Rooftop installation in Singapore. Photo provided by GetSolar

Singapore’s Unique Renewable Problems (& Solutions)

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Singapore, with an energy matrix that is composed of 97% oil and gas, is in desperate need of renewable solutions. Unfortunately, due to its limitations as a city-state, Singapore has struggled to develop large scale renewable energy projects. The lack of available land for utility-scale wind and solar farms, along with the fact that Singapore does not possess the required resources to develop strong geothermal, hydroelectric, or nuclear industries, has thus far prevented widespread adoption of renewables.

The challenges faced by Singapore are not limited to its small geographic area. Singapore’s average wind speed is substantially lower than what is required to run commercial wind turbines, while the lack of a river system means hydroelectric power is not a viable alternative. Lastly, geothermal energy is not a plausible alternative due to no near-surface energy sources. 

However, Singapore has ambitious energy reduction plans. This includes the planned deployment of 2 GW of solar energy by 2030. Without an abundance of space for commercial solar farms, Singapore is workshopping solutions and testing alternatives. These include the development of floating solar projects as well as the installation of solar panels on high-rise public housing projects. The use of floating solar projects has already been incorporated into Singapore’s clean energy matrix. This includes a 60 MW floating system on the Tengeh Reservoir. The floating solar farms are made possible through reservoirs which could help achieve the country’s goal of generating enough solar power to provide for the electricity needs of 350,000 homes.

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These plans have been actively supported by economic policies which encourage renewable development in Thailand. With the goal of properly raising and allocating funds for green energy growth, Singapore has developed its own green bond framework. Singapore has been particularly successful in planning for long term green investment. The World Energy Investment report of 2023 found that Singapore has launched the longest green bond on the market, raising $1.7 billion with a Green Bond with a 50-year tenor. Grid improvements have likewise proven to be a critical part of Singapore’s push for improved clean energy access. Singapore has launched two projects, the Grid Digital Twin and the Distributed Energy Resource Management System, which are aimed at enhancing both grid reliability and resiliency along with easing the deployment of clean energy sources. 

Rooftop installation supported by Singapore startup GetSolar. Photo provided by GetSolar

Along with government and international investment, Singapore has seen the emergence of clean energy entrepreneurship. The limited available land for large solar projects has prompted the growth of rooftop solar startups. Bolong Chew, the CEO and co-founder of GetSolar, outlined the potential that rooftop solar has in offering distributed energy systems. While Singapore is taking a fairly free-market approach to individuals adopting residential systems, the levelized cost of electricity from solar projects is making it a financially viable alternative. When asked about what is preventing more complete adoption of rooftop solar projects, Bolong responded that it is the result of a lack of awareness and trust. With rooftop solar being a comparatively new form of energy in Singapore, there is a high perceived risk, and residential solar companies such as GetSolar are forced to combat misinformation.

Singapore undoubtedly faces unique struggles in developing its clean energy industry. Limited land, low wind speeds, and the lack of necessary geothermal sources means that a traditional route is unlikely. Rather, encouraging startups, small-scale installations, grid improvements, and outside renewable investments are pushing green energy forward in Singapore.

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Otto Gunderson

Otto graduated from the University of Virginia class of 2022 with a degree in history. He has been involved in clean energy, specifically solar and circular economic practices, for four years now and has been writing about clean energy for 2 years. Due to a lack of writing on the clean energy transitions in South America and Africa, Otto decided to spend his 2023 traveling across these continents, interviewing clean energy entrepreneurs, researchers, and disruptors and publishing their stories.

Otto Gunderson has 31 posts and counting. See all posts by Otto Gunderson