Jurong households, businesses to have option of buying power from any retailer from April 2018

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 20 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — About 108,000 households and 9,500 business accounts in Jurong will be the first to have the option of buying electricity from any retailer besides SP Group from April next year, in a soft launch of the liberalisation of the electricity market.

The option will be extended to the rest of Singapore in the second half of 2018, announced the Energy Market Authority (EMA) on Friday (October 20).

To help consumers compare prices across different electricity retailers, EMA will come up with an online platform by the second half of 2018 that shows the various price plans in the market.

Mr Ng Wai Choong, chief executive of EMA, said: “With competition, consumers stand to benefit from competitive pricing, enhanced service standards and innovative packages from electricity retailers.

“Consumers can be assured that the reliability of their electricity supply will not be affected by their choice of retailers, as they continue to receive electricity supply through the national power grid operated by SP Group.”

Households and businesses eligible for April’s soft launch will be notified by the EMA by March next year. These will comprise households and business premises with postal codes starting with 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64, which covers the Boon Lay, Tuas, Pioneer, Jurong East and Jurong West areas.

Jurong was chosen because its demographic is representative of the Singapore population, according to EMA.

It is not compulsory for consumers to switch electricity suppliers, stressed EMA, as they can stay with SP Group to buy electricity at the regulated tariff. Besides this, SP Group is also making wholesale electricity available to consumers, via half-hourly wholesale electricity prices, which could be cheaper depending on the time of day.

Since 2001, the electricity market has been progressively opened up, starting with businesses which could buy electricity from any licensed retailer.

According to EMA, there are 26 licensed electricity retailers but only 18 are active. Electricity retailers that wish to offer services to consumers during the soft launch or full launch would have to pass requirements set by EMA first. The requirements include, for example, the retailer’s operational readiness in terms of IT system, as well as the ability to comply with regulatory requirements to protect the interest of small consumers.

Retailers who meet EMA’s requirements will be notified by early March 2018 and can proceed to participate in the soft launch, said an EMA spokeman.

Electricity retailers Sunseap, Red Dot Power and Sembcorp are already selling plans to enterprise customers, and are intending to participate in the soft launch in Jurong.

Sunseap and Red Dot Power said their customers have seen about 20 per cent cost savings as compared to their bills with SP.

One of them is Chi-x, which operates three data centres here. The company’s chief executive officer Lim Hong Zhuang said the company’s electricity bill has been halved since it switched to Sunseap in 2016.

“I was enticed to switch because of the cost savings, and also because I wanted to try out renewable energy,” said Mr Lim, whose data centres’ power consumption hits an average of 120,000 kilowatt hours every month.

“The switchover was also quite seamless. Someone came over to change our power meter and that was it.

“I signed a two-year contract, but I will stay with Sunseap unless some other provider — or even SP — offers a more attractive price plan.”

Sembcorp said it is looking to “roll out a number of targeted pricing plans to suit different consumers with different needs”.

This will include a plan with a fixed percentage discount off SP’s tariffs, a monthly fixed rate plan, as well as flexible “Peak & Off Peak” plans with lower electricity prices during off-peak timings, it said.

Sunseap told TODAY it is looking at various plans too — including one with a clean energy component.

Its spokesman added: “We are planning to launch a variety of plans that are customised to the customers’ needs. Among the aforementioned plans are our fixed price plans and discount off tariff plans.

“We will also be offering plans with a clean energy component for customers who would like to do their part for the environment.”