The Open Electricity Market Arrives In Singapore

Singapore

For the past two months in Singapore, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) has opened the retail electricity market providing consumers more choices to manage their energy cost. Certain households in the area of Jurong, which has been chosen for this soft launch, can now buy from one of 14 retailers at attractive pricing plans. They also have the choice of continuing to buy from Singapore Power(SP) Group,(owned by Temasek Holdings, a state-owned holding company) at the regulated tariff.

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, S Iswaran, told the country’s national newspaper(The Straits Times) that ‘this move intends to give consumers more flexibility in choosing a retailer and a package that suits their needs, which will bring benefits and lead to greater energy efficiency’.

The Open Electricity Market (OEM) will be available to all consumers in the 4th quarter of this year. The EMA has reassured consumers that ‘their electricity supply will remain reliable regardless of who they buy Electricity from’. Electricity is distributed through the National Grid, which is managed by the SP Group. However, retailers will be competing with one another to get the consumer to sign up for one of their enticing plans. I was told by a source in the industry (who wishes to remain anonymous) that ‘there could be up to 30 retailers by the end of the year’.

One of the retailers trying to introduce its plans to customers is PacificLight, a power generator and electricity retailer based in Singapore. Liquefied gas is used as its primary fuel.

I was invited on a tour of their $1.2 billion Power Generation Facility located on Jurong Island,which is an industrial area in South-West Singapore. The island itself is managed by JTC Corporation, a state owned real estate company. Security on this island was tightened in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11,2001 in America. Security measures included the construction of a checkpoint at the causeway to Jurong Island. Similar to a border crossing, identification is checked and bags are put through screening machines. Passes are issued by the companies on Jurong Island and approved by JTC. A visitor application must be submitted by the sponsoring company at least 5 days prior to the visit. The application requires that all visitors list their religion on the form.

We are met by PacificLight’s Deputy General Manager of Maintenance, Mr Kwok Kok Chan. He has been in the energy industry for over 37 years, 5 of those with Pacific Light. He shows the group to a seminar room inside their two storey building. PacificLight was the first company in Singapore to promote solar power and even has solar panels on it’s building rooftop. Mr Kwok gives a lecture on electricity and how it is made and then supplied to consumers. A video is played to advertise Jurong Island and it’s facilities. Mr Kwok proudly informs us of the clear blue sky in Singapore due to power plants not burning coal. He continues his talk about different fuels used in different countries and mentions that nuclear power cannot be ruled out here in Singapore. However, the government has not discussed the possibility of a nuclear power plant since the accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011.

Our group continues with Mr Kwok on a tour of the plant.
The power plant operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The company has a total staff number of 130, but on Sundays and Public Holidays only Six work. The six are divided into two shifts with a working period of 12 hours.Their duties involve monitoring all of the operations of the plant and that everything is working correctly

Wikipedia has the following description of PacificLight on its website.

‘The 800MW Power Generation Facility consists of two 400MW units, each compromising a Siemens SGT5-4000F combustion turbine and a Siemens steam turbine mounted on a single shaft, which operates in a combined cycle arrangement. The Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plant is considered one of the most efficient power plants in Singapore. It is also the first to be completely fuelled by Liquefied Natural Gas’.

The company takes its public image very serious. I am told that it is important for them to have a good working relationship with JTC. PacificLight has a small team that helps to promote its image. According to the PacificLight company website, the company ‘actively supports various charities and welfare organizations through volunteering and donations’. They believe in ‘initiatives that promote education, environmental conservation and resource preservation to make Singapore a better place for future generations’.The company works closely with local groups and government bodies. ‘It aims to raise awareness on topics pertaining to environmental conservation and resource preservation’.

With a strong advocate of environmental conservation and resource preservation, would this help to promote its name and pricing plans to potential customers? Only time will tell. However, they have already had 3000 households register with them in the soft launch phase.

Will image be a factor when considering the retailer or will it come down to dollars and cents?