Message by DPM Teo Chee Hean at the SERIS 10th Anniversary Celebration

DPM Teo Chee Hean | 5 April 2018

DPM Teo Chee Hean's message at the SERIS 10th Anniversary Celebration on 5 April 2018. 

 

“Building a More Distributed and Low-Carbon Energy System”

 
Professor Tan Eng Chye, President, National University of Singapore, 
Emeritus Professor Joachim Luther, Founding CEO of Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, or “SERIS”
Professor Armin Aberle, CEO of SERIS
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

I am happy to join you at SERIS’ 10th Anniversary celebration. SERIS has played a key role in our cleantech journey. 

Global Shift Towards Renewables 

Our cleantech efforts are part of a broader, global shift towards renewables due to technology advances, lower cost of renewable solutions and coordinated policies by many countries to take serious action to deploy clean energy solutions1 in line with the Paris Agreement. 

Globally, renewables are taking up an increasing share of new energy capacity.2 You would be familiar with these turning points: 

  1. Three years ago (2015), new renewable capacity exceeded that from fossil fuels and nuclear for the first time.3 
  2. This trend has continued. The share of renewables last year grew to more than two-thirds of new capacity. 4 Solar alone was the top contributor for the first time, accounting for more than 40 % of new installed capacity.
  3. Together with efforts to retire older coal plants5, renewables are expected to overtake coal to be the largest global source of electricity by 2030.6

Economic imperatives will drive global adoption. For instance, the levelised cost of electricity for solar photovoltaics, or “PVs”, in the US was US$50 per MWh last year. This is half of that of coal7 and also lower than that of natural gas.8 In the Asia-Pacific, China’s ambitious plans for renewables and complementary energy storage systems are likely to drive costs further down. This will increase demand for cleantech solutions and provide green growth opportunities for companies.

At the same time, many countries are studying how to maintain grid reliability with renewables accounting for an increasing proportion of electricity supply. Several jurisdictions such as Denmark and Germany offer good case studies – they already have days in the year where the supply of electricity from renewables exceed demand.

With careful planning, a more distributed and low-carbon energy system can benefit consumers. Households and businesses can buy electricity plans suited to their needs, just like how we buy mobile and data plans today9. Over time, consumers will also have more options to purchase clean energy and do their part to reduce greenhouse gases.

Building A More Distributed and Low-Carbon Energy System

There are a number of opportunities for such a distributed and low-carbon energy system in Singapore. For us, we do not have many alternative energy options and solar PVs are presently the most technically and economically-viable. Our plans are currently to achieve deployment of 350 MWp by 2020 and increase deployment to 1 GWp beyond 2020. A study by the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore suggested that solar energy can contribute to over 2 GWp by 202510, or about a quarter of our projected peak electricity demand. To help us achieve our plans and go beyond, we need to make concerted efforts in a few key areas.

Addressing Solar Intermittency

First, developing better predictive capabilities for solar irradiance and putting in place supporting grid infrastructure to address intermittency. 

I visited SERIS last year and was briefed on your real-time monitoring of PV systems and meteorological parameters. This partnership with the Energy Market Authority and Meteorological Services can help us better monitor and predict solar irradiance, and develop plans to take the intermittency of renewables such as solar into account.

This year, we will embark on Energy Grid 2.0 under our Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Masterplan. This R&D initiative will develop next-generation grid architectures that can respond quickly, and reliably to changes in energy demand and supply. We have existing microgrids in areas such as Pulau Ubin, Pulau Semakau and building one at the Punggol Digital District. These will also allow us to test-bed technologies that better integrate and manage energy from multiple energy sources, such as renewables, as part of an intelligent network.

Developing Highly-efficient and Cost-effective Solar Technologies

Second, developing highly-efficient and cost-effective solar technologies will enable us to harness more energy in land-scare Singapore. 

