Transforming energy through investment, innovation, and integration at the 11th Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW)
More than 13,000 senior government officials, industry captains, and academics gathered at SIEW 2018 to discuss key energy issues under the theme “Transforming Energy: Invest, Innovate, and Integrate”. For the first time, the 36th ASEAN Energy Ministers of Energy Meeting (AMEM) was held together with SIEW as part of Singapore’s Chairmanship of ASEAN. This created new opportunities for high-level discussions on how ASEAN can work together to ensure a more sustainable energy future.
Investments needed to achieve energy resilience and sustainability
Important changes in the energy market are needed to meet rising global demand, said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), in his SIEW Opening Keynote Address. Investment will be crucial, with the power sector in Southeast Asia alone requiring US$1.25 trillion from now to 2040 – this is equivalent to around US$50 billion per year on average, twice the current level.
To set the scene for future investments, H.E. U Win Khaing, Union Minister for Electricity and Energy, Myanmar, said that it is important to build an investor-friendly environment. For Myanmar, this involved rewriting its Company Act to allow foreign organisations to invest more easily in local companies.
During the week, leaders also discussed the challenge of balancing economic growth against the expense of transitioning to more sustainable energy systems. As fossil fuels are still the most affordable energy source for a lot of ASEAN nations, H.E. Dr Arcandra Tahar, Vice Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Indonesia, said that measures must be taken to make clean energy more affordable. As the costs of renewables continue to improve, public-private partnerships and investment frameworks will be central to driving the renewables sector further, said Mr Ditlev Engel, CEO of DNV GL – Energy.
Innovation to transform the energy sector
“We believe that the new generation of technologies and business models will present opportunities for us to overcome, or at least, to substantially reduce the ‘trilemma’ [of affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy],” said Minister Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry.
This will be achievable only by constantly listening, learning, and working together, said Mr John Abbott, Downstream Director of Shell in his SIEW Opening Keynote Address. In the area of transport, which accounts for a quarter of the world’s energy use, the future of mobility will be determined by whether we can work together towards a transport system of many solutions, he noted.
A recurring discussion topic that spanned all areas of energy was digital innovation. Digital technology is expected to continue to play a key role in supporting decarbonisation efforts, building decentralised energy systems, and improving energy efficiency. As energy systems become increasingly decentralised, Mr Wong Kim Yin, Group CEO of SP Group, said that digital technology will allow different equipment and systems to communicate with each other. As energy systems become more integrated, in-depth data analytics can also offer insights into consumption patterns and trends, noted Mr Paul Maguire, CEO of ENGIE Asia Pacific. These insights can then be leveraged to further enhance energy efficiency.
But while digitalisation holds significant promise, it also comes with risks in adaptability, cybersecurity, and data privacy that industry players must prepare for. That said, there are a variety of solutions to counter such concerns available in market now, noted Mr Martin Hauske, Nokia’s Asia Pacific Energy Segment Sales Leader. For instance, he shared that information transmitted through fibre optic cables can now be encrypted and potential cyber-attacks detected in advance.
When considering the adoption of new technologies, the benefits must always be weighed against potential threats, and the real opportunities these can bring to industry growth.
Integration of new energy systems
The adoption and integration of new energy systems will be vital to the region’s energy access goals. SIEW 2018 showcased the commitment of key energy players and government leaders towards regional interconnectivity and the region’s ambitions towards renewable energy. One major step towards future progress is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the ASEAN Ministers and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) – announced and signed at AMEM and SIEW this year. This MOU includes plans on how to scale up renewable energy deployment for the region.
And as the region looks to facilitate greater integration, Ms Marianne Laigneau, Group Senior Executive of EDF, called for energy players to consider new consumer needs, and highlighted the need to design the energy system as a whole. Addressing the region’s energy challenges requires measures such as physical connections and network management.
Enhancing regional energy connectivity and integration will be key to building resilience for Malaysia and the region, said H.E. Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change. Through grid connections with its neighbours, Malaysia plans to mitigate the intermittency of solar power and reduce its reserve margin.
For the Philippines, H.E. Alfonso Cusi, Philippines’s Secretary of Energy, highlighted the country’s deployment of hybrid microgrid systems to bring energy to remote, off-grid areas where connections to main transmission backbones are complex, costly, and time-consuming.
Transforming energy together
As the region works towards a more sustainable and resilient energy future, further collaboration and partnerships will be necessary to address the region’s energy “trilemma”.
Going forward, Singapore will continue to help the region achieve its renewable energy goals, said Dr Koh Poh Koon, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry. As one of the world’s key financial centres, Singapore offers platforms for energy infrastructure developers, financial institutions, and investors to co-create innovative financing solutions for the region, he added.
Likewise, Minister Chan said that “Singapore is an excellent location to serve as a test-bed for new technologies and energy solutions in the region and beyond. One of our key advantages is that we are in the ‘Goldilocks position’ – not too big, so that we can move fast, and not too small, so that we can scale up solutions tested here to other global cities.”
By building an enabling environment for investment, innovation, and integration of new technologies, the industry will be able to meet the growing energy demand and sustainability goals in the region and beyond. The region’s resilient energy future is not impossible, but will require constant dialogue, further regional cooperation and support, and innovative solutions designed with the ASEAN landscape in mind.
The 12th edition of the Singapore International Energy Week will return from 29th October to 1st November 2019. Please visit www.siew.gov.sg for more updates.