Keynote Speech by Mr Ngiam Shih Chun, Chief Executive, EMA, at the Hong Kong Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) Symposium 2022

20 Jan 2022

His Excellency Michael Wong, Secretary for Development of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Mr Eric Pang, Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.   Good morning from Singapore. I am delighted to join you today at this Symposium on “Innovation and Technology for Energy Transition”.

2.   I am pleased to see the participation of many thought leaders in the energy space. I would also like to thank the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department of Hong Kong, China for making this possible.

Introduction

3.   Climate change is a defining crisis of our generation. There is an increasing urgency to advance our efforts in tackling climate change, including in Asia. Many Asian economies have set emissions reduction targets and renewable energy goals. Singapore is also committed to reducing our carbon emissions and advancing global action.

4.   More than ever before, the energy sector will need to rely on innovation and technology as key enablers of climate action and sustainability.

5.   According to KPMG’s 2021 list of top Technology Innovation Hubs, six of the top ten cities leading technology innovation are situated in Asia, which include Singapore and Hong Kong, China. This is in recognition of the roles that Singapore and Hong Kong, China have played as vibrant living laboratories to develop innovative solutions and drive technology development.

Singapore Green Plan 2030

6.   To achieve Singapore’s climate change objectives, we launched the Singapore Green Plan which charts ambitious and concrete targets for the next 10 years. There are five key pillars to the Green Plan: City in Living, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy and Resilient Future.

7.   With the power sector accounting for almost a quarter of global emissions, decarbonising electricity generation is at the core of the global climate change effort. To this end, the ‘Energy Reset’ pillar sets out the roadmap for transforming Singapore’s energy landscape in the next decade. As part of the Singapore Energy Transition, we will harness our Four Supply Switches – Natural Gas, Solar, Regional Power Grids and Low-Carbon Alternatives. Natural Gas

8.   Many countries around the world have pledged to transition their power sectors towards low carbon sources. They have committed to reduce their reliance on coal and other fossil fuels and develop more renewable energy sources. However, this energy transition is a challenging journey, and could even be risky if the transition is not managed well. The volatility in global energy markets over the past few months illustrates this point.

9.   Currently, about 95% of Singapore’s electricity is generated using natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel available. Even as we ramp up various sources of renewable energy, our natural gas-fired generation fleet will continue to form the mainstay of our energy system to support our energy transition.

10.   To reduce the carbon footprint of electricity generation, we have provided grants to support our power generation companies in adopting innovative energy- and carbon-efficient technologies. We are conducting extensive research and development to improve the performance and operation of gas infrastructure, such as test-bedding energy efficient solutions at our LNG terminal, and improving plant performance and reliability through digitalisation.

Renewable Energy

11.   Singapore has limited indigenous renewable resources. Many of the options available to other countries are not available to us. We have little wind, hydro or tidal power. Solar is currently our most viable form of renewable energy. But we are a small country with limited land resources.

12.   We have continued to press on with our solar deployment efforts. As of today, Singapore is one of the most solar dense cities in the world. We target to achieve 1.5GWp by 2025 and at least 2GWp by 2030, to help meet peak demand of 10GW in 2030. This will ensure that we continue to be one of the most solarised cities in the next decade.

13.   We face several challenges in ramping up solar deployment. We have heavy cloud cover and limited land available to harness solar energy. We are also mindful of the competing uses for some spaces, and the impact of solar deployments on the biodiversity of the flora and fauna.

14.   Therefore, we must seek innovative ways to achieve our solar deployment target. Last year, we opened one of the world’s largest in-land floating solar farms which will offset 33,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, as well as one of the first off-shore solar farms in the world. We will continue to find creative ways to harvest more solar energy, for example, through building-integrated photovoltaics. We are also accelerating the deployment of solar panels on building rooftops and exploring other untapped spaces.

15.   With greater reliance on renewable energy sources, other challenges such as intermittency will arise. To address this, we awarded a research grant to pilot Singapore’s first floating Energy Storage System (ESS) in 2020. This will see the deployment of Singapore’s first stacked ESS on Keppel’s Living Lab, which can potentially save 40% of land intake.

