New grid system to manage energy use in Singapore

SIAU MING EN Today Online 22 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Research money will be channelled towards the ways Singapore could be using energy in the future, by managing the country’s gas, solar and thermal energy under a smarter energy grid system.

This was revealed after the 10th Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council meeting on Friday (July 21). Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong chaired the meeting to review the progress of the S$19 billion set aside for research, innovation and enterprise between 2016 and 2020.

The money is part of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan announced last year, which had identified four areas of focus: Advanced manufacturing and engineering, health and biomedical sciences, services and digital economy, and urban solutions and sustainability.

The next-generation grid system proposed, known as Grid 2.0, will change the way gas, solar and thermal energy sources are converted into electrical energy, transmitted, stored and used. This system will be more efficient, sustainable and resilient.

Dr Yeoh Lean Weng, director of urban solutions and sustainability research at the National Research Foundation, said that Singapore cannot take its electrical power systems for granted and needs to reduce its carbon emissions to honour the commitments in international agreements.

Under the Paris climate agreement, Singapore has committed to cut carbon emissions per dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent come 2030 — down from 2005 levels — and to stablise emissions.

As part of Grid 2.0, researchers will, for instance, look at using “cold energy” — which comes from converting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its gaseous form — to cool buildings, industry and vehicles.

The use of such cold energy could save Singapore more than S$180 million a year.

LNG is stored at minus 161°C and has to be warmed up by seawater and gasified before it is used in power stations to generate electricity.

Dr Yeoh said that none of this cold energy is used today, and the cold seawater is discharged into the sea. Instead, there can be a system where the extreme cold can be used to produce liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen from air.

Liquid oxygen, for example, can be used to burn natural gas in a special generator, where less natural gas is needed to produce the same amount of electricity.

There are also new opportunities in the district cooling systems. District cooling is the centralised production of chilled water that is piped to buildings for air-conditioning. Another “phase change material” with a higher melting point could be used, instead of the melting point of ice at 0°C. This could result in less energy being used to cool buildings here.

Prime Minister Lee said on Friday he was encouraged that companies are investing more in research, innovation and enterprise activities, and some have set up corporate laboratories as well.

“The 10th (Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council) has given us guidance to consolidate our gains, and sharpen our focus on four growth areas. We still have more to do, but we have made good progress,” he added.

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