Improving renewable energy is vital to Singapore. The country is in the process of enacting its Green Plan 2030, a sustainability project designed alongside the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which places the eradication of poverty as the ultimate aim. Sembcorp Industries and Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) officially opened Southeast Asia’s largest Energy Storage System (ESS) on Feb. 2, 2023. According to Sembcorp, it is also the fastest ESS of its size to be built and deployed in the world, taking just six months to complete. Aside from contributing to global sustainability, the ESS will also diversify Singapore’s energy sources and drive down energy bills, which many of Singapore’s poor are struggling to pay in a post-pandemic world.
What Is An ESS?
The Energy Storage System (ESS) stores renewable energy in Singapore so that it wouldn’t go to waste. It provides a relatively reliable source of energy from renewable sources when environmental conditions prevent its immediate generation. Typically the energy is stored in batteries, which run on charge and discharge cycles so that eco-friendly energy is released during times of peak electricity demand. Sembcorp’s ESS comprises of more than 800 lithium iron phosphate batteries, which have high energy density, fast response time and high round-trip efficiency, making them perfect for efficient energy storage and release on demand. A central control station controls the charge and discharge times of the hundreds of batteries, responding to peak times of supply and demand in Singapore. This means that eco-friendly energy is powering people’s daily lives, even when renewable energy in Singapore is not being actively generated.
Why Is It So Valuable For Singapore?
Singapore has traditionally found it hard to establish reliable sources of renewable energy due to its tropical climate. Wind speeds are not high enough for wind turbines to operate productively and it lacks a fast-flowing river or sufficient sea space that can be used to generate hydroelectric power. In 2021, nonrenewable sources of energy, namely oil, coal and gas made up 99.6% of the nation’s consumption. Therefore, the Sembcorp ESS represents a major advancement in the search for sustainable renewable energy in Singapore. Even in the face of mostly bad weather year-round, the ESS will ensure that eco-friendly sources of energy are at hand, even if only temporarily.
The Sembcorp ESS has a maximum storage capacity of 285 Megawatt hour (MWh). It claims that it is able to provide one full day’s worth of electricity to 24,000 Housing & Development Board (HDB) households in a single discharge. This equates to around 2% of total HDB households and 1.7% of total households in Singapore. While this number may not seem significant, Singapore’s ESS, Southeast Asia’s largest, is a sign of its commitment to tackling global issues like changing weather patterns and poverty.
How This Helps Singapore’s Poor
Singapore’s efforts to increase the general availability of renewable energy can help to address its low-income population’s struggles to meet the increasing costs of living. Very little is known about Singapore’s poor because the government is yet to implement an official poverty line. MP Janus Lim of the Singapore Workers’ Party brought up this problem in Parliament on April 17 this year, noting the lack of attention given to low-income Singaporeans precisely because of the dearth of information about them. Notably, in bringing the hardships of Singapore’s poor to light, Mr Lim focused on their difficulty to meet increasing necessity costs in a society still recovering from the effects of Covid-19. He stated that inflation “continues to eat away at incomes” and that the lowest-income workers’ expenses have grown nearly five and a half times faster than their salaries.
Rising energy costs worldwide in recent years are at the heart of Singapore’s inflationary problems. As the cost of energy goes up, the costs of production of many items have also increased. Consumers are more often than not forced to bear the burden of these increased costs. In Singapore, this is clearly happening without a proportionate rise in wages at all levels of the economy. Singapore’s ESS may alleviate energy costs in the long term. As renewable energy becomes a larger source of energy consumption in Singapore, the country will begin to decrease its historically complete reliance on oil and gas, much of which it imports. This means that over time, Singapore’s dependence on the global market for oil will go down, leading to stabilized energy costs and costs of living.
Singapore As a Role Model
While Singapore’s ESS is yet to bear statistical fruit, its investment in this significant project will alleviate poverty and improve the country’s sustainability. While energy prices worldwide are finally starting to deflate after the global crises of the late 2010s and early 2020s, they will remain too high for many of the world’s poor. Mr Lim’s comments show this to be true of Singapore, despite it being a country which most outsiders regard as one of the wealthiest in the world.
Improving access to renewable energy may be an expensive solution that may not yield immediate results, however, this is precisely why wealthy trend-setter countries like the U.S. and U.K. should invest more in these projects. By leading a potential global movement to increase worldwide access to and usage of renewable energy, future generations of global citizens will no longer have to worry about price fluctuations when the dominant energy sources of today, non-renewables, become scarce. If anything, Singapore’s success over time is proof that change does not have to come immediately.
– Tiffany Chan
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