Singapore Energy Outlook 2020 – 2030

As an island off the coast of the Malaysian peninsula, Singapore has a limited potential for renewable energies. 

But Singapore’s real strength is global energy trading. Singapore is located in the middle of the global energy trading networks.

1. Singapore is a city-state that depends entirely on foreign energy sources for its survival.

Singapore occupies a special position, as it is located in the strait of one of the busiest waterways. A small island nation that resembles the city-states of yesteryear, especially the city-states of Europe, especially Venice. It should be noted, however, that Singapore’s forward-looking energy policy has received so little attention.

It must be said that Singapore is tackling some of the most serious problems in the energy world, and its focus on renovating buildings to make them more energy efficient is very much oriented towards to come up. Due to the limited geographical space of this island, it becomes very difficult to use biomass, and solar power and wind power can only be used in Singapore in a very limited way.

In fact, Singapore has used non-hazardous waste to increase its acreage, which is an unusual strategy, although the Netherlands is doing it too. As you might expect, it is the price per square meter that makes it so difficult to find land and build often very expensive energy facilities there, this problem becomes even more pervasive due to the need to build multifunctional structures in the immediate vicinity of energy installations, which is not an ideal solution nor a land use.

2. Singapore’s energy dependence alters the nation’s geostrategic perspective and makes it vulnerable to political conflicts

The difficulty of exploiting renewable energy reserves also means that Singapore is having great difficulty reducing its dependence on oil, and even increased efforts to increase the share of alternative energy sources, such as LNG, are only slowly yielding results. In particular, Singapore is heavily dependent on Middle Eastern countries, most notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Singapore’s heavy dependence on foreign oil supplies also means that it depends on the world’s most formidable maritime nation, the United States, for access to the world’s oceans, and therefore becomes, to some extent, a client state of the United States.

Since most of Singapore’s oil comes from the Middle East and the Gulf countries, Singapore is exposed to the geopolitical ravages of Middle East energy policy, and its access is particularly vulnerable because the Indian Ocean is an area of competing national interests, including those of China, India and the United States. All of these nations are maritime powers, with the United States being the strongest of the three, but they all have an extensive commercial heritage.

The ocean connects places, cities and megalopolises that have never been so closely linked to each other. Nevertheless, they are now. And as a result, they are growing through international trade, container ships that cross the world’s oceans like rafts of riffs, forming a global economy. They need energy, from the Middle East, Africa, America, Asia, to fuel economic growth.

As these countries become dependent on a higher standard of living, they seek more economic growth, which requires more energy, more fuel imports from countries that have been shaped by a different geography, that have other geostrategic priorities. For energy imports, Singapore depends on the Middle East and America to secure its fuel supply. Singapore is therefore a prisoner of its own geography and relies on a delicate balance between the world’s superpowers.

3. Singapore’s energy dependence and its central location in the Straits of Malacca require a great deal of diplomatic tact to balance the geopolitical interests of the world’s superpowers.

Just as India, the U.S. and China compete for geopolitical influence and control of sea lanes to control the flow of energy through the Strait of Malacca, the U.S. and China are in a geopolitical head-to-head in the Pacific Ocean, where the world’s two largest economies compete. Japan was historically a third competing power in the Pacific Ocean and also shaped Singapore’s history in the twentieth century.

But Singapore’s position at the choke point of the Strait of Malacca leaves it no choice but to play the balance. It has the potential to stifle global trade, paralyzing Chinese international trade by limiting the flow of energy through this choke point between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but it would be unwise to do so because it depends on the Chinese’ willingness to grow economically and support their own economy and on U.S. military protection, since Singapore’s service economy depends entirely on international trade, which would not even be viable without a global hegemon to protect the world’s sea lanes and control the world’s oceans alone.

Geopolitical stability is Singapore’s number one geopolitical priority, and all other energy policy objectives are nothing in comparison. This may also partly explain why Singapore has played such a central role as the place where North Korea and the United States met to discuss the demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula.

It was in Singapore that the leaders of these two countries met to freely discuss ways to avoid a total nuclear war. Because of its propensity for mutually beneficial relations among the world powers, in part because of its own need to appeal to different geopolitical components, it makes a lot of sense to renounce the civilian use of nuclear energy. It also reduces Singapore’s options for meeting its own energy needs. But there is very little land available to build nuclear power plants safely and far from any densely populated urban area.

4. Singapore’s energy dependence means that the country is looking for alternative energy sources such as LNG, but it is not certain that this will work in the country’s long-term interest.

It is also quite plausible that the increased use of LNG in Singapore will not really help Singapore’s long-term energy goals, since Singapore will receive most of its LNG from the same countries that already deliver oil to Singapore. We must also keep in mind that Indonesia has abundant natural gas reserves on its own soil, but history has thawed relations to date.

But there are all kinds of benefits to a mutually cooperative energy pact with your largest neighbor, even if you don’t share each other’s opinions on everything. This is particularly risky because 80% of Singapore’s electricity is produced from natural gas and at least 10% from oil. The big oil companies have invested a lot of capital in Indonesia to exploit the natural gas reserves there. But it serves a strategic purpose, that of diversifying away from oil, although LNG remains a fossil fuel.

Singapore’s geopolitical position allows LNG carriers to unload their precious cargo at the port on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. This is a real advantage in terms of logistics and supply chain management, from what we can see.

Many thanks for the shared interest in the energy world!

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