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Smart metering, solar forecasting, energy storage systems and experimental micro-grid to help build smarter grid in Singapore

Above photo: Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Singapore/ Credit: Singapore International Energy Week (screenshot from video on SIEW Facebook page)

In her opening remarks at the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, highlighted three initiatives wherein Singapore is investing in technologies to meet energy objectives, particularly through the use of info-communications technology (ICT) to build a smarter grid. This is in line with Singapore’s goal to be a Smart Nation. She also talked about how Singapore is updating its regulatory frameworks to facilitate technological innovation. 

Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan, US$ 660 mil (S$900 mil) is set aside for the urban solutions and sustainability domain, of which energy is a key focus area.  

Developing a smarter grid

Smart metering trials

The Energy Market authority (EMA; EMA is responsible for the reliable supply of electricity to consumers, as well as the operation of the power system in Singapore), Public Utilities Board (PUB; Singapore’s National Water Agency) and SP Group have selected four companies, to further develop and test-bed their technical solutions to remotely read smart meters.

A six-month trial will be conducted in the second half of 2018 to test these smart metering solutions in real-life environments.

As part of this effort, SP Group will also develop a mobile application to provide consumers with information on their consumption for all three utilities in a simple and engaging manner. This will enable consumers to better manage their consumption and expenditure, while doing their part for the environment.

Solar Forecasting Capabilities and Energy Storage Systems

Ms. Sim said that EMA continues to explore technological solutions that would better integrate intermittent generation sources, such as solar, into Singapore’s electricity grid, to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

EMA will be working with the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) and a consortium led by the National University of Singapore (NUS), to develop a solar forecasting model customised to Singapore’s tropical weather conditions.

This will help better manage fluctuations in solar output to ensure grid reliability.

EMA and SP Group also jointly launched a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an Energy Storage System, or ESS, test-bed last year to evaluate the performance of different ESS technologies under Singapore’s hot, humid and highly urbanised operating environment.

The RFP drew competitive bids from more than 10 international consortiums from the US, Europe and Asia. Two consortiums led by local Singaporean companies – Red Dot Power and CW Group – have won the RFP. Together, they will put in place 4.4 megawatt-hour of grid-storage solutions, in two substation locations. Insights gained from the test-bed would help develop standards and policies to facilitate the deployment of large scale ESS in Singapore.

Singapore’s first experimental urban micro-grid

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), and SP Group are signing a Memorandum of Understanding to build Singapore’s first experimental urban microgrid, which will be housed in SIT’s future campus at Punggol Digital District.

The micro-grid, which can be connected and disconnected from the grid as required, will be a national infrastructure that is open to the research community and businesses in Singapore.

This platform will allow new technologies and solutions to be tested in a controlled environment, while providing power engineering students the opportunity to work with industry partners and energy start-ups.

Soft launch of Open Electricity Market

Ms. Sim also mentioned the soft launch of the Open Electricity Market (previously referred to as Full Retail Competition), which was announced last week. Starting from April 2018, households and businesses in Jurong can choose to buy electricity from a retailer with a price plan that best meets their needs. This will provide consumers with more choices and flexibility in their electricity purchases.

A total of 108,000 household accounts and 9,500 business accounts in Jurong will have the option of buying electricity from a retailer of their choice, or continue buying electricity from SP Group at the regulated tariff. Consumers involved in the soft launch will be notified by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) in Q1 2018.

Since 2001, EMA has progressively opened up the electricity market to competition. Currently, businesses with an average monthly electricity consumption of at least 2,000 kWh (equivalent to a monthly electricity bill of at least S$400) already have the option of buying electricity from a retailer of their choice or to remain with SP Group.

The soft launch of Open Electricity Market will allow EMA, SP Group and electricity retailers to gather feedback and fine-tune processes where necessary. The Open Market will be extended to the rest of Singapore in the second half of 2018.

Regulatory support for technological innovation

Ms. Sim pointed out in her speech that the regulatory environment will need to keep pace with changes and be forward-looking to facilitate the deployment of new technologies and business models.

To that end, EMA continues to proactively streamline its regulations to ensure that they support business innovation. For instance, earlier this year, EMA streamlined the registration process for consumers generating solar electricity for self-consumption. Businesses such as Changi Airport Group and SATS Limited will benefit from this new scheme.  

EMA will also be enhancing the existing Central Intermediary Scheme, to make it easier for solar adopters to receive payments for selling excess solar energy into the power grid. The final determination paper with more details on the enhanced scheme will be released on October 23. 

“While reviewing and updating rules are important, they take time and sometimes it is more useful for businesses to have the chance to experiment quickly with promising innovations,” Ms. Sim said.

With that in mind, EMA launched a consultation paper in June 2017 on a regulatory sandbox framework for the electricity and gas sectors. The framework allows regulations to be relaxed, within defined parameters, in a sandbox that can accommodate new products and services for testing. It will also allow EMA to assess the impact of new products and services before deciding on the wider regulatory treatment.

Based on the feedback received, EMA has finalised the framework and it will be implemented from October 23. There has already been some interest from the industry with potential projects during the consultation phase.

National Energy Transformation Office

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Mr. Teo Chee Hean, said in his speech at SIEW 2017 that  the Singapore Government will set up a National Energy Transformation Office (NETO) within the EMA to better synergise efforts across agencies and steer Singapore’s efforts towards our long-term energy objectives. NETO will adopt a whole-of-government perspective in planning and coordinating energy Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) funding and initiatives, and enabling policies for the adoption of transformational energy solutions. 

International cooperation

Minister Iswaran announced at SIEW last year that Singapore has become an Association Country to the International Energy Agency, or IEA. A key initiative from the collaboration is the Singapore-IEA Forum, which will be held for the first time tomorrow. The focus is on energy investments in Asia, a topic of keen interest to the region. To set the stage for the discussions, the IEA will be launching the 3rd edition

During 2018, Singapore will work with the IEA to host a training programme focused on energy investments, as a follow-up to the discussions at the Singapore-IEA Forum.

Next year, Singapore will chair the 36th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM), which will be held together with SIEW in October 2018. This will give ASEAN more opportunities to strengthen its engagement with global energy players, to work together to provide energy solutions for the region.

Singapore Energy Award 2017 Winners

The Singapore Energy Award, or SEA, recognises individuals and organisations across the public and private sectors for their significant contributions to Singapore’s energy sector, in areas such as leadership, innovation and capabilities development.

This year, Mr. Tang Kin Fei, former Group President and CEO of Sembcorp Industries, and Professor Ng Wun Jern, a professor in Nanyang Technological University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and former Executive Director at the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) are the winners.

Mr. Tang is receiving the SEA for Contributions to the Energy Sector, for his visionary and exemplary leadership of Sembcorp’s power and utilities business, as well as having the foresight to push for new technologies and developing manpower for the local energy sector. Under Mr. Tang’s leadership, Sembcorp has contributed to the larger sector by opening up their co-gen plant for learning journeys for students, and sponsored an energy competition that has reached more than 400 students over the last 3 years. They have also opened up their facilities for R&D and test-bedding.

Professor Ng will receive the Singapore Energy Award for Innovation, for his pioneering efforts in the waste-to-energy sphere, as well as the pivotal role he played in translating research into real applications during his 10-year tenure as NEWRI’s Executive Director.

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