Regional Renewables Investment Key to Singapore’s Energy Future

Singapore has the opportunity to more than halve its power sector emissions and accelerate its net-zero goals by investing in regional grid interconnection to integrate renewable imports, according to a new report by global energy think tank Ember.

As a city-state constrained with limited renewable potential, Singapore’s most viable renewable potential is solar power. But even maximising this potential will generate less than a fifth of the 82 TWh total electricity demand projected for 2035. 

The government sees the majority of electricity coming through investments in renewable generation in neighbouring countries, with projects already in agreements to bring power from Indonesia, Viet Nam and Cambodia.

Ember’s analysis shows that doubling the scale of the planned developments out to 2035 would put Singapore on track to delivering its climate targets, as well as reducing dependence on gas imports with the attendant price volatility.

Along with energy imports, renewables will reach 40% of Singapore’s power in 2035, up from just 4% today under the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

This includes the generation of domestic solar that will grow fivefold from  1 TWh in 2023 to 5.1 TWh in 2035, meeting about 6% of electricity demand under current plans. However, fossil gas will still fuel the rest of power, hindering Singapore’s decarbonisation plans and missing the opportunity to decouple economic growth from emissions.

With a projected annual electricity demand growth of 3%, Singapore’s gas imports and carbon emissions could potentially continue rising, with plans for gas use risking further fossil lock-in. Instead, Singapore has the opportunity to ramp up its renewable ambitions to align with the milestones set by the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s net-zero emissions (NZE) scenario.

Under this trajectory, Singapore’s domestic solar would still meet 6% of power with renewable imports ramping up to account for 61%–pushing fossil gas down to less than a third of electricity.

By being on track to net-zero power by 2045 and doubling renewable import capacity from around 4.2 GW to 8.1 GW in 2035, Singapore can more than halve its per-capita power sector emissions. 

Energy-Secure ASEAN

The city-state also stands to benefit from cheaper energy costs by setting a more ambitious renewable import policy (13.5 USD cents/kWh for imported solar from Indonesia vs. an average of 19.4 USD cents/kWh for domestic electricity production).

Therefore, Singapore could leverage its financial muscle to tap into its neighbours renewable potential. Ember estimates an investment of US$51-100 billion to build, operate and generate about 50 TWh of solar and wind power plants in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries by 2035.

Currently, the energy integration in Southeast Asia remains at a nascent stage, and needs to be developed at a faster pace. Being mindful of the high costs associated with developing energy infrastructure, with an estimated US$200 billion USD needed to upgrade Southeast Asia’s grid infrastructure by 2030, Singapore is well-placed to spearhead the necessary regional collective effort. 

All in all, grid interconnections allow renewable energy resources to be distributed evenly, spreading the economic and security benefits of energy access at the regional level. But most importantly, it will also secure Singapore’s access to energy against future uncertainties.

“Singapore’s energy transition hinges on how fast its Southeast Asian neighbours adopt clean power. By leveraging the country’s financial and research strength, Singapore can secure its clean energy future through regional cooperation in renewable power projects and grid infrastructures,” said Dr Yao Lixia Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore.

Dr Dinita Setyawati Senior Southeast Asia Electricity Policy Analyst at Ember added: “Singapore could pick up the baton for Southeast Asia’s energy transition. By investing in power system connectivity and procuring clean electricity from its neighbours, the country will promote clean energy and facilitate multilateral power trade, allowing renewables resource-sharing for a more energy-secure ASEAN.”