Singapore opts for cleaner energy sources

Singapore opts for cleaner energy sources
Mr Nur Azha Putra of NUS says the increasing use of natural gas bodes well for Singapore.
PHOTO: AMP

Singapore is weaning itself off petroleum products.

In the past decade, the Republic has adopted cleaner energy sources to fuel electricity demand, moving away from petroleum products such as diesel and fuel oil to the more environmentally-friendly fossil fuel alternative: natural gas.

Natural gas now makes up 95.5 per cent of Singapore's fuel mix, up from 74.4 per cent in 2005, according to the latest statistics from the Energy Market Authority (EMA).

Petroleum products' share this year has been whittled to 0.7 per cent, down from 23.1 per cent in 2005. This will put Singapore in a better position to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, experts say.

"The increasing use of natural gas bodes well for Singapore, given its United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commitment to reduce carbon emissions," said Mr Nur Azha Putra, research associate at National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute.

Natural gas emits about 35 per cent less carbon dioxide than the petroleum-based oil that Singapore was using, and it does not emit polluting particulates and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, said Mr Joe Eades, the deputy chairman of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore chemical and process engineering technical committee.

Singapore has pledged that its greenhouse gas emissions will peak around 2030 at the equivalent of about 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, even if the economy continues to grow.

It will also be greener economically - reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product by more than a third.

The targets were submitted earlier this month to the UNFCCC, which sets a framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle climate change.

Internationally, countries are trying to diversify. China, for instance, is striving to cut the share of petroleum products and coal in its fuel mix, noted Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute.

Coal and petroleum products constituted 90 per cent of China's fuel mix in 2003, but this was reduced to 80 per cent in 2010 and is expected to drop to 72 per cent by 2020, he said.

Singapore opted early to switch and power the country with natural gas. Said Professor Subodh: "This way, Singaporeans can enjoy clean and healthy air even as the economy develops and meets the needs of a growing population."

Singapore's new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Jurong Island, which started operating in 2013, will ensure the Republic can import gas from more countries so that it remains energy secure.

Mr Nur Azha said: "With the completion of the liquefied natural gas terminal, Singapore will be able to diversify its energy supply portfolio and be less reliant on piped natural gas imports from Indonesia and Malaysia."

The latest EMA figures also show that other energy sources - such as solar power and converting waste into energy - are contributing more to Singapore's fuel mix, although they still make up only a small portion of the mix - 3.7 per cent this year, up from 2.4 per cent in 2005.

But experts and industry players are hopeful that this figure will increase, largely due to the SolarNova initiative that encourages government agencies to come together to use solar power.

Mr Eades said SolarNova could meet about 5 per cent of Singapore's energy demand by 2020.

This could complement other forms of renewable energy, such as generating electricity through waste incineration, said Mr Christophe Inglin, vice-chairman of the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore and managing director of solar firm Phoenix Solar.

Singapore has already harvested the low-hanging fruits - replacing almost all its oil-fired electricity generation with gas-fired generation, he pointed out.

"Nuclear plants are too controversial, so that leaves renewable energy sources like biogas, waste incineration and solar photovoltaic as main options for reducing our carbon footprint," he said.


This article was first published on July 21, 2015.
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