Regional Power Grids

16.   These efforts alone are not sufficient. Increasing the energy efficiency of our natural gas power plants can, at best, reduce carbon emissions by about 10%. Even if we maximise all available space in Singapore for solar deployment, we would still not be able to generate enough power to keep the lights on with solar energy alone.

17.   Tapping on regional power grids will allow us to overcome our geographical constraints, access cleaner energy resources to decarbonise the power sector, and improve energy security. We have a long-term vision of developing an ASEAN Power Grid. It can help us to diversify away from natural gas, bring in investments in low-carbon projects in the region, and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in ASEAN.

18.   Last year, we announced plans to import 2 to 3 GW of low-carbon electricity by 2030 and 4GW by 2035. This will constitute about 30% of Singapore’s electricity supply in 2035 and meet close to 30-40% of our peak demand.

19.   To facilitate large scale imports in a secure, affordable and reliable manner, we will work with potential importers to ensure that sufficient safeguards and backups are put in place. To this end, EMA has been working on small-scale import trials to tease out the technical and regulatory issues associated with cross border power trading. We will also continue to work closely with the industry to co-create and innovate cost-effective solutions to enhance energy resilience for imports.

Low Carbon Alternatives

20.   Finally, low carbon alternatives will be critical in our transition towards a cleaner energy future.

21.   We have awarded S$55 million to research projects that are focused on improving the technical and economic feasibility of low-carbon technologies, particularly on hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). The aim is to bring forward the economic and technical viability of local deployment for such technology. More work needs to be done to improve the efficiencies of the hydrogen supply chain, from hydrogen production to transport and dehydrogenation.

22.   Beyond research and development, public-private partnerships and international cooperation are vital to advancing the deployment of low carbon technologies. Singapore is actively pursuing pilots on hydrogen through public-private partnerships as well as advancing international cooperation through the various Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) we have signed with Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

The Role of Urban Solutions and Sustainability

23.We have to go beyond simply transforming our energy mix. We also need to take a holistic perspective in how we design, develop, and manage our cities. Cities are at the heart of the energy transition. According to the United Nations, cities occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions.

24.   Cities, like all human systems, are enormously complex. As such, a holistic science of cities in problem-solving is crucial. It is important to look at complex systems not just with their component parts, but also together as a whole. We need to approach urban solutions with a triple bottom line, considering the economic, environmental, and social impact that cities have. For example, Singapore has high day-time temperatures, and to reduce the cooling load, we can design the layout of towns to maximise the wind flow and angle buildings to minimise heating from the afternoon sun. This helps to reduce energy consumption, and improve the energy efficiency. Through better system design, we can match heating and cooling loads in a district to improve energy efficiency, as well as pair distributed energy sources and demand response with loads to even out the energy demand on the power system and improve the plant load factor of generation plants.

Conclusion

25.   In conclusion, the energy transition is a collective regional and global effort. It is a quest that requires us to harness collective strength and efforts that transcend borders. As innovation and technology become increasingly important for us to achieve a successful energy transition, we will need to step up our collaboration on this front.

26.   Singapore will continue to deepen our cooperation with international stakeholders. In 2020, EMA Singapore and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department of Hong Kong, China signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen cooperation in energy. The MOU has deepened exchanges between EMA and EMSD including sharing of knowledge and best practices on issues such as natural gas and energy efficiency. EMA and EMSD have also collaborated closely on energy issues at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) discussions.

27.   The global emphasis on sustainability and the energy transition offers new economic opportunities, as industries decarbonise their operations and pivot towards more environmentally sustainable initiatives. Singapore and Hong Kong, China can contribute to Asia’s clean energy journey through the sharing of our experiences in incorporating innovation and technology in our energy transitions. Together, there are exciting opportunities we can capture and realise in our charge towards creating a sustainable energy future for us all.

28.   Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to invite everyone to the Singapore International Energy Week, which will be held in Singapore from 25-28 October this year. We look forward to welcoming everyone to the fruitful and engaging discussions in Singapore.

29.   Thank you.

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