Category Archives: Blog Posts

The Open Electricity Market Arrives In 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?

Fake Identification Cards For Sale In Bangkok



On a wet Sunday afternoon in Bangkok waiting for the rain to stop, I take shelter in the doorway of a small shopping arcade on the Khao San Road waiting for my wife to finish her shopping.

This was once an area described as a paradise for backpackers with cheap hotels and shops. The area is now popular with a diverse group of tourists, who are interested in browsing the market stalls looking for trinkets and souvenirs to buy. It is not uncommon to see vendors from the stalls and shops touting for business. I see one tout trying to sell grilled scorpions!

I overhear a tout talking to two middle aged Australian men to see if they were interested in buying fake identification cards. The Australians are interested and are asked to follow the tout to his office. I still have ample time to meet my wife, so I ask the tout if I could also take a look. The tout is more than happy to have another potential customer tag along.

We follow the tout along a dark narrow alley at the back of the Khao San Road. The alley eventually leads to a building that looks like a hostel. Middle-aged women are cleaning empty rooms and doing the laundry.

We are brought into a dimly lit room, which could be a storage room, with cardboard boxes everywhere. The heat is unbearable and we start to perspire. The sound of raindrops on the corrugated roofing is all we can hear inside this windowless room. The door is left open to give a little air.

The tout looks at us and gives a warm smile knowing that we all seem apprehensive. He then takes out an album from of one of the boxes in the room. The album has pages of various documents of university degrees, driving licences from every continent, and pages and pages of identification cards. One of the Australians is keen on buying a Victoria State driving licence, but decides not to after noticing that it looks very different from the real licence. Instead, he decides on an Interpol(International Criminal Police Organization) identification card. He negotiates the price down to 1000 Baht(about 23 British Pounds). He writes his full name, date of birth and identification number onto a torn piece of paper. The tout takes the newly appointed Interpol Officer’s photograph with a piece of blue cardboard as the background. He is to return 2 hours later to receive his new identity. The tout then looks over towards the other Australian and me, asking if we were interested in any of the products. We both decline and explain to the him that we are just browsing. He doesn’t continue his sales pitch any longer and is quite content with the transaction he has just made with the other customer. We are then guided back along the narrow alley to the main road of Khao San.

I wish the Australians good luck, and arrive back in time to meet my wife. Later on in the day, the two Australians spot me at the taxi stand. They are thrilled to show me the Interpol identification card. It looks genuine at a glance with it’s logo and official title printed on a PVC card. At a closer look, you can see the poor ink quality and misspelt words. However, the Australian seems happy with his new identification and makes a few jokes about hunting down criminals in his new role as an Interpol Officer. They walk away looking for suspects on the Interpol list, or perhaps just to get another cold beer.

Adults In Japan Are To Become Younger

Young Adults in Japan

Young Adults in Japan

The Japanese Government has made a bill lowering the official adult age from 20 to 18, which will take effect in 2022.

The Japanese Community in Singapore has mixed feelings of the new policy. Some feel that this is merely for financial purposes in order for younger adults to contribute towards pension and healthcare payments. The government has in fact made it clear that the new policy is an effort to bring about social and economic change in Japan.

The new law will allow 18 year olds to marry without parent consent, apply for a credit card, apply for a loan, and even able to apply to the courts to change their gender. Some Japanese residents that I spoke to felt that it was far too young to allow 18 year olds to marry or to change their gender. Others felt that many younger Japanese were not interested in getting married and starting a family but were more concerned on finances.

In 2015, the legal voting age was lowered from 20 to 18. The Japanese Government is trying very hard to encourage Japanese young adults to be aware of their responsibility as adults. Is it only for social and economic reasons, or is there another reason behind all these changes in a country that is considered conservative?

Keiko Yonaha, a researcher at Meio University in Okinawa, Japan recently told CNN that “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to revise the peace constitution, but to do that he needs a majority ‘yes’ in a referendum.” The peace consitution currently states that Japan renounces war and will not maintain air, land or sea forces for non-defensive purposes.

However, the concern on many young Japanese minds is what would happen to the Coming of Age celebration held every January to commemorate those turning 20. Would the celebration change to another month in order not to coincide with university entrance exams for 18 year olds? The Coming of Age celebration is a day when young adults are invited by their local government to attend an event to mark their adulthood as 20 year olds. On that day, many young adults celebrate by wearing the traditional Japanese attire, the Kimino.

Whatever the reason is for these new changes, one thing has been decided not to change. Smoking, Drinking alcohol, and gambling will not be permitted for those under the age of 20.

In the meantime, the Japanese still have the choice until 2022 to celebrate becoming an adult with a glass of Japanese Sake.

Peace On The Korean Peninsula

Korean Peninsula

Korean Peninsula

President Trump, the voice of the Free World, and Chairman Kim, leader of one of the few surviving communist states in the world met one another for the first time on 12 June at 0900.

The excitement and anxiety leading up to this meeting finally reached its climax .The two leaders met on the tropical island of Sentosa in Singapore, surrounded by a beautiful environment at an elegant hotel. It was the perfect setting for the summit . Whilst visitors and residents may have been slightly inconvenienced with tight security measures and road closures,  Singapore welcomed the delegations with open arms. Singaporeans felt they were doing their part in contributing towards World Peace.

Inside the Capella hotel with its scenic backdrop, the two leaders met with warm smiles and gestures for the world media. It was the moment the world was waiting for, the handshake between the two. Regardless of their personal feelings for one another, both emerged on the world stage with warmth and friendliness with a willingness to attain peace.

A few hours later, President Trump and Chairman Kim signed a joint statement of the agreed points from their meeting. Complimenting one another, these two former opponents seemed at ease and cheerful with the outcome. One of the main points agreed was that North Korea was committed to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It was a statement of hope for a new era. 

It remains to be seen if the agreed promises will follow through. Meanwhile, President Trump returned to Washington, and Chairman Kim returned to Pyongyang. Both sides praising the outcome from the summit, with cautious hope from the international community at large.

Singapore will be remembered for this historical meeting as the gracious host that welcomed both Leaders with open arms. 

Trump-Kim Summit

Trump - Kim Summit

Trump – Kim Summit

Here in Singapore, traffic is at standstill this morning at 0800. There is a feeling of excitement in the air as if it were a final of an international sports’ competition.

Singapore is the host country for a summit between the United States of America and North Korea. It will be the first time a sitting US President will meet with a North Korean Leader.

There has been much hostility in the past between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-Un, with both making comments attacking one another. However, today is history in the making and a possible outcome for peace between the two sides. In the Garden City of Singapore, surrounded by its tropical beauty, is the venue for this historical summit. The Government of Singapore, which is known for its neutrality, has welcomed both Leaders in the past few days.

Crowds gather outside the two hotels, where the leaders are staying, hoping to get a glimpse of something. Some restaurants and hotels have introduced fusion dishes to commemorate the historical event. Security is at the utmost importance with Police, Soldiers and Security all playing their part ensuring that all goes according to plan over the next few days.

While the two sides prepare for their historical meeting, commuters travelling to work and home affected by the road closures and delays continue with the journey with no complaints.

Singapore and its people are proud to be the host and to be apart of this significant contribution towards World Peace.

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