Most of us don’t think about how and where the electricity comes when we press a switch in our home. However, behind the scenes, Singapore is taking big steps to use greener energy sources as it transforms the energy sector.
As you’ve noticed from the hottest days and nights here, flash floods and extreme weather around the world, climate change is real, and its effects on weather are increasingly being felt and felt. Slowing climate change is a global challenge, and everyone has a role to play in reducing the carbon emissions that contribute to it.
Singapore is greening its energy sector because it makes up a large portion – about 40 percent – of the country’s total emissions. It is critical to act now because the journey towards a more sustainable energy sector could take decades.
To decarbonize its energy sector, Singapore is exploiting four “supply keys”. These are: natural gas, solar, regional power grids, and low-carbon alternatives.
The next time, when the lights come on, the electricity could be from a solar farm, a wind turbine somewhere in the area, or even a hydrogen power plant.
As Singapore solidifies its energy sector, here are answers to some burning questions you may have.
Question 1: In sunny Singapore, why can’t we just cover the island with solar installations to meet all of our clean energy needs?
Solar energy is the most promising renewable energy source in Singapore. However, there is a limit to the amount of solar energy we can harness due to land restrictions. Even if we maximize the space available in Singapore for solar deployment and use the latest technology, this will only meet about 10 percent of projected demand in 2050.
However, we have deployed solar panels in innovative ways – not just on rooftops, but on tanks, temporary vacant lot and sheltered driveways, making Singapore one of the world’s most solar-intensive cities. We are on track to meet our goal of deploying at least 2 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030, enough to power about 350,000 homes.
The sun over Singapore may be plentiful, but solar energy fluctuates due to cloud cover and high humidity. This interruption can affect the stability of our power system and the reliability of our power supply.
The Energy Market Authority (EMA) has partnered with companies, researchers and other government agencies to co-create solutions such as energy storage systems to support more use of solar energy. The cost of solar energy is now generally lower than the retail price of electricity.
The second question: Why do we import electricity? Wouldn’t that make Singapore’s energy supply more vulnerable to developments abroad?
Today, about 95 percent of Singapore’s electricity is generated using natural gas that is imported from around the world. Importing electricity is the same idea. While Singapore lacks natural renewable energy sources, other countries in the region have more renewable energy options. This means that we can access cleaner energy sources beyond our borders.
Importing electricity has other benefits. By diversifying our energy sources, we will be able to enhance the security of our energy supply, because we will not be dependent on a few resources or service providers.
The establishment of a regional power grid will also accelerate the development of renewable energy projects in the region and increase economic growth and access to clean energy in source countries.
EMA aims to import up to 4 gigawatts of low-carbon electricity by 2035, which will make up about 30 percent of Singapore’s electricity supply. While the costs of electricity imports may vary greatly depending on the location of their source and the technology used, cost competitiveness will be a key factor in evaluating electricity import proposals.
To prepare for large-scale electricity imports in the future, Singapore is working on pilots to import 100 megawatts of electricity from a solar farm in Indonesia, and 100 megawatts of power from Laos through Thailand and Malaysia.
Question 3: What else do we do to make our power supply environmentally friendly?
We also invest in long-term solutions. By supporting promising low-carbon technologies, we can expand our options to reduce the energy sector’s carbon footprint in the long term.
For example, hydrogen does not emit carbon dioxide when used as a fuel and can be used to store and transfer energy. However, global supply chains and infrastructure must be ready to use this low-carbon technology on a large scale. The government supports research and development to improve its technical and economic viability through the $55 million Low Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative.
EMA is also collaborating with Nanyang Technological University, several ministries and government agencies, to study the potential of geothermal energy in Singapore.
These and other initiatives will ensure that we are ready to seize opportunities in these areas as they become viable.
Question 4: If we are moving toward adopting more renewables, why do we still need natural gas?
Efforts to green the energy sector will take time to yield results. So we will need natural gas, which is a stable and cleanest fossil fuel source, to maintain a stable and reliable energy supply while we expand our efforts in the other three “supply keys.”
Even as we continue to rely on natural gas, we are making improvements to our existing infrastructure. For example, EMA supports our generation companies to improve the energy efficiency of existing power plants through the Genco Energy Efficiency Grant Call. Existing legislation has also been amended to enable EMA to implement standards and requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector. EMA will work with industry to develop reasonable standards to shape a more energy- and carbon-efficient energy sector.
Question 5: What does a more sustainable energy future mean for Singapore and Singaporeans?
Companies will have many opportunities in emerging and rapidly growing fields. For example, they can provide services in deploying and maintaining solar panel installations, developing hydrogen systems, and trading carbon credits. This in turn will create more job opportunities for Singaporeans.
To help Singaporeans take advantage of opportunities in newly emerging areas of growth, EMA has worked with other government agencies and training providers to build relevant capacity. Schemes such as the Career Transformation Program for Clean and Renewable Energy Professionals by Workforce Singapore and the Energy Industry Scholarship from EMA are available to nurture talent in the energy sector.
As Singapore aims to move to the forefront of green energy technologies, it will also create and scale innovative technologies and solutions, eventually exporting them to the rest of the world – unlocking further economic growth.
With limited land and alternative energy options, decarbonizing the energy sector is a particular challenge for Singapore. As we decarbonize the energy sector, we need to do so without compromising energy security and reliability. Besides transforming the way we produce and consume energy, managing our energy demand is also key to achieving a more sustainable future. Families and businesses will need to reimagine the way we live, work and play, as well as adopting energy conservation as a way of life.
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