Charting an energy agenda

Fresh from the Chevening international scholarship given out by the UK government to students with leadership qualities, EMA Senior Analyst Sum Kun Shan from the Gas Policy & Infrastructure Department dives into what sparked her interest to work in the energy sector.

Sum Kun Shan

I developed an appreciation of the challenges the industry faces, such as securing capital investment for large-scale initiatives, especially for unproven energy technologies.

Why and how did you get interested in the energy sector?

Witnessing the degradation of marine habitats as an avid diver, I became aware of the urgency to mitigate climate change’s impact on biodiversity and aspired to contribute to sustainability by working in the energy sector. A passion for sustainability prompted my career switch from the semiconductor industry to the industry development arm of EMA, where I led various clean energy projects. Among them was the Pulau Ubin Micro-grid Test-bed to provide clean energy to residents and businesses on the island. Playing a part in charting Singapore’s energy agenda appeals to me.

You were one of six Singaporeans awarded the Chevening scholarship in 2012 to pursue postgraduate studies in the UK. What key learnings can you apply to what you are now doing in energy?

Having affirmed my interest in energy after two years at EMA, I was motivated to apply for the Chevening scholarship to pursue further studies in energy, after I came to know about the programme. Working at EMA gave me a clearer view of the issues in the energy industry. So I chose to pursue a Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Futures at the Imperial College London to further my knowledge in the field.

Through a summer internship at Capture Power Limited (CPL) - one of the two preferred bidders of the UK’s £1 billion Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Commercialisation Competition leading the White Rose CCS Project - I gained an understanding of the issues arising from infrastructural implementation, from an industry perspective. I developed an appreciation of the challenges the industry faces, such as securing capital investment for large-scale initiatives, especially for unproven energy technologies. At the same time, working with teammates from diverse backgrounds enhanced my appreciation of the multi-disciplinary nature of the energy sector.

You’ve had the opportunity to work on industry development and now gas policy. How are they different and what skill sets are needed for each?

At the Industry Development Department, my primary role was promoting innovation in the energy R&D of Singapore’s energy sector. My job involved driving the implementation of infrastructural pilot projects through public-private partnerships, such as the Pulau Ubin Micro-grid Test-bed. I also enjoyed the process of collaborating with government and private-sector stakeholders in resolving implementation issues.

My new role at the Gas Policy and Infrastructure Department gives me the opportunity to engage in a high-growth sector. More than 90 percent of Singapore’s electricity is generated from gas, underscoring its importance in driving our energy security. On a daily basis, I monitor gas prices and global developments as, given the interconnectedness of the energy ecosystem, these could directly or indirectly affect Singapore as a price taker. I was also involved in the feasibility study for Singapore’s second LNG terminal. A strategic mind-set and knowledge of the industry would certainly be helpful in developing gas policies for Singapore.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested to work in the energy sector?

For those driven by the dynamic nature of the energy sector or inspired to contribute towards tackling the energy “trilemma” – i.e. balancing the need for economic competitiveness, energy security and environmental sustainability, especially in resource-constrained Singapore - a career in the energy sector would certainly prove to be most satisfying.