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Andlinger Center News

December 12, 2016

Off the southern tip of Malaysia, hot and humid Singapore faces unique challenges in providing energy to its 5.54 million residents.

With its relatively flat and small terrain at 277 square miles – smaller even than New York City – and lack of wind and geothermal energy sources, Singapore has had to be nimble, creative, and resourceful with its use of fuel, which is mostly imported, according to Heng Kia Seah. Seah is director of technology evaluation and piloting for Singapore Power Ltd., which distributes power throughout the city-state and is one of its largest corporations. Singapore has done this through several initiatives, including boosting energy efficiency and grid reliability, creative installations of solar panels, and pursuing experimental next-generation solutions, such as grid-scale energy storage.

“We want to benefit our customer,” said Seah, who presented a talk on the state of the electricity industry in Singapore on December 1 at Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, which attracted attendees from academia, industry, and the University’s engineering and campus energy and facilities department. Seah’s presentation explored how Singapore obtains fuel and converts it to energy, the city-state’s electrical distribution system, solutions to its lack of resources, and Singapore’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Singapore has a growing population thirsty for power, and industry and commercial sectors that consume as much as 80 percent of electricity produced. Fuel is imported mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia. To address these pressures, Singapore has increasingly turned to clean burning natural gas for electricity generation because of its reduced market cost and has also put online sophisticated energy efficient power plants, said Seah. The city-state has also pursued stringent standards on electrical reliability. Singapore, which ranks high in reliability with very few outages and superior power restoration times, hands out fines in the tens of thousands of dollars to above $1 million when power quality dips.

“We are among the best in grid reliability,” said Seah.

On the green energy front, Singapore is increasing its reliance on solar power, from 106 installations in 2010 to 942 last year. With land as a precious resource, solar panels are showing up on building rooftops and even reservoirs. Seah said the city has explored placing panels on outlying islands.

Singapore is also looking at different energy storage options, such as flywheels and flow batteries. Seah said they are interested in microgrids, particularly Princeton’s, and how they may work in the city.

“We came to Princeton to see and learn from you,” he said to the audience.

Edward (Ted) Borer, Princeton’s energy plant manager, said the school’s microgrid has been a model for reliability, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Its resilience was vividly illuminated in 2012 when it withstood the rigors of Hurricane Sandy. Many others were without power while Princeton maintained basic lab operations and kept its lights on.

“It’s been very successful financially. [Our microgrid has] helped us reduce our carbon footprint, and helped with reliability,” said Borer, who noted that many people from industry, such as Singapore Power, have made the trek to visit this facility at Princeton. (For more on Princeton’s microgrid and central energy plant, go here and here.)

“The conversation with Singapore Power is exactly the kind of public-private-academic partnerships that Andlinger Center cultivates,” said Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, director of the Andlinger Center. “Without active engagement such as this event, advances in providing cleaner and more reliable energy could not go forward.”

More on the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

The mission of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment is to develop solutions to ensure our energy and environmental future. To this end, the center supports a vibrant and expanding program of research and teaching in the areas of sustainable energy-technology development, energy efficiency, and environmental protection and remediation. A chief goal of the center is to translate fundamental knowledge into practical solutions that enable sustainable energy production and the protection of the environment and global climate from energy-related anthropogenic change.

For more information on the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, contact Sharon Adarlo, communications specialist, at or (609) 258-9979.