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Thursday, November 15, 2007

New energy policy will let S'poreans choose electricity providers

IN the not-too-distant future, households in Singapore will be able to choose their electricity supplier in the same the way they now pick their mobile phone service providers.

Those who travel to work will be encouraged to ditch their wheels and commute by trains and buses, and those who drive are likely to use more fuel-efficient and 'green' vehicles.

These are but a few of the policy initiatives outlined in the Government's national energy policy framework, announced on Monday by Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang.

As policymakers worldwide grapple with soaring oil prices and climate change, Singapore laid out its own take on tackling energy-related issues, from where its future energy supplies will come from, to who can best serve the electricity market and how the thirst for clean energy can create jobs here.

This is the first time Singapore has unveiled a holistic energy policy blueprint, spanning the economic development, energy security and environmental sustainability.

In a sweeping National Energy Policy Report (available at, the Government unveiled six key strategies an inter-ministry group called the Energy Policy Group will focus on.
Firstly, Singapore will further liberalise its domestic electricity market by opening it up to competing private sector players.

The Government will 'promote competitive energy markets to improve efficiency, encourage innovation and drive down prices', said the report.

An electricity vending system (EVS) is being piloted in selected homes and will end in mid-2009. If it is successful, 1.2 million small retail users, including homes, will be able to shop for their power supply among competing companies and price plans.

Secondly, Singapore plans to diverisfy its energy sources. About 76 per cent of its electricity is generated from piped gas from Indonesia.

Mr Lim said: 'A more diversified energy system will help protect us against supply disruptions, price increases and other threats to energy security.'

The private sector is best-placed to decide on which technologies and fuels are use, rather than a top-down fuel mix prescribed by the Government, according to the report.

The third strategy is for Singapore to up its energy efficiency, that is, to do more with less energy. Policies include encouraging public transport usage and 'green' buildings.

Commenting on high oil prices, Mr Lim told reporters that, as Singapore is a price-taker, 'there is very little that we can do to affect worldwide demand or supply. But what Singapore can do is to work harder at energy efficiency and consumption'.

Fourthly, Singapore plans to tap onto growing demand for refined oil products and renewable energy to develop its economy - with the aim of generating $34 billion in annual economic activity and 15,300 jobs from the energy industry by 2015.

The fifth and sixth strategies are to step up international cooperation and to take a whole-of-Government approach to energy issues.

The Energy Policy Group is chaired by Peter Ong, Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry, and made up of officials from agencies such as the Economic Development Board and the Energy Market Authority.

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