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How the Singapore Government plans to boost solar power capacity to 1 gigawatt peak beyond 2020 from 140 megawatt peak today

Above photo: Solar-ready roofs piloted at Punggol Edge BTO project, inbuilt with infrastructure to enable seamless installation of solar panels to harness renewable energy for block services/ Credit: Housing & Development Board

In a speech in June 2017, the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Teo Chee Hean said that the Singapore government plans to raise Singapore’s solar power capacity from around 140 megawatt peak today (up from just 0.4 MWp in 2008) to 350 megawatt peak by 2020 and one gigawatt peak[1] beyond 2020, representing about 15 per cent of peak electrical power demand during the day. The opportunities are expected to attract local and foreign companies to develop and scale up new clean energy solutions in Singapore, thereby creating a projected 2,000 new skilled jobs by 2025.

Multiple announcements have been made over the past two days at the ongoing Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2017, ranging from government-facilitated trials, collaborations between industry and academia, regulatory changes and incentives, and more, addressing both the demand and supply side of solar power.

Floating and rooftop solar 

In his opening remarks for the Asia Clean Energy Summit (ACES) Opening Ceremony, at SIEW 2017, Dr. Koh Poh Koon, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, talked about how the Economic Development Board (EDB) launched the SolarNova programme in 2014 to aggregates the public-sector demand for rooftop solar.

Recent multi-agency efforts to experiment with floating solar panels at Tengeh Reservoir have been successful. A floating solar PV system test-bed was launched at Tengeh Reservoir in October 2016. Results so far show that the system performed better than a typical rooftop solar PV system in Singapore, due to the cooler temperatures of the reservoir environment. To date, there were also no observable changes in water quality in the reservoir and no significant impact on wildlife from the ongoing studies. Building on the results of the test-bed, PUB is exploring the feasibility of deploying a 50 MWp floating solar PV system at Tengeh Reservoir. The amount of energy generated can potentially power about 12,500 4-room HDB homes.

To further address the challenge of limited space for solar deployment in Singapore, the feasibility of building-integrated photovoltaics or BIPV (photovoltaic materials that are used to replace conventional building materials in parts of the building envelope such as the roof, skylights, or facades) is being studied.

In addition, JTC Corporation, Singapore’s government agency for the development of industrial land and space, recently launched a pilot programme, known as SolarLand, which aims to use vacant land to install solar panels on an interim basis. In June, JTC awarded Singapore’s first SolarRoof contract that allows for full export of solar energy to the power grid. It is hoped that this new model will encourage more solar installations in Singapore, since building owners will now be able to generate revenue from the use of their roof space, regardless of their own energy demands.

The Housing Development Board (HDB) in Singapore announced that from May 2017, all future public housing blocks in the city-state will be designed with solar-ready roofs, adopting a “plug-and-play” approach to solar panel installation. The initiative will apply to public housing blocks with at least 400 sqm of open roof space, after setting aside space needed for essential services such as water tanks, water pumps and lift rooms. It will enable more productive and efficient installation of solar panels on HDB rooftops. 

Microgrids

Dr. Koh also announced that the that the first research & development microgrid, led by founding members of the Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator Singapore (REIDS), ENGIE and Schneider Electric, is being launched today.

Led by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), REIDS is planned to be the largest hybrid microgrid test and research platform in the tropics. REIDS is strongly supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the National Environment Agency (NEA). The multi-million-dollar microgrid infrastructure is intended to facilitate the development and market penetration of the energy technologies, suited for tropical conditions, to be developed by NTU together with a consortium of world leading corporations, the “REIDS partners”. REIDS and its partners are testing and demonstrating the integration of solar, wind, tidal, diesel, storage as well as waste-to-energy and power-to-gas technologies as well as other production, storage, end-use technologies and solutions.

In addition, REIDS will have three new investors, namely Emerson, EDF and IDSUD, who will partner with NTU to develop three additional research & development microgrids on REIDS. REIDS is also signing agreements with solutions adopters from the region today.

