of electricity.

Such a grid is necessary to accommodate renewable energy generation around the island.

N for Nuclear energy

Nuclear power, generated through atomic reactions, does not release greenhouse gases, but opinion is split on whether it can be considered renewable.

Singapore’s small land area and high density have made it difficult to build a nuclear plant, but the nation continues to study the technology.

Nuclear power could account for about 10 per cent of Singapore’s energy mix in 2050 if the technology is viable here.

O for Ocean energy

Tides, waves and currents are harnessed to generate electricity.

While still at the research and development stage, the technologies include tapping temperature differences between warm seawater on the surface and cooler deep seawater to create power.

P for Photovoltaic panel

Photovoltaic or solar panels soak up sunlight to convert it into electrical energy.

Photovoltaics are one of the fastest-growing renewable energy technologies, partly because they are often the cheapest.

The cost of solar panels has fallen by about 90 per cent since 2009.

Q for Quantity and quality

A key challenge of renewable power is producing sufficient quantities of quality energy to replace fossil fuels.

For instance, solar and wind power is often intermittent due to weather conditions.

Despite the sunny skies of Singapore, high cloud cover limit the amount of sunshine that can be harvested.

R for Renewable energy

Energy from natural sources that can be replenished.

Most renewable sources do not spew greenhouse gases.

A move towards the use of renewable energy is key to decarbonising the energy sector.

S for Solar energy

Energy harnessed from the sun.

It is considered the most viable clean energy source in Singapore despite the high cloud cover here interrupting supply.

Singapore aims to have 2 gigawatt-peak of solar capacity by 2030, enough to power around 350,000 households a year. This translates to about 4 per cent of its total electricity demand in 2019.

T for energy Trilemma

 This refers to the balance sought among security, environmental sustainability and affordability when getting energy.

A trade-off involving these factors is usually necessary.

U for Underground cable

Underground cables are used to transport energy in Singapore and from abroad.

Singapore’s longest underground highway is 40km long, home to high-voltage electricity cables as deep as 80m below ground.

Singapore plans to import electricity via subsea cables from Indonesia and potentially Australia.

V for electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles produce less carbon emissions compared with those that run on fossil fuels.

Boats, trains, trams, cars, buses and planes can be powered by electricity.

Several countries such as Norway and Singapore are planning to phase out cars powered by fossil fuels.

W for Wind energy

Electricity is generated by wind turbines or wind energy conversion systems.

Wind energy is not viable in Singapore as there is limited land for turbines and the average wind speed of 2m/s is insufficient for power. Turbines need about 4.5m/s of wind speed to run.

X for eXternality

Externality refers to a situation where the production of goods and services imposes costs or benefits on others that are not reflected in the prices charged for the goods. 

Greenhouse gas emissions that drive up global temperatures are negative externalities.

Economic policies help to account for the true cost of these goods and services. Carbon tax, for instance, adds a price tag to such pollution.

Y for Youth

Young people will be taking the brunt of climate change and its impacts.

Many youth have been turning to activism to push for green policy changes.

In Singapore, youth climate action is growing.

Z for Net-zero

Net-zero refers to a country or company taking out as much greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as it releases.

To achieve this, emissions have to be slashed to close to zero.

To limit global warming to 1.5 deg C, net-zero carbon emissions must be reached by the early 2050s.

Singapore is thinking of reaching net-zero by 2050.

Sources: Irena, Energy Market Authority, Energy 2050 Committee Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, A*Star, National Climate Change Secretariat, Singapore, International Energy Agency

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