Singapore sets aside $4.5M for solar forecasting, launches sandbox to test new energy

Energy Market Authority commits S$6.2 million (US$4.57 million) in a four-year research grant to develop solar energy forecasting capabilities and unveils regulator sandbox to facilitate testing of new products in electricity and gas sectors.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore is setting aside S$6.2 million (US$4.57 million) to develop capabilities in predicting solar energy output as well as setting up sandboxes to facilitate testing of new products in electricity and gas.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) said the S$6.2 million would go towards a research grant that had been awarded to a consortium, which would be led by the National University of Singapore (NUS). This group of partners would tap various techniques in weather prediction, remote sensing, machine learning, and grid modelling, with the aim to improve the accuracy of solar photovoltaic (PV), or solar energy.

The four-year initiative would tap solar-related data generated from sensors installed on the rooftops of buildings as well as weather data from another network of sensors deployed islandwide by Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS).

The consortium comprised NUS, Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS, Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing at NUS, A*STAR's Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC), and Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling (CENSAM).

MSS alongside EMA also would work with the group on the initiative.

According to EMA, forecasting solar power output in Singapore currently was challenging, especially over long time horizons, due to the complexities of the local weather systems. "Solar PV power output fluctuates depending on environmental and weather conditions such as cloud cover and humidity," the industry regulator explained.

Extensive cloud cover on rainy days, for instance, could lead to significant dips in solar power output. If this was not accurately projected, it might lead to imbalances between electricity demand and supply, especially when solar energy played a bigger role in supporting the country's power grid.

EMA added that its power system operator needed to establish solar PV power output ahead of time in order to take appropriate actions to balance the grid and mitigate potential effects of solar intermittency as well as keep the power supply stable.

National Environment Agency CEO Ronnie Tay said the initiative could help boost the country's solar infrastructure and promote solar energy as a source of clean renewable energy.

Regulatory sandbox to drive energy innovation

In a separate announcement, the EMA said it was setting up a regulatory sandbox to facilitate the testing of new products and services in the electricity and gas sectors. This also would enable the industry regulator to evaluate the impact of new products and services to determine the appropriate legislation for the sector.

It noted that new ideas that leverage technology might not comply with existing regulations that were designed around a traditional power system. This could discourage potential innovative products from being developed, it added.

To test their products in the sandbox, companies would have to submit their ideas to EMA for approval. Successful applicants would be allowed to introduce their new products and services in the market, but within a relaxed regulatory environment. Safeguards, such as limiting the duration of the trial or the maximum number of consumers, could be introduced to minimise risks to consumers and the industry, EMA said.

Sandbox applicants would be evaluated based on several criteria, including their use of technology in an innovative way, whether the idea addresses a problem, and if changes to existing regulations were necessary.

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