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Singapore paves way for evolution of electricity industry

Down the road, consumers will manage their own demand for power more actively, and solar power and batteries will be integrated with the grid

"To facilitate wider deployment of energy storage, it is important to ensure that our policy, regulations and market framework remain current and facilitate new business models put forth by industry." - Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran


SINGAPORE is laying the foundation for a vastly different power sector - one in which consumers will play a more active role in managing their own demand for power, and also one in which solar power and batteries are integrated with the power grid.

Besides cost savings to consumers, these measures will bring Singapore closer to the energy-efficiency goals it put forward under the Paris climate change pact, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran.

Speaking on Monday at the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), he said the Republic is considering wider use of smart meters for electricity, gas and water supply.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA), together with national water agency PUB and grid operator Singapore Power, will be issuing a call for proposals for a trial for smart meters, aimed at helping household consumers to be more efficient in their use of utilities.

Most electricity meters in Singapore are read manually once every two months, together with gas and water meters. With smart meters, the agencies hope to have technical solutions for reliable and cost-effective remote readings of all three meters.

The trial will include the development of a mobile application for consumers so they can track their consumption of utilities.

Mr Iswaran said: "This would enable consumers to make informed decisions on their consumption and conservation of utilities.

"The results of the test-bed will help us assess whether and how we can deploy advanced metering solutions nation-wide, in tandem with our plans to have full retail competition in the electricity market by 2018."

Besides smart metering, the EMA will launch a pilot programme with 16 partners - these include education institutions, government agencies, electricity retailers and private companies - to shift energy consumption from peak to non-peak hours through demand-side management.

Called Project OptiWatt, the programme aims to reduce the pressure on the grid during periods of peak demand, and test relevant technologies and business models that can do so.

For example, a trial by Nanyang Polytechnic conducted with electricity retailer Red Dot Power showed that the electricity load on its chillers could be curtailed for half an hour during peak hours with minimal impact on the comfort of its users - while reducing overall power consumption by 7 per cent.

Every megawatt reduction of peak demand in Singapore could mean savings of about S$1.6 million on a systems level, a Stanford University study done in partnership with the EMA found.

Mr Iswaran said other than increasing the use of renewable energy, meeting the targets the Republic has set under the climate change pact also entails looking at energy demand.

He told reporters on the sidelines of SIEW: "This is an important area because it creates an incentive for consumers to optimise their consumption of energy, potentially for a savings or a gain; in turn, it also gives the industry a chance to come in and moderate how the consumption is done in order to redeploy those resources elsewhere.

"It creates an incentive and a system-wide benefit."

Separately, as the country prepares to scale up its use of solar power in the grid, the EMA is seeking feedback on the regulatory framework for energy-storage systems, or batteries.

This follows a call for proposals that the EMA and Singapore Power issued in May for a utility-scale energy-storage system test-bed. Energy storage installed on the grid level will facilitate greater use of solar power, as well as enable the country to manage its electricity demand better.

Mr Iswaran said: "To facilitate wider deployment of energy storage, it is important to ensure that our policy, regulations and market framework remain current and facilitate new business models put forth by industry."

But even as the authorities lay down new frameworks for an evolving power sector, it is projecting slower growth in electricity demand over the next 10 years.

Singapore's system demand, which grew at an average rate of 2.8 per cent a year from 2005 to 2015, is expected to increase by between 1.3 and 1.8 per cent from next year until 2027, said the EMA in its inaugural electricity market outlook launched on Monday. The estimates take into account factors such as changes to population, temperature and projected growth in gross domestic product (GDP).

The publication also estimated that there will be 40-50 megawatt-peak of solar-power projects in the second half of this year, and 60-70 megawatt-peak of new solar capacity added in the first half of next year.

Mr Iswaran on Monday also announced that Singapore is joining the International Energy Agency (IEA) as an "association country".

The IEA had launched the Association Country programme last year to engage emerging economies; China, Thailand and Indonesia have also jointed as association countries.

Singapore will partner the IEA - an energy watchdog for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations formed after the 1973 Arab oil embargo - on two new initiatives.

A Singapore-IEA regional training hub will be set up to build capabilities in the region, and Singapore will host an annual Singapore-IEA Forum at SIEW to provide a regular platform for future-oriented energy discussions.

Mr Iswaran said: "Becoming an association country is a natural extension of Singapore's already-close collaboration with the IEA. It will allow us to further participate in the global energy dialogue, and keep abreast of new technical developments in the energy sector."

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