Big impact opportunities for a smoother clean energy transition – how would this affect CIOs?

This year, the Clean Energy Leaders Dialogue highlighted the potential for a more seamless transition to clean energy by highlighting how regulators, utilities, consumers, and owners of urban assets are gearing up for a net-zero implementation. Research and development in green energy is undoubtedly gaining steam in recent years, keeping with the government’s objective for Singapore to attain net-zero by 2050. Our alternatives for renewable energy are limited due to our inherent resource limitations; however, ACES offers a bright future.

CIO World Asia spoke with Wai Tai Yeap, General Manager, Southeast Asia Electrical Sector at Eaton to learn more about sustainability within CIOs.

Importance of implementing clean and renewable energy in a country like Singapore – especially for future generations

As the world accelerates towards a more sustainable future, maintaining clean energy throughout various sectors is crucial in aiding the energy transition, ensuring energy security and access, and achieving net-zero growth to combat climate change.

Recent data by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that carbon emissions in 2022 are set to increase by a fraction of previous years, driven by the deployment of renewable energy technologies and policies worldwide. Investing in alternative sources of renewable energy is thus key to ending countries’ reliance on fossil fuels and further allowing industries to reduce their carbon footprint.

Being a small island state with limited natural resources, Singapore is not insulated from the effects of climate change. Coupled with its low-lying geography, the country is already at risk of serious flooding from rising sea levels, increasing rainfall and temperatures, and may even lose 46 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in the worst scenario.

To help combat these adverse effects of climate change, maintaining clean energy sources that will aid the larger green transition will be pivotal. This future-proofs Singapore’s economy and ensures that consumers are protected from possible volatility in the energy market, allowing energy sources to remain reliable, accessible and secure for all – especially amid an increasing energy demand.

Diversification and investment into alternative energy sources will also be essential to supporting Singapore’s net-zero climate commitment. Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the country aims to increase cleaner energy sources across all sectors, such as maximizing solar panel deployment and tapping into regional grids to reduce emissions. With one of the busiest container ports in the world and as a global air hub, Singapore also has the chance to position itself as a global leader in climate change by increasing efforts in greener shipping and aviation and bringing about new economic opportunities for future generations to safeguard their well-being and security.

Some ways companies can contribute to sustainable energy – about solar energy and storage

Today, both businesses and individual consumers alike are able to contribute to sustainable energy – from installing solar panels to opting for use of electric vehicles (EVs), the world has seen an acceleration of electrification and renewables that are connected to the energy grid. But as we transition to a carbon-free society, how we power and manage the grid will have to be transformed.

One of the ways is through intelligent power management software, which are able to manage energy flow and power capacity. More advanced systems, such as the ones that Eaton provides, allows for comprehensive overcurrent and overvoltage protection which ensures that electricity will be cut safely in the event of surge, without damage to circuits and appliances. This also creates opportunities to optimize energy costs, creating an overall more resilient energy grid.

The role of energy storage systems, particularly in onsite energy generation, is also essential in encouraging the integration of sustainable energy. Implementing onsite energy solutions can help control where energy is coming from and how it is distributed and stored. For instance, battery energy storage systems (BESS) support organizations’ energy transitions by storing energy to be used on-demand or as a backup power response. BESS can aid the integration of renewable energy sources into the energy grid and maximize the consumption of these sources. Through participation in demand response programmes, BESS also allows users to optimise energy costs, encouraging electrification and empowering companies to seamlessly take part in the energy transition.

Companies can also contribute to sustainable energy by adopting an Everything as a Grid approach to modernize their power infrastructure. With this approach, different stakeholders are able to play a part in generating, storing, managing and using energy — which are traditionally managed by utility companies. These include residential, commercial and industrial (C&I) properties, such as data centers, factories and electric vehicle (EV) transport operators.

In line with Singapore’s smart-nation goal to achieve net zero by 2050, what are the key processes being put in place currently and how can neighboring countries follow suit?

At the Singapore International Energy Week 2022 (SIEW), Singapore set its most ambitious 2050 net-zero target yet, while also unveiling a national hydrogen strategy that may be key to meeting this goal.

These announcements align with the various initiatives toward decarbonization that have rolled out over the past few years. Research into new net-zero technologies, for one, has seen such progress. For instance, Singapore set up a Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) to look into sustainable and efficient data center solutions that would combat the region’s high temperatures and humidity.

Singapore has also been steadily working towards electrification to reduce carbon emissions, particularly in the adoption of EVs in the country. While EVs currently make up less than 1% of the more than 600,000 cars on roads, there continues to be growing consumer interest and government and industry efforts to boost EV adoption. To address concerns around range anxiety and a lack of charging infrastructure, the government is working with industry players to establish more charging points from the current 2,500 public points to 60,000 by 2030 — with initiatives like installing EV charging points in all HDB car parks. In this regard, Eaton’s range of EVCI solutions will serve to aid the government’s push towards EV adoption by providing comprehensive charging infrastructure that supports EV charging in a reliable and safe manner and uniting the energy needs of buildings and vehicles with onsite energy generation.

Southeast Asia’s diversified landscape presents a myriad of opportunities that will aid in developing renewable energy projects and bring greater energy security to the region. Cross-country collaboration will be key to achieving this, and it’s great to see that progress has already been made in this aspect. Singapore recently inked a clean technology research partnership with Indonesia, and is also in a partnership with Laos to import renewable hydropower using existing interconnections, marking the first multilateral cross-border electricity trade in ASEAN. These projects strengthen regional energy security and resiliency, and support energy decarbonisation in the region.

What role does the Chief Information Officer (CIO) play in ensuring clean energy towards all IT processes in the company?

The evolution of technology continues to drive business growth and has become essential in the journey toward a greener future. Likewise, the role of the CIO – which is key to aligning the company’s IT strategy and execution with its goals–will also evolve.

Today, organizations with strong and clear environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments will reap stronger financial benefits, especially as concerns around sustainability continue to grow across multiple sectors. To stay ahead of the game, CIOs must put ESG at the core of their business strategy. They can start by assessing the company’s usage of technology to ensure that sustainability can be prioritized at every level. The CIO should also evaluate and recommend investment into the research and development of green technologies and energy efficiency processes that are crucial in reducing energy consumption, and aligned with meeting ESG goals.