Currently, our researchers have developed solar cells that have an efficiency of more than 21%. Our researchers from NUS, NTU and CREATE are working together to raise this to 30% and beyond in the coming decade. This research includes taking the technology into the production phase to make sure that they can be cost-effectively produced. Such advances will boost local deployment and offer Singapore-based cleantech companies a competitive edge globally.

There is also emerging research in solar-to-fuels conversion which can open new frontiers. In November last year, NUS and SERIS scientists developed a prototype that mimics natural photosynthesis to produce ethylene gas. Such solar-to-fuels technologies have the potential to reshape the energy-intensive petrochemical industry by providing new feedstock with substantially lower carbon footprints.

Indeed, Singapore is in a good position to trial cleantech solutions which can be scaled for other cities in the Asia-Pacific, particularly as these cities seek options to tackle their energy and sustainability challenges. Our research initiatives, as well as supporting services have already helped to anchor a new ecosystem of more than 100 clean energy companies in Singapore, over the past decade. Many of you have been with us since the start of our journey and I would like to thank you for your steadfast contributions. Our agencies will continue to work with you, and deepen the skills of our professionals, as we work towards adding another 2000 PMET jobs in the cleantech sector by 2025.

Harnessing Solar Energy in More Innovative and Efficient Ways

Third, harnessing solar energy in more innovative and efficient ways, such as floating PVs on our reservoirs, and moveable solar panels as an interim use of temporarily vacant industrial land.

The current testbed at Tengeh Reservoir is progressing well, and PUB will facilitate the deployment of floating PV solutions to more reservoirs in the next few years. Our agencies will also study to extend this to offshore floating PV applications in our coastal waters. 

In the future, the deployment of solar panels on vertical building surfaces also offers opportunities. We have limited horizontal surface area in Singapore, but we certainly have more vertical surfaces on our buildings to integrate PVs.

Besides increasing the potential areas to deploy PVs, our agencies will continue to work on accelerating solar deployment. 

These efforts include promoting and aggregating demand, and for suitable new HDB flats to be “solar-ready” so that PV installations can be done more quickly and are cheaper to maintain and operate.

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen, SERIS was established a decade ago to build a critical mass of expertise in solar energy. We have made much progress and developed a vibrant cleantech ecosystem.

The good work from our energy research institutes such as SERIS will help to accelerate the deployment of more efficient and cost-effective clean energy solutions. This is an important part of our national plan to reach the national targets that we have set for the Paris Agreement .11

I would like to congratulate SERIS again on your 10th Anniversary and I look forward to many more decades of partnership and successes together. Thank you.


[1] WEF (September 26, 2017).

[2] IEA’s 2017 World Energy Outlook. New fossil fuel capacity was only 70 GW, compared to 160 GW of renewables in 2017.

[3] IEA WEO 2016 (November 16, 2016), p. 407.

[4] BNEF’s 2017 Clean Energy Investment Trends.

[5] The Powering Past Coal Alliance comprising 34 countries, states and cities, have pledged to phase out traditional coal power in their jurisdictions. China, Korea, India are also reviewing whether new coal plants should be built.

[6] IEA WEO 2016, pp. 397, 418. Special Focus on Renewable Energy (New Policies Scenario). By 2030 renewables will generate 11,343 TWh (35%) of electricity [which includes wind 2,837 TWh (9%), solar PV 1,827 TWh (6%), hydropower 5,344 TWh (16%), other renewables 1,335 TWh (4%)] vs. coal 9,880 TWh (30%).

[7] BNEF’s 2017 New Energy Outlook.

[8] Lazard’s 2017 Levelised Cost of Energy Analysis Version 11.0, Nov 2017, pp. 2.

[9] BNEF’s 2015 New Energy Outlook.

[10] SEAS (Jan 20, 2014). A case of sustainability: Accelerating the adoption of renewable energy in Singapore [White paper].

[11] To reduce our Emissions Intensity (EI) by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.