22nd October

After the visit, we head back to the centre of Singapore, and even further South West. We go to meet Ho Hiang Kwee, a researcher, to talk about the energy situation of Singapore.

Ho Hiang Kwee is Adjunct Principal Fellow Researcher. He works for both the government of Singapore and for the Energy Studies Institute. He is also one of the authors of the last IRENA report on the global status of renewable energy in 2013 (that you can find here).

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The electricity production represents 45% of Singapore energy use. Singapore has an installed capacity of 11000MW, much more than the 6500MW needed by Singapore during peak consumption. Singapore grid is almost isolated. There is only one connection with Malaysia, supporting about 100 MW, which is used only in case of emergency. Inside ASEAN, Singapore is pushing for more integration in the energy, creating the Asian power grid. Singapore’s energy mix is strongly based on fossil fuel, and this shall not change in the near future. Currently, the country is very dependent on the importation of natural gas. 80% of the energy produced in Singapore comes from power plants running on gas. This fossil fuel is the most expensive one: Singapore pays a premium on it, but it is also the cleanest one and was therefore chosen. Relying on gas allows Singapore to have a relatively clean air in the city. Until 6 months ago, the country was totally dependent on its neighbours for gas supply. Three pipes feed the island: one is from Malaysia and two are from Indonesia. Very recently, a LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminal was built in order to import gas from further away (The Bahamas, Africa, maybe USA) and to diversify suppliers. Because gas is very expensive, all the plants running on gas include a combined cycle in the design, which improve the plant’s total efficiency. The rest of the energy is mostly produced from oil. for 1-2% from waste incineration. Singapore possesses a power plant running on coal but, since it is also burning biomass, its GHG emissions are comparable to the plants running on oil.

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Singapore is investigating on its potential for renewable energy through its universities. Four kinds of renewables could be used in a greater quantity: solar photovoltaic (PV), solar thermal, tidal energy and biomass. The levelized cost of Solar photovoltaic electricity is now really to the retail cost of electricity in Singapore. The levelized cost is the net cost of the PV system divided by the energy produced over the entire life time of the system. A study has showed that photovoltaic has a significant potential. Up to 10% of the electricity productions could be covered by PV If all roofs and part of some reservoirs were covered. This also implies that the instantaneous power from PV could be as high as 50% in the grid. This is a very high percentage covered by a variable source of energy although a production mix based on gas could allow that. Tidal energy may have a potential between the islands in the South of the country. Nevertheless, that would be quantified as a few MW! Singapore is also considering biomass, in the form of biofuel, as input to its energy mix. There is a significant potential in the region although the question about its sustainable use remains open. Nuclear energy was imagined in a pre-feasibility study although it was not kept because it was thought to be still not entirely safe, and expensive. It also easy to imagine that, the smallest nuclear accident would erase the country from the map! Singapore is investigating other ways to reduce its GHG emissions. One of the options is carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon utilization. In this last option, the CO2 is reduced into carbonates compounds that are then used as construction material. This solution is pertinent since the production of carbonates requires little energy.

In the field of transportation, Singapore has been very active. As part of its search for energy conservation and efficiency, Singapore has invested a lot of money for public transportation. The MRT (a fast metro) network is very efficient. Within 10-20 years, its network will cover the whole country, with everyone having a station no further than 1km from his home. In addition, there is an efficient network of buses. The goal of the government is that in 10 years, 70% of the people take public transports during the peak hours (nowadays, it’s 60%). In parallel with the strong investments in public transports, the government of Singapore makes car transportation very expensive by using two levers: ownership and usage. Owning a car in Singapore is extremely expensive. First of all, someone willing to buy a car has to get a certificate of entitlement which can only been bought in an auction system. The price of the certificate is as high as 80 000 SG$ (i.e. 60 000 €)! Only 1000 of these certificates are issued every two weeks. The cars are also heavily taxed so that a car sold 15 000 € in Europe will cost about 60 000 € in Singapore. The tax system is dependent upon the energy efficiency of the car, through a bonus-malus system which can make the prices vary between +/- 20 000 SG$. Nevertheless, buying e.g. a hybrid car is still be very expensive. Furthermore, driving a car is also quite expensive: the price of oil is quite high; it is also forbidden to go to Malaysia to refuel. Some parts of the city include a toll (The ERP, Electronic Route Pricing). Singapore does not have many bicycle path although its traffic is light enough to make bike-commuting agreeable. The hot and humid climate may be break for people to choose bike. Going to work wearing a suit and arriving all sweaty is not comfortable of course. Things may change with the more and more trendy electric bike. It is believed that it will have a role to play in the future transportation system of Singapore.

In the housing domain, Singapore is also active. Regarding the electrical appliances, the government proceeded in two steps. Firstly all the models were labelled according to their energy consumption, as part of the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MERS). After a few years, the government decided to forbid the appliance that were not efficient enough, through the Mandatory Energy Performance Scheme (MEPS). In order to encourage each citizen to reduce his energy consumption, the energy bills that they receive includes a comparison between the citizen’s consumption with the average Singapore consumption per capita. Also, a lot of retrofitting is done on air conditioning units since it is a main source of consumption in houses. Singapore has a very aggressive program (the Green Building Program) which has the goal of having 80% of the total building in the city be certified as Green Buildings by 2030. There will be several levels within this certificate. The Green Building certificate will be a good progress although, it will not concern positive energy buildings (producing more energy than they consume) nor passive ones (consumption = production). It is very challenging to make a sky-scrapper a passive -or positive- energy building. High towers consume more energy than the ones of a reasonable height, per inhabitants. There is only one energy positive building in Singapore, and it is 4 storeys high.

Singapore is very energy intensive per capita. This is mostly due to its extensive industry, which comprises a lot of refineries, electronics and offshore industries. The industries provide 22% of the GDP. 60% of Singapore’s Green House Gases (GHG) emissions are coming from its refineries. Therefore, a benchmarking is being done in order to determine whether refineries perform well in comparison with their GHG emissions. If they do, other ways for reducing GHG should be looked at. The nexus between water and energy is also delicate. Water and energy production are strongly linked although, Singapore really lacks water. Singapore does not have an aggressive politics, such as land grabbing, in order to secure resources. In order to improve its energetic situation, Singapore is looking forward to improve its geopolitical situation and developing synergies with Johor, the Malaysian border region.

Singapore is currently not having a sustainable energy production mix, nor it will have one in the near future. Nevertheless, Singapore has a lot of sovereign funds. As already showed with the NEWater, R&D and good will can lead to useful innovation and solutions to local problems.

At the end of the meeting, we go home quickly, the head full of data. We relax some time in the swimming pool, then go to eat dinner in a Japanese restaurant. We try many dishes, some of them are really nice. And Akira treats us for the dinner tonight. We are really overwhelmed by our situation these days in Singapore.

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