SINGAPORE: Preliminary investigations following this week's power outages across multiple estates in Singapore suggest that the country's backup procedures are in place and working fine, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Sep 21).
This is illustrated by how it took just 15 minutes for the system to be restarted when two power-generating units – one at Sembcorp Cogen and the other owned by Senoko Energy – tripped early on Tuesday, causing multiple parts of Singapore to be hit by blackouts.
However, he stressed that the Government is taking the opportunity to review these procedures and that he would like to assure Singaporeans there is sufficient capacity in the system to handle such incidents.
While the source of the problem was quickly detected with the announcement of the preliminary investigations by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) a day later, Mr Chan said further tests are underway with the EMA working closely with the generation companies and their original equipment suppliers to establish why the units tripped.
“They have been able to quickly zoom in on the source of the problem, but we are conducting further tests because some of these components are used by plants in Singapore and other parts of the world,” he said.
“We are also looking at the opportunity to review our backup procedures to make sure that the procedures are working fine,” said Mr Chan. “Our preliminary investigations show that our backup procedures are in place."
This can be seen by how the system was restarted after 15 minutes of the blackout, with power to the system progressively restored over the next 13 minutes.
On that, Mr Chan elaborated: "When the first system failed, our backup system kicked in immediately and even when that failed, we had sufficient capacity to restart after 15 minutes. That was what happened and hence within 38 minutes, we were able to fully restore power to the system."
For buildings that suffered intermittent power failure after that, it was due to how these buildings needed to reset their individual internal systems, he added.
"I'll like to assure Singaporeans that we have sufficient capacity in our system and this is what we have demonstrated that night," said Mr Chan, while adding that it is "too premature" to talk about penalties for the companies involved.
MORE CHOICES WITH EXPANDED OPEN ELECTRICITY MARKET
Mr Chan was speaking to the media following the announcement of a nationwide roll-out for the Open Electricity Market – an initiative by EMA to open the local electricity market to competition and allow consumers in Singapore to pick a preferred electricity provider.
At the moment, only those in Jurong, comprising about 108,000 household and 9,500 business accounts, are allowed to go shopping for electricity, as part of a pilot launch put in place since Apr 1. Other households buy electricity solely from SP Group at a regulated tariff that is reviewed quarterly.
Since the start of the soft launch, authorities have received positive feedback from the more than 30 per cent in Jurong who have switched to a retailer, said Mr Chan.
This has given the Government confidence that the rest of Singapore is ready for a fully-liberalised power market, he added.
“The reason for us to open up the electricity market is to make sure there’ll be retailers offering more competitive choices to our consumers, mainly the households.
“We have done this carefully and progressively (and) we have collated our experiences to make sure that when we roll it out to the rest of the country, we will have the least problems possible," said Mr Chan.
While a couple of electricity retailers have decided not to continue with the nationwide roll-out, the minister stressed that this will not affect electricity supply in any way as affected customers will still receive their power through the national grid operated by SP Group.