Dr. Koh said, “This rich ecosystem of solutions providers and adopters co-innovating with each other through REIDS augurs well for Singapore’s intent to develop microgrid solutions that can be adopted in Southeast Asia and beyond. Developing Energy Storage technologies in Singapore.”

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

Energy storage 

Energy storage represents another focus area for Singapore. Due to the rapid cost reduction of batteries, energy storage has the potential to be a game-changer. Advances in energy storage can help to better integrate intermittent generation sources such as solar energy into the grid, and drive electric vehicle adoption.  

It was announced that two will invest in energy storage capabilities in Singapore. The first is a S$20 million investment from VDE Renewables, a leading quality assurance provider headquartered in Germany, to set up a major Energy Storage Testing and Certification Lab in Singapore as part of its Global Energy Storage Competence Cluster.

The other investor is Narada, a leading lead-carbon energy storage system provider from China, which will set up a regional Energy Storage Solution Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Singapore.

Yesterday, Ms. Ann had announced that two consortiums led by local Singaporean companies, Red Dot Power and CW Group, have won a joint Request for Proposal (RFP)  from the EMA and SP Group to evaluate the performance of different ESS (Energy storage systems) technologies under Singapore’s hot, humid and highly urbanised operating environment. They will receive about S$17.8 million in grants for the initiative to build this test-bed and together, they will put in place 4.4 megawatt-hour of grid-storage solutions, in two substation locations.

Solar forecasting

Yesterday, Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry had announced at SIEW, that 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.

Smart grids

To efficiently use a variable power source like solar, smart grids would be essential, moving from one way transmission of energy to conveying information to and from all points of interaction.

Solar forecasting and reliable energy storage will be required to integrate solar power into the smart grid. The Singapore government has embarked on efforts to begin Research & Development (R&D) on Grid 2.0. Grid 2.0 refers to the next-generation grid system that will transform how energy is managed by consolidating gas, solar and thermal energy into a single intelligent network that is more efficient, sustainable and resilient. This is part of the the Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan. 

The EMA, the 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.

Regulations

The Singapore government does not provide subsidies such as Feed-in-Tariffs (FiT) to promote renewables. Instead of subsidies, Singapore has taken proactive steps to introduce regulatory enhancements to facilitate the entry of renewable energy when such technologies become commercially viable. This is in addition to the government's support for renewables in the form of funding for Research & Development to develop capabilities within the industry.

The Energy Market Authority (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 EMA is also implementing a 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.

Attracting investments

The government of Singapore wants to ensure that the city remains a choice location for companies to innovate and commercialise technologies. Dr. Koh revealed today that the EDB has recently secured six new investments in clean energy across the fields of solar, smart grids, microgrids, energy storage and digital technologies in Singapore.

These six projects are expected to collectively create about 400 professional jobs and generate S$500 million in cumulative business spending, over the next five years.

China-headquartered Envision, a world leader in energy management solutions, will set up its Global Digital Research & Development Centre, and global headquarters for Internet of Things (IoT) & Smart Cities in Singapore. Envision is the 2nd largest wind turbine company in China and among the top 10 wind turbine companies in the world.

GCL, also a Chinese company, has established its global headquarters in Singapore to serve as the manufacturing control tower for the region, and drive the company’s expansion in solar system integration outside China. GCL is a world-leading photo-voltaic material manufacturer.

Jiangsu Linyang, a smart meter and solar manufacturing company, has set up its regional headquarters in Singapore to undertake sales, Research & Development, and project development.

Talent

In addition to all this, to build up a strong talent pipeline for the power sector and help workers develop the deep skills for future industry needs, EMA has also been actively working with various stakeholders, such as industry, the Union for Power and Gas Employees, and educational institutions, on training courses, scholarships, SkillsFuture Study Awards for the Power Sector, and various outreach programmes.

[1]Watt peak stands for peak power. It specifies the output power achieved by a Solar module under full solar radiation (under set Standard Test Conditions). 

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