Importing green energy

Singapore is going to import low-carbon electricity soon; well, technically it already has been importing these electricity through some “small pilots”. The idea of importing electricity isn’t new. For a long time, Thailand had been importing power from Laos, developing hydroelectric plants there and building transmission lines into their network.

Most regional electricity markets started out first with interconnectors to help with load balancing, which also provides for imports and export. The Nord Pool in Nordic states started out that way. And the purpose of that had always been to enhance resilience and promote regional integration.

Singapore’s case is interesting because of the focus on securing green electrons. From a GHG Protocol carbon accounting standpoint for Nationally Determined Contributions to emission reduction, the electrons that are imported are carbon-free. This is because countries only need to care about Scope 1 emissions. That is to say the electricity exporting country will need to care about their energy mix and be responsible for the carbon emitted during the power generation process.

At the country level, all imported electricity is carbon free. But for companies consuming the electricity, things can be complicated. Do they use the grid emissions factor assuming the imported electricity is carbon-free? Are retailers who purchase the import electricity able to claim the power is carbon-free?

Because of these controversies, Singapore took the clear path of requiring the power imported to be from low-carbon sources / renewable sources. So hydroelectricity qualifies, and so does solar and wind. The challenging layer that Singapore added to the electricity importers is for the power to be firm; ie. the solar power cannot be just supplied in the day when the sun is shinning. The message is that we want green electricity but not the intermittency that comes with it. Nevertheless, managing the intermittency will come down to the importer rather than the exporter since the requirement comes from Singapore.

I do wonder if this whole musical chairs around who should own the cost or benefit to the matter of carbon emissions a big distraction from the world’s attempt to reduce carbon emissions though. If Singapore could simply develop more projects overseas and secure the relevant credits from other countries on a government-to-government basis, we could still create new instruments that could help to release more supply of green energy for companies in Singapore to meet their obligations.

At some point we need to cut through the whole posturing, learn to be strategic together as Team World and work on the problem of climate change together.