SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SOLUTIONS
With the successful conclusion of COP 21 Paris Climate Conference and global initiatives such as RE100, where influential businesses publicly pledge to power 100% of their operations by renewable energy, more governments and companies are stepping up with sustainable energy solutions to address climate change.
The energy utility landscape is also changing profoundly in many regions. Several conventional utility giants are even transforming from their traditional focus on fossil-fuel based power generation to renewable energy and grid solutions for distributed energy.
With the growing penetration of intermittent sources of energy such as solar and wind, there is a greater need to integrate supply-side renewable energy generation and demand-side energy management solutions to ensure a robust smart grid infrastructure. At the same time, microgrid systems are being deployed in offgrid regions with no access to the electrical grid as well as to provide more energy security in a grid-connected community.
This presents global business opportunities in energy management which includes smart grids and energy storage. For instance, data analytics applied in smart grids can effectively manage energy storage systems to enable demand response and peak load shaving.
SINGAPORE’S VIBRANT CLEAN ENERGY SECTOR
As a highly-urbanised city-state with limited natural resources, sustainability is synonymous with Singapore. The city-state is noted for placing sustainability at the core of its government policies over the decades while enabling a growing economy.
Due to the confluence of technological advancement and regulatory changes, Singapore is adopting an integrated approach towards in sustainable energy management across power generation, transmission & distribution and consumption.
For instance, Singapore is ramping up solar PV adoption through initiatives such as SolarNova, a landmark government-led programme that aims to accelerate solar deployment in Singapore by promoting and aggregating solar demand across government agencies.
At the same time, Singapore is developing, testing and deploying solutions to manage the intermittency that solar energy presents to the grid, for instance by smart controls, weather forecasting, energy storage and demand response.
Singapore is also introducing energy management systems and smart meters to help households and businesses lower energy consumption and reduce operational costs.
Since 2007, the number of clean energy companies in Singapore has grown from a negligible base to around 100 companies in 2015.
The city-state is leveraging its position as the leading regional project development and financing hub to support clean energy companies in developing project-financing capabilities.
One key initiative is to attract the renewable energy desks of financial organisations to use Singapore as the springboard to serve Asia. Novel financial instruments such as project bonds and green business trusts, as well as new business models are being developed and implemented from Singapore.
Interesting financial platforms include allowing building owners to seek investors through crowdsourcing for solar projects within and outside Singapore. Given the smaller investment lots, investors can gain exposure to solar energy according to their risk and investment appetite.
To cope with consumers’ increasing demand for clean energy solutions, local utility company PacificLight Energy (PLE) announced a unique partnership with REC, which operates one of the world’s largest integrated solar manufacturing complexes in Singapore. This partnership will give commercial and industrial companies the option to tap on a new hybrid electricity solution, comprising solar energy and natural gas sources.
In November 2015, Apple Singapore announced in that it will power all of its operations in Singapore with solar energy, despite having power requirements that were far more than what photovoltaic systems installed on its own buildings could provide. Apple has become the first company in Singapore to run exclusively on renewable energy, covering their electricity needs for a 2,500-person corporate campus and their new retail store. This was made possible via an Offsite Power-Purchase Agreement (PPA), which allows companies to meet clean energy demands by indirectly consuming clean energy generated at other locations. Apple’s offsite PPA with Sunseap, a local solar provider, will utilise solar energy generated across over 800 buildings in Singapore.
Large companies are not the only ones keen on being powered by the sun. Since January 2016, several Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore such as the Chope Group and Tiger Sky Tower Sentosa that have no rooftops of their own have received solar energy through off-site solar PPAs. The SMEs are among the first in the region to be supplied solar electricity by off-site solar PPAs from solar panels installed at a JTC-SPRING test-bed site in Tuas South. This was executed through Sun Electric’s patented SolarSpace platform that connects property owners to clean energy consumers. Sun Electric plans to build up the capacity to supply more than 100MW of solar-generated electricity each year.
Singapore’s sophisticated supply chain capabilities and extensive linkages to the region make it an efficient base for businesses who wish to serve the Asian Sunbelt, which receives about 50 per cent more radiation than temperate regions such as Japan or Germany.
In addition, with around a billion people currently without access to grid electricity, Singapore-based companies are particularly well placed to develop off-grid clean energy solutions tailored to this large under-served market.
STRONG RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT (R&D) CAPABILITIES
The city-state has made significant investments in research and innovation around sustainability. In 2016, Singapore announced more than S$900 million of new public sector R&D funding for the next five years for Urban Solutions and Sustainability. This funding will strengthen our innovation capacity in areas such as clean energy, smart grids and energy storage.
Singapore offers a sophisticated R&D environment for clean energy today.
Part of the National University of Singapore (NUS), Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) conducts world-class industry-oriented R&D and trains manpower for the solar energy sector. It now has about 160 research staff.
Since its inception in 2008, SERIS has achieved a leadership position within crystalline silicon cells research, in the areas of back-side passivation, PV module testing and pilot-scale production. On system-level solutions, such as intermittency management, SERIS has developed forecasting capabilities for solar irradiance, which could be used to predict PV electricity generation levels, and help to enhance the availability and reliability of solar PV systems in a designated region. With these forecasts, SERIS has further developed software tools to optimise the system performance of solar systems deployed in tropical regions.
SERIS is also the lead technical organisation supporting the large-scale deployment of solar energy in Singapore. SERIS supported and provided technical assistance to multiple government agencies such as Housing and Development Board (HDB), Building and Construction Authority (BCA), and JTC Corporation in their adoption of solar energy. As part of Singapore’s energy technology roadmap, SERIS authored the Solar PV Roadmap that demonstrated significant solar PV potential in Singapore. This finding has greatly supported the government’s efforts in setting suitable national solar deployment targets.
The Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) conducts research in a broad range of energy sectors such as wind, fuel cells, smart grids and green buildings. ERI@N has entered into research collaborations with international companies such as Bosch, BMW, DNV GL, ENGIE and Rolls-Royce.
SINGAPORE AS A “LIVING LAB”
Singapore is positioned as a “Living Lab”, a microcosm of Asia, where companies can develop, test and commercialise cutting-edge urban technologies that address cost and land constraints in a real life setting.
The Singapore government is taking the lead to avail its national urban infrastructure to local and foreign companies. This allows the government to harness the best technologies from the companies and companies benefit from using Singapore as a reference market to develop and sharpen their solutions before scaling up to markets in Asia and the rest of the world.
Examples of Singapore’s current living lab platforms include:
1) NTU EcoCampus
In 2014, ERI@N launched the S$20 million EcoCampus initiative, which aims to transform the NTU and the adjacent CleanTech Park into the greenest campus in the world with ambitious targets to reduce energy, carbon, water, and waste intensity by 35% in 2020 from the 2011 baseline.
The EcoCampus boasts an integrated infrastructure for a systems-level living lab, allowing companies to test and assess their latest technologies at both building and district levels.
The effort will be centred on six key areas: Information Management, Green Buildings, Renewable Energy, Transportation, Waste & Water, and User Behaviour for Energy Efficiency.
Multinational companies such as 3M, Murata, ENGIE, Siemens and local companies such as Joule-Air, Alfa Tech and Green Koncepts are involved in this initiative.
2) Singapore Power living lab platform
In April 2015, a S$30 million Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Energy Development and Piloting was launched by Singapore Power (SP) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).
This initiative will drive innovation and commercialisation of next-generation energy network technologies for greater reliability and efficiency throughout Singapore’s grid infrastructure.
The Centre's first flagship programme, the Singapore Power Energy Advanced Research and Development programme, (SPEAR), will involve SP partnering firms to co-develop and pilot technologies such as grid sensing, data analytics, substation automation, grid communications and smart energy management.
Reflecting the strong interest in the SPEAR programme, Singapore Power attracted 42 proposals. And from these proposals, SP announced in October 2015 that 3M and OMNETRIC Group, which is a joint venture between Siemens and Accenture, will form their first batch of innovation partners under the SPEAR programme.
RENEWABLE ENERGY INTEGRATION DEMONSTRATOR – SINGAPORE (REIDS)
In 2014, Singapore announced the Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator – Singapore (REIDS), Southeast Asia’s first major microgrid testbed. It will provide a platform for researchers and industry to develop, test and demonstrate the integration of solar, wind, tidal-current, diesel, storage and power-to-gas technologies on Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s only landfill located on an offshore island.
Work on the micro-grid will be done in two phases – the first phase will involve the installation of solar panels, energy storage and energy management systems on one microgrid in 2016, while the second phase will involve an expansion with 3 additional interlinked microgrids being set up. This will enable companies to develop control systems to integrate and manage multiple microgrids with varying loads and renewable energy sources.
Since its official launch in 2014, REIDS has garnered significant industry interest and formed partnerships with many leading companies such as Accenture, Alstom, ClassNK, DLRE, ENGIE, REC, Schneider Electric, Sembcorp, Trina Solar, Varta and Vestas. These companies are keen to test technologies that work elsewhere under tropical conditions and develop renewable energy integration and microgrid solutions that can address the rapidly growing microgrid markets in Asia Pacific.
SPURRING SOLAR ADOPTION
In 2014, the Singapore government announced its commitment to have 350 MWp of solar energy by 2020, which is about 5 per cent of the projected 2020 peak electricity demand.
Singapore’s commitment to solar energy is significant given the limited space available for solar panels.
Click here to see the latest figures for solar energy adoption in Singapore.
To support the government’s push to increase solar adoption, EDB launched SolarNova in 2014, a landmark programme that aims to accelerate solar deployment in Singapore through promoting and aggregating solar demand across government agencies. SolarNova utitilises the solar leasing business model where a private sector company will install, own and operate the solar systems and sell the electricity to government agencies through a long-term power purchase agreement.
Under SolarNova, the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the public housing agency in Singapore which manages housing for more than 80% of the city’s population, serves as the government's central procurement agency and conducts solar tenders on behalf of all other government agencies while the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) assists with technical feasibility studies.
This aggregation of governmental demand is advantageous as agencies with smaller rooftop space or a smaller demand for solar energy can benefit from economies of scale and better pricing from these bulk tenders.
SolarNova will also deepen the capabilities of Singapore-based solar enterprises and in turn, spur private sector adoption of solar energy and catalyse new innovation opportunities around smart grid and energy management in Singapore.
By 2020, solar systems will be pervasively installed on the rooftops of about six thousand governmental buildings such as public housing, schools, army camps, security and immigration complexes, and utilities.
FLOATING PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV) SYSTEMS
EDB and PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, are jointly studying innovative ways to deploy solar PV systems on water. This bodes well for Singapore, which has 17 freshwater reservoirs and the potential to deploy hundreds of MW of floating solar PV systems.
To this end, EDB and PUB are now conducting a S$11 million pilot project at Tengeh reservoir, managed by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) which will allow companies to develop, test and evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of installing floating solar PV systems on water. When completed, the Tengeh reservoir test-bed will be the largest floating PV system installed in Southeast Asia and in tropical climate conditions. The success of this project will pave the way for Singapore to conduct mass scale deployment of floating solar PV systems.