Energy is a vital resource that plays an indispensable role in Singapore’s economy. Lacking any indigenous energy resources, the nation-state has had to grapple with the challenges of managing the trade-offs of the energy trilemma—balancing the need for economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and energy security. From making electricity accessible and providing a reliable and high-quality power supply to citizens and industry, to enhancing energy efficiency and tackling climate change, the energy landscape has changed significantly with Singapore’s evolving priorities and challenges.
In the 1960s, Singapore was underdeveloped and many parts of the island had little or no access to electricity. The focus then was to prioritise resources to ensure areas planned for industrialisation and public housing could be plugged into the electricity grid with reasonable reliability. At the same time, the government was determined to supply electricity progressively to people in rural areas.
As businesses grew and Singapore’s economy prospered, the issue became one of energy supply inadequacy in the 1970s. The government had to increase the capacity of the energy systems and overcome manpower shortages while ensuring the proper financing of energy infrastructure projects in order to catch up with rapidly growing demand.
Household expectations rose by the 1980s, and more sophisticated industries required more stable and higher quality electricity supplies. The focus shifted to the need to upgrade and enhance the power generation, transmission and distribution systems, while keeping the cost of electricity as competitive as possible.
Since the 1990s, threats arising from climate change and global energy supply disruptions have led many countries to adopt energy efficiency as part of their energy policies and strategies. Singapore has also systematically liberalised its electricity market to enable commercial discipline and competition to drive efficiency as the electricity system grows. Singapore now employs a more holistic and integrated approach when managing energy policies across government.
Drawing on archival research and interviews with pioneer practitioners and policymakers, Energising Singapore: Balancing Liveability and Growth offers an overview of Singapore’s energy sector development over the past 50 years. This Urban Systems Study discusses major policy considerations and strategies, and the links between energy, planning and the built environment. It also explains how Singapore’s approach to integrated planning and sound governance has contributed to a secure, competitive and sustainable energy supply for its people and businesses, and ultimately, the liveability of the city-state.