February 10, 2008 (Lin Yanqin and Esther Fung) Spiralling oil prices, growing global demand for energy, limited and uncertain supplies from oil-producing countries, climate change from greenhouse gas emissions – these are the challenges faced by a Singapore dependent on imports for energy needs.But even if Singapore has to be a “price-taker” in meeting its energy needs, it can still turn “energy challenges” into “energy opportunities”.
To help make this happen, a master plan – outlined in the National Energy Policy Report – was unveiled by the Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang yesterday, with six strategies mapped out for Singapore’s energy future.
Steps will be taken to improve energy security by diversifying energy sources and the mix of fuels currently used to generate electricity. Plans are also in place to grow the value-add of the energy industry, now worth 20 billion, into a $34-billion industry by 2015, and triple the number of jobs to 15,300.
“There’s very little we can do to affect worldwide demand and supply,” said Mr Lim after unveiling the details of the energy policy at the Singapore Electricity Roundtable. “The best solution is a long-term one, towards efficiency, conservation and a competitive market.”
Traditional strengths like oil- refining and trading would continue to grow, while others like renewable energy and the trading of energy products have been identified as growth areas.
More than $300 million has been committed to boost Singapore’s energy research and development capabilities, such as the Economic Development Board’s $17-million Clean Energy Research and Test-bedding Programme.
A clean energy scholarship programme to fund some 130 Masters and PhD students over the next five years for study and research in local and top foreign universities was also announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the opening of a separate event, Global Entrepolis, yesterday.
Diversifying Singapore’s energy supplies was a key strategy of the framework, Mr Lim said.
Currently, more than three-quarters of Singapore’s electricity is generated from piped natural gas (PNG) from Malaysia and Indonesia. But rising domestic demand means that these countries might not be able to continue PNG exports to Singapore.
Thus, developments, such as the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Jurong Island, where construction will begin in 2009, will allow Singapore to source further for LNG, which can be transported over long distances, to meet energy needs by 2012.
Singapore will continue to rely on natural gas for energy, Mr Lim said. “Hydro, geothermal and wind power are not available in Singapore, while nuclear energy is not feasible due to (Singapore’s) small size.” Solar and coal power, on the other hand, have potential, but face cost and technological barriers.
The framework also aims to improve Singapore’s energy efficiency, promote competition in the energy market, boost international cooperation and get all government agencies involved in shaping energy policy.
The energy industry regulator, Energy Market Authority, will take on a more developmental role in policy planning and develop cooperation with international organisations.
The Energy Studies Institute, which was launched yesterday, will conduct research in energy economics, energy security, and the environment.
Also underway is the pilot-testing of the Electricity Vending System, where consumers can choose how much electricity they want to buy.
Trade-offs between the objectives of economic competitiveness, energy security and environmental sustainability are inevitable, but where they
converge, they should be exploited, said Mr Lim.