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28 April 2022

On 22 March 2022, the Energy Market Authority (“EMA”) issued a media release titled “Expert study affirms net-zero feasibility for Singapore power sector by 2050”.  

This article highlights out some of the key details set out in the media release and in the expert study referenced.

Background

EMA commissioned the Energy 2050 Committee (“Committee”) to deliberate on the long-term future of Singapore’s energy sector. The Committee, comprising a diverse range of experts from the industry, academia, and the Government, was given the challenging task of examining long-term trends that would affect the energy sector. It was also asked to provide recommendations on how EMA should plan for Singapore’s future energy system and enable Singapore to capture the economic opportunities arising from the knowhow and capabilities developed along the way.

The Committee has released a report titled “Charting the Energy Transition to 2050” (“Report”) which concluded that it is realistic for Singapore’s power sector to aspire to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Report sets out key considerations, decision points, and strategic choices for Singapore.

Scenarios and shifts needed in the power sector to achieve ambition

Given Singapore’s limited renewable energy potential, reducing power sector emissions will be more challenging than for many other countries. Nevertheless, the Committee has assessed that it is technically viable for the Singapore power sector to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, while maintaining energy security and affordability.

To achieve these goals, Singapore needs to step up its decarbonisation efforts across the entire power sector value chain while balancing the attendant trade-offs. During the transition towards a net-zero carbon emissions world, there will be economic growth opportunities that Singapore can position itself to capture. Singapore can meet the growing global demand for sustainable energy solutions by establishing itself as a technology frontrunner and becoming a living lab for innovative solutions.

The media release calls the Report’s findings timely and significant, given Singapore’s ambition to achieve net-zero by or around mid-century, and the fact that the power sector accounts for about 40% of the country’s carbon emissions.

The media release states that as Singapore’s energy sector transitions towards a more sustainable future, there are growth opportunities that businesses can tap on and that the workforce can look forward to. New businesses and jobs in clean energy will emerge in areas such as solar, energy storage systems, hydrogen and smart power grids.

Challenges and trade-offs for power sector decarbonisation

Achieving net-zero for the power sector, while feasible, will be a complex and challenging endeavour with inevitable trade-offs, particularly given how the impact of uncertainties such as geopolitical trends and technological advancements in various low-carbon energy solutions could lead to changes in any decarbonisation plan. Decarbonisation will also be costly - investments will need to be made in infrastructure such as the power grid, to support the increasing number of renewable energy and distributed energy resources. This would be a trade-off for greater sustainability and reliability.

Ongoing efforts to decarbonise the power sector

EMA began laying out plans to decarbonise the power sector in 2019 with the Singapore Energy Story. EMA has since announced its target to import up to four gigawatts of low-carbon electricity by 2035 and issued the first request-for-proposal in 2021. It is also taking active steps to invest in the research of low-carbon technologies such as hydrogen and geothermal energy as well as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) through the S$55 million Low-Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative. EMA continues to monitor global developments in areas such as nuclear energy and their implications for Singapore.

Together with industry partners and other government agencies, EMA is also working on a power grid digital twin to enhance Singapore’s grid resilience and reliability and support the transition towards cleaner energy sources. To encourage energy conservation during periods of tight market conditions, EMA launched demand-side management schemes such as the Demand Response and Interruptible Load programmes. These allow consumers to reduce or shift their energy consumption in response to tight supply, in exchange for compensation.

EMA will further study the recommendations in the Report and announce new developments when ready.

Reference materials

The following materials are available from the EMA website www.ema.gov.sg: