Wednesday 29 October 2014

$45m for projects to energise power industry

By Feng Zengkun, Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2014

SINGAPORE has set aside $45 million to boost its power systems and industry, and will also create the Singapore Institute of Power and Gas to train people.

In addition, more consumers will, from next July, be able to buy electricity from retailers of their choice or the wholesale market, instead of having to buy electricity from SP Services at the regulated tariff.

These initiatives were among the projects announced by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran at yesterday's opening of the annual Singapore International Energy Week.

The five-day event at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre is a platform for professionals, policymakers and commentators to discuss issues.

Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, said the new measures were to "diversify our energy sources, foster greater competition in the electricity market, and reduce costs and enhance flexibility for businesses".

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) will use the $45 million in two projects. The $20 million Energy Training Fund is to train Singaporeans to be technical professionals for the power sector.

Mr Quek Poh Huat, energy utility provider Singapore Power's senior adviser, said the fund "addresses the impending shortage of technical professionals due to an ageing workforce".

The EMA set up the Power Sector Manpower Task Force in 2012, which Mr Quek chaired, to resolve manpower issues.

It said last year that the power sector's employees had a median age of 48, and the sector would need 2,400 more technical professionals in the next decade.

To help the manpower efforts, Singapore Power will also set up the Singapore Institute of Power and Gas to provide courses, which will be launched next year.

The other $25 million will be used in a new Energy Storage Programme to fund research and development, as well as test beds, to improve the Singapore power system's stability and resilience.

Currently, only commercial and industrial electricity consumers who use at least 4,000kWh on average every month can choose whom to buy electricity from. Everyone else has to buy electricity from SP Services at a regulated tariff.

About 10,000 consumers will become eligible with the lower threshold, adding to the current pool of 23,000.

"Our goal is to progressively liberalise the electricity market so that all remaining 1.3 million consumers, from households to businesses, will...have more choice and options to manage their energy cost," said Mr Iswaran.

Experts: Start work on ASEAN power grid now
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 28 Oct 2014

A POWER network that connects the national grids of all ASEAN countries could boost energy security, increase energy supply and, ultimately, make electricity cheaper for people.

But to reap the benefits of an ASEAN power grid, the groundwork must start now, with the building of the infrastructure required for the technology.

The private sector must also work closely with governments, which can support such an initiative with legislation and policy.

These were the opinions of seven experts who took part in a forum yesterday on energy connections in Asia.

They included ASEAN government representatives such as Dr Maximus Ongkili, Malaysia's Minister for Energy, Green Technology and Water, and Mr Viraphonh Viravong, Laos' Vice-Minister for Energy and Mines.

The private sector was also represented by the likes of Mr Tang Kin Fei, group president and chief executive of Sembcorp Industries.

Titled Shaping Asia's Energy Connections, the forum was part of this year's Singapore International Energy Week, which brings together professionals, policymakers and commentators to discuss issues.

Late last month, Singapore, Thailand, Laos and Malaysia launched a project to study cross-border power trade from Laos to Singapore.

As part of the project, a working group will be set up to study the "technical viability" of such trade and examine the policy, regulatory, legal and commercial issues related to cross-border electricity trading.

The project is also expected to shed light on how all four countries could trade electricity among themselves.

The development of an ASEAN power grid is an idea that has been in the works since the 1980s.

While the latest project signified some progress on this front, panellists suggested that more must be done and that it had to be done now.

This is because while construction of a physical grid would be "fairly easy", it would take time for such an initiative to translate into policy, said Dr Phyllis Yoshida, deputy assistant secretary for Asia, Europe and the Americas at the United States' Department of Energy.

She cited the example of the power grid in Central America that took 25 years to implement.

Mr Viravong suggested that the development of a grid connecting ASEAN can be sped up by first connecting smaller geographical areas, before linking them up to form a regional grid.

"This is, to us, a way of getting started... You cannot wait until you get a blueprint from all 10 countries."

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