Address By Dr Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs, At Energy Innovation 2019

28 May 2019

Ms. Lara Olsen, Global Head of Business Development, Tesla Energy,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good morning. I am very pleased to join you today for this year’s Energy Innovation or EI 2019.

2. Let me start by thanking EMA and NTU for organising this conference. I spoke at last year’s event, and am very happy to be back this year.

Transcending the Trilemma

3. Energy is at the top of many people’s minds around the world. It is also a topic that captures the imagination of researchers, governments and the people. It also captures the imagination in popular fiction - whether in comic books, cinema or popular literature. It goes to show how energy is really a key topic for our times; in the imagination of those who envision the future, in the imagination of our young as we want to build a cleaner future, as well as in the imagination of our researchers, businesses and innovators. Every energy sector globally faces a puzzle with three aspects. How do we provide energy that is affordable, reliable, and sustainable? The traditional wisdom is that you can get one, possibly two, but not all three. Some call it an energy “trilemma”.

4. But with new innovations, we may be able transcend the trilemma. Two such innovations which I will share about today are: energy storage systems (or “ESS”) and digitalisation, the themes for EI 2019.

5. Let me share why these two innovations are game-changers. It starts with how they transform the reliability of energy supply.

Energy Storage – Enabling Solar Integration While Strengthening System Resilience

6. What is ESS? It is like a battery, on a bigger scale. For example, an ESS that is approximately the size of a shipping container has enough capacity at 1MWh to power eighty 4-room HDB flats for a day.

7. Energy storage is a game-changer for a few reasons:

  • First, electricity demand fluctuates across the day, and is highest around midday in hot and humid Singapore when people are turning on their air conditioners and trying to cool down, and it comes down at night when people are less active. ESS can store excess electricity generated during times of lower demand and discharge the stored electricity during periods of high demand. When we do this, it keeps our generators running at a more constant and more efficient level, lowering generation costs. This in turn means savings, which can be passed on to consumers.

  • Second, ESS can support the delicate balance between supply and demand, which needs adjustments from second-to-second. Today, our power grid matches electricity supply with demand by ramping our gas-fired generators up and down. But this can be costly and inefficient for the generators. With the right control systems, ESS can do this faster and possibly cheaper, contributing to the stability and resilience of our power grid.

  • Lastly, solar photovoltaics (or “solar PV”) are Singapore’s most viable source of renewable energy because we are a sunny island set in the sea. However, energy from solar PV comes and goes – as clouds go by, and at different hours of the day. When a cloud goes over your solar PV panel, the output changes. One solution to this intermittency is to pair ESS with solar PV, so that the spikes and dips in solar energy can become a more stable and reliable output. This can help us use solar energy better in ways which we might not have been able to do so in years gone by.

  • Digitalisation – Digitalising Energy While Maintaining Cyber-resilience

    8. The second game-changer is digitalisation. It can also help us transcend the energy trilemma. Like other major industries, the energy sector is also rapidly digitalising. Energy companies are using technology to better sense, analyse, integrate, and automate the various parts of our power system.

    9. Digital technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet-of-Things can unlock new benefits for the energy sector:

  • In homes, smart meters can give timely and useful information to consumers. That means consumers can understand their day-to-day energy usage patterns. It helps consumers make better choices which can lead to better savings and better decisions.

  • Network-connected devices can also help monitor the critical equipment in our substations and other parts of the grid, increasing the overall resilience of our system. Imagine if you have real-time information on the different components across the entire network. It helps network operators, industry and regulators understand systems better and make better decisions which in turn, helps consumers and our people.

  • Data can also be analysed over time to optimise operations and make the system more energy efficient. This is important for Singapore because as a small island, we continually need to do more and do better with less resources.

  • 10. However, as all of us know, even as digitalisation brings benefits, there are potential risks. Cybersecurity is a growing concern around the world:

  • Off-the-shelf security software today is mostly designed for consumer devices, but industrial equipment is quite a different matter. Each power system is configured differently and may have its own operating system and software. This means there are no easy or straightforward solutions to getting different equipment from different manufacturers, different generations of equipment within the same manufacturer, different software to work together, and to do it under a common cybersecurity standard.

  • So we must build local capabilities, to build solutions that meet Singapore’s cybersecurity needs.

  • For example, the Singapore University of Technology and Design, together with the Advanced Digital Sciences Centre , have created a new approach to cybersecurity for power systems. It uses a grid’s unique voltage signals which is monitored very carefully and used to form a ‘fingerprint’ of normal operating behaviour. It is then compared against real-time data to sense if there is a cyber-attack or something unusual going on.

  • This project is a start but much more can be done. We can have more of such collaborations.

  • Catalysing Innovation Within our Energy Ecosystem

    11. Our energy ecosystem must also innovate and experiment. This is how we understand new technology better. We learn by doing and by gaining experience. In particular, smaller companies must not be afraid about lacking the resources or knowledge to innovate. The Government is committed to helping our energy sector seize new opportunities. Our partnerships, both locally and internationally, can help companies develop commercially viable solutions.

    EMA-PSA and EMA-Shell Partnerships

    12. So I am glad to announce that the Energy Market Authority (EMA) has forged new partnerships, worth a total of $12 million, with two major companies, PSA and Shell.

    13. EMA and PSA have jointly launched a grant call to support research and innovation to meet the future energy challenges of PSA’s port terminals. This partnership will give companies and researchers the opportunity to use PSA’s terminal as a living lab to innovate, gain experience, and test-bed cutting-edge technologies in areas such as smart energy management systems.

    14. For technologies with commercialisation potential, EMA has partnered Shell to set up an energy accelerator programme, to incubate promising local start-ups. We will help them translate these solutions to meet market needs in areas such as distributed generation and energy storage systems.

    EMA-KETEP Partnership

    15. We need to learn from all around the world. When we connect with the world, our companies can learn and grow stronger.

    16. To this end, EMA and the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning have launched a joint R&D programme that leverages Korea’s strengths in ESS and the Internet-of-Things.

    17. The programme will allow our local energy enterprises to collaborate with Korean companies such as LG and Samsung, many of whom are world-class players in energy.

    18. The EMA will release more details of these collaborations shortly.

    Building a Future-Ready Workforce

    19. We have spoken a lot about technology and innovation. But we must never lose sight of why we innovate. We innovate to build better lives for all our people. And to do this, we must empower our workers, who run our energy sector and help build the systems of tomorrow. It is crucial that our workers have the right skillsets and training to adapt quickly to new systems and new technology.

    20. EMA will continue to work closely with our industry partners, including our brothers and sisters in the Labour Movement, in the Union for Power and Gas Employees, our students and faculty in educational institutions, and our partners in the various agencies like SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore. Our people are our strength, and our companies and agencies must continue to invest in our people. There are training programmes in the pipeline, such as courses in cybersecurity skills. And there will be more to come as we invest in our people.

    Concluding Remarks

    21. Let me conclude. Today, with new technology, we have an opportunity to transcend our energy trilemma. To do this, we must continue supporting and empowering our workers, our researchers, and our enterprises.

    22. Thank you.

    Back to Top