Sunday, November 22, 2009

Singapore launches pilot project for "Intelligent Energy System"

By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Energy Market Authority (EMA) is launching a pilot project aimed at helping households and businesses save more on electricity bills. The initiative comes on the back of higher consumption patterns and more diversified energy sources.

When you switch on the fan or light, chances are you won't know how much electricity you have used or how much you have spent until you get your power bill at the end of the month. That is because of the current design of Singapore's energy grid. The limitation also presents a challenge for power companies.

EMA's chief executive, Lawrence Wong, said: "Most utilities have limited visibility into what happens after electricity has been despatched and so are unable to tell if a power outage has occurred."

The growing use of renewable power like wind and solar will create complications as power source becomes intermittent and variable. To address these challenges, the EMA is rolling out its pilot "Intelligent Energy System" project aimed at developing and testing what it calls smart grid solutions.

It includes deploying "smart meters" to more homes. These are special electricity meters which provide households with real-time information on their electricity usage.

Trials in some 400 households in Marina Parade and West Coast resulted in a reduction in electricity consumption by some 2 per cent. The trials also tested differentiated electricity tariffs. As a result, households shifted about 10 per cent of their electricity load from peak periods to off-peak periods, thus enjoying savings in their electricity bill.

EMA's Mr Wong said: "These findings also have important implications at the system level. If demand can be shifted away from peak periods, power companies would not need to build extra power plants to cope with such high demand requirements. "We would also be able to reduce the spare generation capacity that power companies are required to maintain and thus bring down the overhead costs in our power system."

Having a smarter power grid will also ensure continued reliability in electricity supply, using renewable energy sources, and offer the ability to tap into electric cars as an energy storage system to feed power back to the grid during peak periods.

Mr Wong said that as technology takes off, there will be increasing demand for electricity charging by both plug-in hybrids and full-battery electric vehicles.

10 per cent of the vehicles in Singapore are electric. To power them up, an additional 1.3 terra watt hours of electricity per annum is required. That is equivalent to six times the energy needed to power up a housing estate like Ang Mo Kio.

Mr Wong said: "These vehicles will contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular cars running on fossil fuel.

"The technology for vehicle-to-grid power is still several years away, but we need to start thinking about an intelligent interface to coordinate and facilitate interactions between electric vehicles and the power grid."

The pilot project, which could take up to three years to complete, will be carried out at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and other commercial buildings in the west.

EMA will call a tender to identify and select companies interested in offering smart grid solutions to work on the project.

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