Asean power grid – option for S’pore to source green energy, Environment News & Top Stories


Clean or renewable energy usually tops the list of changes the world can make to prevent the effects of climate change from worsening.

This is because renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power do not emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

In Singapore, electricity generation still accounts for 40% of total emissions. But, to halve its peak emissions by 2050, Singapore will start importing electricity from Malaysia by the end of this year.

For starters, it will import 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which would only cover 1.5% of Singapore’s peak electricity demand.

The two-year trial to import electricity from Malaysia marks the start of what could possibly be an important part of Singapore’s energy mix – clean energy drawn from a regional electricity grid.

To diversify and green its energy supply, Singapore wants to reduce its dependence on natural gas – 95% of its electricity is currently produced from this fossil fuel – and operate three other “switches”: solar energy, emerging low-energy technologies. carbon emissions like hydrogen, and finally, a regional electricity grid.

Singapore’s attempt to import electricity and its decision to finally engage in cross-border trade under the Lao RDP-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Electricity Integration Project (LTMS-PIP) – both announced at the end of last year – also give new impetus to long-standing plans. for an Asean electricity grid, first designed more than two decades ago.

Second Minister of Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said of the two-year trial in a parliamentary speech in March: “It will also allow us to harness the abundance of hydropower and other energies. renewables available to some of our neighbors in Southeast Asia. . “

“But these are only the first steps towards a regional network,” added Mr. Tan.

These trials are intended to help Singapore refine the regulatory and technical frameworks for larger scale commercial imports from the region.

How can an Asean electricity grid help?

The benefits of collaboration between Asean electricity markets, which work towards greater economic integration, are clear.

The International Energy Agency’s 2019 report on Multilateral Electricity Trade in Asean, said: “The integration of the regional electricity system can improve electricity security, improve the affordability of electricity. and intensify the deployment of the region’s abundant renewable energy resources.

As energy demand increases in the region thanks to rapid urbanization and industrialization, Asean has now set itself the goal of meeting 23% of its energy needs from sustainable and renewable sources here. 2025.

Things move fast. According to the update from the Asean Center of Energy this month, 82% of the 22 gigawatts (GW) of electrical capacity added to the Asean last year was renewable. And the most significant among the new additions have been increases in solar capacity in Vietnam and hydropower capacity in Laos.

Eric Lim, UOB’s sustainability director, said that increased cross-border electricity integration and trade can be an energy solution that is both “economically viable and environmentally friendly”.

Explaining his point, he said: “Electricity interconnection will also help open up new markets for resource-rich countries and provide countries with high electricity demands with greater and more affordable access to clean energy.

A regional power grid would also allow governments to save the cost of building new generation facilities and reduce the need for storage and other services, he adds.

But progress on the Asean power grid has been slow, especially compared to progress in other regional power grids such as the one in the Nordic countries – first mentioned around the same time and which are now well established.

Speaking about the slow progress of the Asean power grid, the head of the energy security division of the Institute for Energy Studies at the National University of Singapore, Philip Andrews-Speed, said: “The one of the main political obstacles has been the apparent preference of ASEAN member states. for autonomy in power supply.

But that is slowly changing, says Dr Andrews-Speed, who is also a senior principal investigator at the institute.

New momentum for Singapore to eye the region

When LTMS-PIP launched in 2018, Singapore was not one of them. It all started with 100 MW of electricity coming from Laos to Malaysia, via Thailand, and last year the amount exported increased to 300 MW.

Thus, the decision of Singapore last October to initiate cross-border exchanges within the framework of the LTMS-PIP and to import up to 100 MW from Laos is significant. Dr Andrews-Speed ​​said the urgency of the energy transition has given Singapore the impetus to join the cross-border electricity trade.

For years, commercial considerations took precedence over cross-border LTMS-PIP electricity trading. Singapore’s excess generation capacity meant that additional electricity supplies were not needed and may have driven prices down to an uneconomic level for local power generation companies.

But now Singapore must prepare for growing demand. Over the next 10 years, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) predicts that the system’s annual demand will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 2.5 to 3.1 percent.

For the next test with Malaysia, the EMA asked importers to submit documentary evidence of carbon production to verify the cleanliness of the imported electricity.

Yet, according to Dr Andrews-Speed, it may be another five to ten years before this energy “switch” supplies a significant portion of Singapore’s needs, even if all goes well.

Infrastructure, key to financing the electricity network

After Singapore’s test electricity imports from Malaysia, what happens next? Strengthening infrastructure is the first step, says Dr Andrews-Speed.

“For Singapore to receive substantial electricity imports, the capacity of the Malaysian grid connection will have to be significantly increased and connections with Indonesia, for example Batam, will be needed if Singaporean companies build solar PV plants there.

“At a later date, we expect a connection with Australia,” he adds.

Solar energy infrastructure company Sun Cable, which is building the world’s largest solar farm in Australia’s Northern Territory, hopes to export electricity from Australia to Singapore via a 3-hour submarine cable. 500 km.

Following the electricity import trial, Dr Andrews-Speed ​​expects more Singaporean companies and others to build solar capacity in Malaysia to power this line.

What is most needed to spur progress on Asean’s power grid, he says, is government support for private companies with innovative ideas.

Local financial institutions are also expanding their financing of sustainable energy projects – through the issuance of green bonds and more.

Speaking on the role of UOB, Mr Lim said: “Beyond sustainable financing, we also aim to direct more investment towards renewable energy projects and to source operational energy from renewable sources in the region to support the energy transition of Asean.

This is the ninth in a 15-part series in conjunction with

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