Wednesday 28 October 2015

Electricity market to be fully liberalised in 2018

Competition will mean more choice and likely lower prices for consumers, say experts
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

In the second half of 2018, everyone who consumes electricity in Singapore will be free to shop around for the best deals in the market.

That is because the Energy Market Authority (EMA) plans to fully open up the electricity retail market to competition, Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), said yesterday at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week.

At the opening of Singapore International Energy Week 2015 this morning, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Monday, October 26, 2015

This means consumers will have the choice to buy electricity from electricity retailers under customised price plans, similar to the way customers choose mobile-phone plans from telcos. This will allow these customers to get the best deal based on their usage patterns.

Currently, only some 33,000 commercial and industrial consumers with an average monthly electricity consumption of at least 2MWh - which amounts to a monthly electricity bill of about $450 - benefit from this flexibility. This threshold was last lowered from 4MWh to 2MWh in July. The remaining 1.3 million consumers, mainly households, are on the regulated tariff with SP Services. But that is set to change.

Dr Shi Xunpeng, deputy head of energy economics at the National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute, said: "This free choice and competition among retailers will give consumers more customised electricity supply, better services and probably lower prices."

He pointed out that with full liberalisation in Texas in the United States, the average electricity tariff with retail competition is 5.5 per cent lower than the national average. But Dr Shi noted that it is not yet possible to quantify the benefits for Singapore customers.

This would make Singapore the first liberalised energy market in East Asia, he said.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute, said data from places such as Europe or the US shows that households could enjoy savings of between 5 and 15 per cent due to competitive pricing by multiple utility providers.

But he added that additional savings may be possible if there is a shift in consumer behaviour, by running heavy-duty appliances like clothes dryers or ovens at night to benefit from lower, off-peak electricity prices, for example.

Madam June Tan, a nurse in her 50s, said more choices could benefit consumers if they translate into lower electricity prices. "I hope the price plans will not tie us down for years, but instead leave us free to choose again after a short period, for example, one year."

She added: "It's pay-per-use now, so electricity providers must give us ample notice before they roll out the price plans."

Yesterday, Mr Iswaran also gave out the EMA's biennial Singapore Energy Awards to the Housing and Development Board for its use of solar panels and to Mr Neil McGregor, former chief executive of the Singapore LNG Corporation, who oversaw the building of Singapore's first LNG terminal.

What was Singapore like in the 1960s, before electricity was readily available? What role did electricity have to play...
Posted by Energy Market Authority on Monday, October 26, 2015

Govt looking at two ways to boost energy industry
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) is looking at two ways to further boost the energy industry in Singapore, Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), said yesterday.

First, it plans to work with the industry to further facilitate power-generation investment decisions in Singapore, by providing more information to investors.

The EMA has put up a consultation paper on its website to gather feedback from the industry, in areas such as regulatory approval, long-term energy market outlook and a framework to allocate land for new generation assets. The closing date for submission of comments and feedback to this paper is Dec 21.

"Information on our energy market and land allocation policy will enable the industry to plan for the long term," said Mr Iswaran.

Second, the Government is planning to establish a Secondary Gas Trading Market in Singapore, where gas buyers and sellers can trade gas on a short-term basis domestically.

On this count, EMA hopes to gather industry feedback on a proposed market design and implementation road map, as well as on the establishment of an industry working group.

The closing date for submitting this is Nov 20.

Energy management important to Singapore's economic strategy: S Iswaran
By Nicole Tan, Channel NewsAsia, 14 Oct 2015

Ahead of the upcoming Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said energy management is an indispensable part of Singapore's economic strategy.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia on Tuesday (Oct 13), he also talked about how Singapore's energy landscape had evolved in the last 50 years.

Mr Iswaran: The key change over the years has really been first ensuring greater resilience in our energy sector. This is really to ensure Singapore has got, as far as possible, diversified sources of energy, in order to ensure the resilience of energy supply to Singapore.

The second thing we've been focusing on is greater competition in the energy market, whether in terms of generation, retail, and sales to the end consumer, households or businesses alike. In this area, we've progressively been enhancing retail contestability, lowering the threshold and therefore allowing more consumers to have choices.

Ultimately, we want to move towards full retail contestability, which means every household and energy consumer will have a choice in terms of who they buy energy from and the kind of package, not unlike what you might do for telecoms. That’s something the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is working on, and I think we’ve been making good progress and we hope to do more in the coming years.

Q: Why is energy management so important for Singapore, given the context that we are a small country with no natural resources?

Mr Iswaran: If you take economic activity, energy is a key input. If you take wafer fabrication industry for example, the slightest disruption in energy supply will result in significant losses for them; even if it's just for a few minutes, it'll disrupt their operations and cause them significant losses.

So it's a key parameter when investors make their decisions, it's a key determinant of economic competitiveness and sustainability of economic competitiveness in the long term. That's one of the main reasons we emphasise energy policy, and in particular the resilience of our energy supply. As a small city-state relying almost entirely on imported energy, it's an indispensable part of our economic strategy.

Q: What are the Government's top priorities in the energy sector, particularly as Singapore functions as a major trading hub for commodities and energy?

Mr Iswaran: These are the three elements - economic competitiveness, energy security and environment sustainability, which we take into account when thinking through the issues and formulating our policies for the present, but also for the future in terms of energy for Singapore.

One of the areas we'll be focusing on is retail contestability, broadening the options for consumers and ensuring that there is a way for people to choose, whether it’s households or small businesses. Choice between suppliers of electricity - this is an important part of ensuring we have a vibrant electricity market and one that will continue to provide value and choice and quality service for consumers.

The other area is diversifying our sources. Beyond carbon-based sources, development of alternative energy sources is another aspect. We're quite limited, alternative energy disadvantaged, we have limited options, by virtue of size and built up environment. One area where there's been considerable work being done is the solar aspect, because we think it's an area where there is potential for solar energy to be an important part of the energy mix in Singapore.

Q: You have talked about how Singapore is a player in an international arena. What is the importance of international engagement?

Mr Iswaran: Energy policy to a considerable extent is domestic-focused. Every country has its own energy policy. We also need engagement across economies and across countries, because there are areas for collaboration which can reinforce each other’s strategy, and indeed a regional approach could yield significant benefits for all countries.

In ASEAN, there are discussions on a trans-ASEAN gas pipeline, which if it were to eventuate, even if in limited form, it means therefore there’s greater resilience in gas supply network within ASEAN, which will be to the benefit for member states. At the same time, Singapore also has established itself as a thought leader through our Government agencies and also range of international organisations and private sector organisations in the space of energy.

Thinking about issues pertaining to future of gas, future of alternative energy, policies that will facilitate evolution of alternative energy, as part of national energy mix - these are areas where our agencies and many other players in Singapore have been involved in. Singapore becomes a good platform and SIEW in particular is a forum where I've seen considerable discussion take place in that regard. 

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