Why don’t we use 100% renewable energy in Singapore?
In a bid to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change, countries around the world are shifting towards renewable energy to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
But what about Singapore?
As a small country, there are inherent limitations to what we can do to reduce emissions.
Our small size, urban density, low wind speeds, relatively flat land, and lack of geothermal resources present serious difficulties in pursuing alternative energy options such as nuclear, hydro-electric, wind, or geothermal power.
In fact, our alternative-energy disadvantaged status is officially recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
What are some of our constraints we face in switching to alternative or renewable energies? Read on to find out!
Hydroelectricity harnesses the energy of flowing water for the generation of electricity. Much of Singapore is generally flat and less than 15m above sea level.
Marine renewable energy (tidal and wave power)
The tidal range (difference between high and low tide) is about 1.7m, well below the 4m tidal range that is typically required for commercial tidal power generation. The availability of wave power is determined by height and frequency of the waves, but the waters around Singapore are relatively calm as we are sheltered by land masses.
Geothermal energy is not commercially viable in Singapore given the lack of conventional geothermal resources and our small land area.
Harnessing wind energy is also not viable, given our low average wind speeds of about 2m/s to 3m/s and lack of land for large-scale application of wind turbines. Most commercial wind farms leverage average wind speeds of at least 6m/s, while prime wind sites require annual average wind speeds in excess of 7.5m/s. In addition, there are challenges to harnessing offshore winds due to busy maritime traffic in our waters.
Biomass, which is used by many countries with available land mass as a fossil fuel alternative, is not viable as a significant energy resource. Singapore already converts much of its waste to energy, providing about 2% of electricity needs.
While nuclear energy is a source of low-carbon electricity, there are considerable challenges given Singapore’s small land area and high urban density.
Solar power is one possible renewable energy source we can adopt but there are many factors affecting its viability:
- limited land and rooftop space for deployment;
- amount of cloud cover and humidity;
- overall efficiency of the technology;
- the ability of the power system and grid infrastructure to cope with fluctuations in energy supply
The Future of Singapore’s Energy Story
Nevertheless, Singapore has been working on maximising the deployment of solar energy, and exploring innovative solutions to reduce emissions, as part of our efforts to mitigate climate change.