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Digitalisation to transform the energy supply chain

“Digitalisation is the key to new architectures of interconnected energy systems. It is an area of immense potential for innovation and efficiency gains, and it is changing how we look at the different dimensions of our energy story – from production, management to consumption,” said Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Chan Chun Sing.

Minister Chan was speaking at the 2nd Singapore-International Energy Agency Forum. Since it ascended in 2016, Singapore is one of the seven members in the International Energy Agency (IAE) Association Countries. The Singapore-IEA Forum in one of the key initiatives under the Association. Outcomes of the platform are to create a space where global energy leaders discuss the future of energy systems and markets. This is the second year the Forum is organised.

Digitalisation and its impact on the energy sector is the theme of this year’s Forum. The Minister recognised the immense potential for innovation and efficiency gains through digitalisation. Breakthroughs in technology changes the way different dimensions of energy such as production, management and consumption, are understood.

Paired with data analytics, digitalisation provides new solutions to reduce power system costs. These might include predictive technologies help to improve the functionalities of plants and networks, remote monitoring of equipment and improvements to project design.

The Minister listed four ways how digitalisation reduces costs:

First, operations and maintenance costs are lowered.

Second, power plant and network efficiency are improved.

Third, unplanned outages and downtime can be reduced.

Fourth, the operational lifetime of assets can be prolonged.

Additionally, there will be greater efficiency in energy production and an enhancement to the reliability of energy supply.

Citing the IEA Digitalisation and Energy Report 2017, the Minister said digitalisation in the power sector can save an estimate of USD 80 billion annually, or 5% of global power generation costs annually.

Within ASEAN, there is a growing demand for energy as the region’s population burgeons by another two-thirds by 2040. ASEAN is looking for ways in which digitalisation and new technologies can optimise the production of energy from distributed or intermittent renewable energy sources. Efforts are being diverted toward enhancing affordable energy access for smaller, off-grid communities in ASEAN whose geography is archipelagic. Remote monitoring of equipment and reducing maintenance costs are necessary in this process.

Within its own capacity, Singapore has channelled more efforts toward demand response for energy production. Demand response can better manage energy consumption. Singapore is currently studying the implications of using advanced meters nationwide to allow customers to monitor and understand their usage patterns on a daily basis, and improve energy savings by altering consumption behaviour. Advanced meters will also facilitate the use of data-enabled energy management systems to ease peaks and falls in demand daily, and reduce the wastage of energy at a systems level.

More money is being pumped into R&D to grease the wheels of digitalisation in the power system. One area is the development of predictive maintenance and real-time condition monitoring of Singapore’s underground electricity and gas network using sensors. Data analytics is also being employed to optimise the performance and efficiency of power plants. Collectively, this raising the reliability of Singapore’s grids.

Singapore hopes to become a choice destination for collaborations and test-bedding of new energy solutions and innovations, said Minister Chan. The policies will support the country’s energy stakeholders to retain their position in the forefront of technological developments. The Minister said, “This will ensure that we are well-positioned to build the energy systems of the future – not just for ourselves but also for the region.”

Strengthen cooperation with the IEA will be expected. In June this year, Singapore and IEA co-hosted the first ASEAN-IEA Digitalisation and Energy Workshop in Singapore. Going forward, more international partnerships will be forged to share best practices and enhance Singapore’s capabilities with the main purpose of meeting growing energy needs.

Ending off, the Minister said, “We must remember that digitalisation will fundamentally change not just the way we produce, manage and consume energy. Digitalisation will also offer new business opportunities because there will be new business models and new financing needs. To this end, Singapore believes that we can play a positive role, not just in the diffusion, adoption of technology but similarly, we believe that we can play an important role in how we come up with new business models to meet the new financing needs of our energy players and those in the region.”

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