No time to lose for Singapore’s journey to net zero emission

Singapore has a comprehensive strategy for the power sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 while enhancing energy security and ensuring sustainability.  The country is also well-placed to act as a catalyst for change to push the region on the path to decarbonization.  However, time is of the essence.

“Our latest outlooks shows that the world is in for a rapid transition…(however) that will not be … fast enough to reach the goals and emissions of the Paris Agreement.  In fact, our forecast indicates we are heading for a global warming of 2.3 degrees compared to temperatures pre-industrial level,” said Remi Eriksen, group president and CEO of DNV, at the Singapore Energy Transition Conference on June 23.

“There is huge amount of work to shift the curve of 2.3 degrees Celsius to 1.5.  It’s a huge gap and we need to do it in 30 years.

“One of our key findings in our pathways to net zero reports is that high income countries have to go below zero a lot sooner than 2050 for the world to get to net zero as a whole. For example, Europe and United States will have to reach net zero by 2040 not 2050, and then go negative after that, meaning taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere than what you are putting into the atmosphere.

“By contrast, Africa’s region (reaches) net zero only at the very end of the century or even beyond. There are different lifting capacities in this net zero pathway that we are looking at.

“East Asia as a region is in between this, it makes major strides to decarbonize by mid-century but is only on track to fully eliminate emissions a couple of decades later.

“As a high-income country, Singapore will have to be a catalyst for change in this region and it is encouraging to see the commitment given by Minster Wong at United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) last year to reach net zero at around 2050.”

Decarbonizing Singapore’s energy sector

“Singapore needs to be more ambitious about our energy going forward” said Jonathan Goh, director of external relations at Energy Market Authority at the Conference. “Decarbonizing Singapore’s energy sector is the key to greening Singapore’s economy.”

“A recently released report by the Singapore’s Energy 2050 committee identified three key strategies that would enable Singapore to be well positioned for the transition. Singapore must decarbonize its energy supply mix, enhance digitalization of its power grid with advanced control systems to manage demand growth, upgrade infrastructure and technology to improve grid flexibility to demand changes.

“Under the energy reset pillar of Singapore’s green plan 2030, we plan to diversify our energy supply to achieve our vision of a clean and efficient energy future. We will continue to invest new efforts to cultivating electricity imports, hydrogen, solar and energy storage systems while keep our options open to leveraging new low carbon alternatives (such as geothermal, nuclear and carbon capture systems) in international carbon markets. 

“We aim to facilitate the development of renewable energy sources in the region through regional power grids (such as) the ASEAN power grid. This will bring about greater connectivity between countries in the region and provide greater resilience and stability for all parties involved.

“We are starting emerging low carbon solutions such as hydrogen and ensuring longer term options to reduce Singapore’s carbon emissions (as well as) decarbonize sectors such as power industry, maritime, aviation and transport.”

According to the report, solar power remains the most viable renewable energy source.  “Solar power potential needs to maximise” said Goh.  “There needs to be updates on the technologies, innovative deployments and enhancement of energy storage systems to manage the intermittency of solar power.”

Singapore will also need to enhance sophistication of the grid network to introduce flexibility and manage the fluctuating supply and demand of energy. The implementation of a multi-layered grid will provide building and infrastructure that can support the deployment and optimisation of distributed energy resource. 

Another key feature of the grid network strategy is the digitalization of the network to enhance planning and operation.  Examples include the use of improved sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital twins to predict failures and enable targeted renewal of grid infrastructure, allowing Singapore to lower cost for consumers even as energy demand increases.

Another pillar of the Green Plan is demand. Singapore will ensure that the energy demand is sufficiently regulated especially during times of tight market conditions. There needs to be a paradigm shift from one that assumes that demand is king to one that advocates flexibility and responsiveness to changing demand.

To do so, Singapore has launched demand side management schemes such as the demand response and interruptible load programs. The compensations will enable consumers to change their energy consumption patterns.

However, there are still some critical uncertainties as Singapore navigates its energy future to 2050.  The first uncertainty is the advancements in technology in various low carbon energy solutions that could result in a more efficient systems and reduce cost for implementation. This is followed by uncertainty in pace and form of digitalization of the power sector as well as the level of cooperation of global actors in the realm of power and carbon trading.

The report concluded that through the adoption of these strategies, Singapore can position as the front runner in the technological front and become a living laboratory for innovation in the energy sector.

Photo credit: iStock/Mosaymay

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