Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wind Energy

Wind power is the generation of useful energy, such as electricity, using wind turbines. Due to limitations in our land area, Singapore cannot replicate other countries' application of wind power in terms of large wind farms. To generate reasonably efficient power from wind turbines, the average wind speed needs to be above 5m/s (metres per second). Singapore does not have abundant winds except in the coastal areas and offshore islands; our average wind speed is usually lower than 3.3m/s.

Although there is no grid-tied installation functioning on wind energy in the country at present, Singapore can be a test-bed for micro-wind technology (which can generate electricity with wind speeds of less than 2 m/s).

With Singapore welcoming test-bedding and implementation of clean and renewable energy technologies, micro-wind technology is certainly one of the interesting options to be explored locally.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology

Hydrogen is envisaged as the energy carrier of the future that can store and deliver energy in a usable form. Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic feedstock such as fossil fuels, biomass or even water using a variety of process technologies such as thermochemical and biological conversion, photolysis, electrolysis, etc.

Currently, there are technological limitations in the use of renewable sources to produce hydrogen as the prevailing methods can only produce a small volume of the energy.

One of the cleanest and most energy-efficient methods to convert hydrogen into power for stationary and mobile applications is the use of fuel cells, which use hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity with an electrochemical process. Several types of fuel cell technologies exist, with varying capacity and performance. The longer-term potential for fuel cell technologies is to run on renewable/alternative fuels.

Despite the immense projected potential of hydrogen and proponents claiming that the technology for hydrogen power is available, the challenges of commercializing it as clean power remain.

The transition to a hydrogen-powered society from our world today is a long journey that must be recognized as a large-scale global effort.


Biofuels are considered carbon neutral as they are derived from organic material (or biomass) and absorbs roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide during growth, as when burnt.

Singapore has a competitive advantage in the use of biofuels as a renewable source of energy mainly due to:

  • its strong foundation in the oil industry, which provides the infrastructure and synergies with downstream petrochemical projects as well as requisite infrastructure for biofuels' trading activities;
  • its geographical location that allows companies to easily source their raw materials from neighbouring countries;
  • its ready accessibility to markets with well-connected seaports and free trade agreements with several key trading partners; and
  • a strong scientific R&D culture that allows companies to undertake R&D and integrate research with manufacturing to hasten the development of next-generation biofuels and higher value renewable products.

Over the past few years, the focus in Singapore has been to kick-start biodiesel production. By producing export-oriented output volumes, Singapore can play a catalytic role in the global trade of biofuels.

Looking ahead to next-generation biofuels

Moving forward, Singapore looks to harness biofuel technology that is more advanced than the first generation (e.g. biodiesel derived from food crops such as corn, sugar cane and palm oil, which drives up the price of food products). The country aims to produce higher quality biofuels and use alternative non-food feedstock that is environment-friendly and sustainable such as jatropha oil. For example, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) has conducted research on Jatropha and spun off JOil (S) Pte. Ltd. together with some commercial partners to develop elite jatropha hybrids for commercial jatropha plantations.

Singapore is attracting new players from the US, Europe and Japan to conduct R&D on biofuels and set up biofuel pilot plants. We are also advancing our own know-how and technologies through various research organizations such as TLL, the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES) and the Institute of Environmental Science & Engineering (IESE).

Considering the growing importance of biofuels and bioenergy in the evolving energy landscape, EMA is in the midst of carrying out a comprehensive study on the implementation of biofuels and bioenergy in Singapore. The study aims to fully understand the policy enablers required to promote the adoption of bioenergy, as well as the associated costs and benefits, risks and opportunities as consequence of any future biofuels/bioenergy policy.

Solar Photovoltaic Systems

Singapore's geographical location, with an average annual solar irradiation of 1,150 kWh/kWp/year and about 50% more solar radiation than temperate countries, makes solar photovoltaic (PV) technology a promising option as a source of renewable energy.

Furthermore, Singapore's urban landscape provides opportunities to develop capabilities in system integration and building integrated PVs that can be exported to the region. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has test-bedded solar PV systems at two existing public housing precincts at Serangoon and Wellington, generating 220kWh of electricity per day for each precinct in the process. As of June 2009, there are 31 grid-connected commercial solar PV installations with a total capacity of 422.1 kWp in Singapore. And there are also 9 households with solar PV installations connected to the grid, making up 56.6 kWp of capacity.

