Thursday, January 5, 2012

Singapore's opaque power generation market: A labyrinth of deal makings

Few people in Singapore know that we are actually selling electricity to Malaysia. Reuters reported June 2011 as below.

EMA said Singapore's total power generation capacity is about 9,800 megawatts (MW), while its peak demand for electricity is around 6,500 MW.

Singapore recently began its first-ever cross-border sale of electricity to Malaysia, where supply has been disrupted by the maintenance shutdown of gas production platforms owned by state oil company Petronas.

Singapore's excessive spare generation capacity
According to Reuters, we have a spare capacity of 50%. Our generating capacity is 9.8 GW while our peak demand is merely 6.5 GW. That is to say, its going to be a long time, before all these capacities are eaten up.

Given the hollowing out of our industries, unless PAP ramp up FT intake, these capacity is not going to be utilized in the foreseeable future by domestic demand. Selling electricity to Malaysia make sense.

Selling our power plant to Malaysia
In December 2008, Malaysia's YTL Power International Bhd announced that it will pay S$3.6bil cash and take on a debt of $201 million for PowerSeraya Ltd. PowerSeraya is the second largest power generation company in Singapore by installed capacity, supply about a quarter of Singapore's total licensed generation capacity. It has a licensed generating capacity of 3,100MW and is situated on Jurong Island.

It remain unclear why PAP sold to Malaysia the whole power stations rather than just electricity. Power is a strategic industry. If we would like to sell electricity, others expect certain concessions to be given, that may be one of the reason we sold our power plant to Malaysia. Nevertheless, this is merely my speculations.

Now we are discussing to buy power from Malaysia
Straits Times reported today.
Singapore is open to buying a share of its electricity from Malaysia if the terms are right.

The Prime Ministers of both countries discussed the possibility as they met in Putrajaya on Thursday. As PM Lee Hsien Loong said, Singapore is working out a framework for importing electricity from its neighbours.

Buying power from Malaysia when we have 50% overcapacity?
Below is my take on the deal. While Peninsula Malaysia may be short of capacity, Sarawak has too much of it due to the recent completion of Bakun Dam on 6th August 2011 which is able to generate 2.4 GW.

A HVDC transmission line would be needed to bring the power to peninsula Malaysia where consumers are found. A deal where we finance the HVDC system, and get cheap Hydro would be a win-win for everyone. It would also open to future deals whereby Indonesia and Malaysia Borneo are full of unexploited Hydro potential.

My biggest concern is the resettlement of aboriginal in the jungle of Borneo who stay along the rivers. They are very often cruelty short changed by corrupt officials. They will be endangered when the grid opens up opportunities for more hydro projects. Next will be environmental impact on the dam buildings.

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