Sunday, 13 November 2016

PM Lee spells out plans for energy sector

He charts three paths to stay ahead while taking full advantage of falling cost of producing clean energy
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2016

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday mapped out Singapore's action plan to take full advantage of the changing energy landscape, in which oil prices are low and the cost of producing clean energy is falling.

Mr Lee charted three paths that will help the country to stay ahead in the energy and chemicals sector, which makes up one-third of manufacturing output.

It also provides good jobs for more than 25,000 people, about 70 per cent of whom are professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).



Speaking at a dinner to mark the 125th anniversary of petroleum giant Shell in Singapore, Mr Lee highlighted that countries and companies have to deal with political and strategic uncertainty, such as the Middle East conflicts and United States-China ties.

"We just witnessed a momentous US presidential election... (the) outcome will not just impact the US, but every country in the world, and we are all pondering the implications and next moves."

While holding up these challenges, Mr Lee also noted that Shell is transforming itself into an energy solutions company.

Similarly, Singapore is working on reducing its carbon emissions, transforming the energy and chemicals industry, and upgrading its workforce.

The damage from carbon emission, in causing extreme weather and rising seas, has led many countries, including Singapore, to sign the Paris treaty which took effect last week.

Singapore's target is to stop further increases to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

It also pledged to be greener economically, by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product - by more than a third.

It will work towards the goal "in an economically efficient way that will enable us to remain competitive", Mr Lee said.

These include pricing energy right for vehicles, as well as electricity for homes and industries.

"We cannot and will not subsidise energy prices," he said. But lower-income families receive government help for their electricity bills.

Another measure he highlighted was giving priority to reducing emissions that are least costly, like mandating minimum energy efficiency standard for new buildings and home appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners.

Singapore is also working with the biggest carbon emitters, like the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors, which collectively contribute more than three-quarters of manufacturing emissions.

He acknowledged that "we are not best-in-class by some distance" because Singapore's refineries are old, adding that Shell's refinery was built in 1961.

While it is difficult to compete with the efficiency of newer plants elsewhere, he noted that Shell had installed a co-generation unit at its Pulau Bukom refinery to improve energy efficiency.

But upgrading refineries is just part of the broader task of improving industries and companies should also tap technology to boost productivity, Mr Lee said.

He cited how Shell had partnered local start-up Avetics, to use cameras on drones to inspect manufacturing facilities instead of having workers climb up and down pipes and reactors, saving time and manpower.

Identifying new technologies and capabilities to invest in would also help make Singapore an innovation hub.

"To transform the industry, we need not only world-class infrastructure, but also world-class workers," he said.

Singapore in counting on SkillsFuture to ensure workers' skills remain continually relevant.

He lauded Shell for being one of the most active companies in taking part in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme for the energy and chemicals sector, training 14 process technicians under an 18-month programme of on-the-job training and mentorship.

Mr Chad Holliday, chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, said Singapore and Shell had made the future together for the past 125 years.

He commended the courage of the late president S R Nathan, who in 1974, as a civil servant, led a team that exchanged themselves for ferry crew held hostage by terrorists, who had landed on Pulau Bukom.

Citing this example of courage, he said: "Singapore and Shell have made the future together for 125 years. This will continue as we tap the courage, teamwork and creativity of the next generation."










Singapore's energy future
By Goh Swee Chen, Published The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2016

Given its small size and lack of natural resources, Singapore has long relied on innovation to overcome its challenges. It has reclaimed land to boost its surface area, for example, and invested in water technology and research to desalinate and recycle used water.

Today, the Singapore government has a new challenge which will also test its ability to innovate - how to continue its economic progress while fulfilling its commitment to the Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

Singapore has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity in kgCO2 per $GDP - contributed mainly by transport and industry - by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. It is an ambitious goal for a small country with limited alternative energy options.

The country does not have geothermal energy sources, or fast-flowing rivers and strong winds. Nor does it have enough available land for the large-scale use of solar panels.

This is one of the challenges being tackled by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), a government-initiated body in charge of planning Singapore's economic restructuring.

The CFE, of which I am a member, is looking closely at Singapore's energy future, with an emphasis on decarbonisation as well as security of supply. It hopes to present its findings to the Singapore Government by the end of the year.

Singapore, which is the region's leading oil trading hub, a global manufacturing centre for petrochemicals, and one of the world's top three export refining centres, has already taken steps to secure its energy future.

Today, 95 per cent of its electricity is generated from natural gas, a more environmentally sustainable energy source than other fossil fuels.

And in a bid to further boost the security of its supply, Singapore officially launched its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in 2014. Singapore plans to reduce its reliance on piped natural gas, in favour of LNG imports. This has enabled Singapore to diversify its natural gas sources.

Singapore's long-term strategic plan to meet its energy needs with natural gas is a big step towards the low-carbon future envisioned by the Paris Agreement. But these moves alone will not be enough to meet Singapore's targets. As it did in the past, the country will need to encourage innovation to find new ways to meet its challenges.

Singapore is also exploring renewable energy with the Housing Board, which is responsible for public housing, issuing tenders for companies to deploy solar panels on rooftops of housing estates.

Of course, the onus of innovation is not on the Government alone. Companies like Shell also aim to encourage innovative energy ideas.

Next March, Shell Singapore will, for the first time, host Make The Future, a festival promoting innovation, collaboration and conversations around global energy challenges.

The festival's highlights include the Shell Eco-marathon, a contest that challenges students to create the most energy-efficient car, and the Bright Ideas Challenge, an innovation competition to solve some of the world's most pressing energy problems.

With the Paris Agreement entering into force on Nov 4, the world is focusing on ways to combat climate change. In the future, it is likely to derive its energy from a mix of different sources: natural gas, oil, biomass, hydrogen and solar, all working together.

Singapore, with its willingness to work with partners, and its track record and reputation for forward-thinking and innovation, is well-equipped to be a leading city of the energy future.

The writer is chairman of Shell Singapore.


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