We are continually seeking to grow the solar PV sector. Our manufacturing know-how, especially in the semiconductor industry, helps support the growth of the solar industry and reduce its unit costs. Some major developments in recent times have given a boost to our efforts in this sector. These include:

  • the establishment of the world's largest solar panel manufacturing complex in Singapore by Norway's Renewable Energy Corporation (REC);
  • investments in solar panel manufacturing by Solar Energy Power and Eco-Solar; and
  • setting up of their Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore by leading solar and clean energy companies such as SolarWorld and Conergy.

Opportunities for test-bedding and demonstration

To give further impetus to the efforts in this area and facilitate better connections, Energy Market Authority (EMA)'s $5 million Market Development Fund will fund the market charges to test-bed new generation technologies for all approved projects. Solar power producers selling to the National Electricity Market can apply to the EMA for refund of their market charges.

In addition, EDB has launched the Solar Capability Scheme (SCS) for the private sector to offset capital cost in installing solar technologies in the new energy-efficient buildings. This aims to build up capabilities of companies in the solar ecosystem through increased adoption by lead users in Singapore. EDB also launched the $17 million Clean Energy Research and Test-bedding (CERT) platform which targets the public sector and complements the SCS. Currently, two waves of awards have been granted, which includes PUB's Marina Barrage. CERT aims to provide opportunities for companies to develop and trial Clean Energy applications and solutions using government buildings and facilities in Singapore. For more information, please refer to EDB's website.

EMA has produced a Handbook for Photovoltaic (PV) Systems to facilitate adoption and installation of PV systems in Singapore. We are also publishing a combined EMA-BCA Handbook for Photovoltaic Systems that will be available in November 2009. In the meantime, please downlowd the BCA's Green Handbook for Photovoltaic (PV) Systems in Buildings from the BCA website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Clean and Renewable Energy

The inconvenient truth about climate change has begun to set in, however for those with foresight this has been a driver for the development of clean and renewable energy technologies. With the growth in international outcry on the adverse impact of global warming, clean energy is a major consideration in the energy landscape of the future. Although a small country and alternative energy disadvantaged, Singapore still has a responsibility to environmental sustainability, furthermore Singapore's interests in clean and sustainable energy solutions are also driven by the need for energy security, i.e., less dependence on traditional fossil fuel sources. To this end, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD) had recently published a Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. Among the strategies outlined included achieving greater energy efficiency and diversification, where we plan to reduce our energy intensity (per dollar GDP) by 35% from 2005 levels by 2030. However, Singapore is also cognizant that these efforts should not diminish energy competitiveness to ensure there is sustainable economic growth for the Nation.

Clean energy causes little or no harm to the environment, such as hydrogen fuel cell. As for renewable energy, it is energy generated by natural resources, such as solar, biofuels, wind, tidal, hydro and geothermal. From all these available options, solar photovoltaic (PV) and biofuels present the best opportunities for Singapore. The country's average wind speeds are too low for the economical use of large wind turbines. Although the technology for micro-wind turbines is improving quickly to help to harness lower wind speeds, wind energy options remain weak. Wave, tidal, and ocean thermal have limited application as much of our sea space is used for ports, anchorage and shipping lanes. Singapore's geography also does not present opportunities to harness renewable energy from hydro or geothermal technologies.

Liberalisation of the Retail Electricity Market

Since 2000, the retail electricity market has been liberalised in phases with plans to open up the market to full competition to promote the efficient supply of competitively priced electricity. The introduction of competition among the retailers benefits contestable consumers with improved services, greater efficiency, competitive prices and innovative products.

The liberalization of the retail electricity market has been implemented in phases to ensure a smooth transition. Thus far, the liberalisation has opened up 75% of total electricity sales in Singapore to competition.  A total of about 10,000 contestable consumers are able to exercise their choice of electricity purchase.

The final phase of retail market liberalisation, i.e. Full Retail Contestability (FRC) is currently under review.  This phase will involve the remaining consumers comprising mainly small businesses and household consumers. Collectively, these non-contestable consumers - more than 1 million in number - represent 25% of the total electricity sales in Singapore.  Currently, they continue to purchase their electricity from SP Services Ltd at the regulated tariff.