Energy supply and demand, green jobs and net zero emissions: Why youths should care about sustainability

Sustainability might seem like a very big, complex industry, but it’s also bringing about opportunities for youths.

Nigel Chin

Started writing for the passion. Now writing because it’s the only thing I can do.

Published: 21 February 2023, 2:45 PM

Sustainability is often bandied around as something of importance in recent times. 

In Singapore, our Government has pledged to reach a target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It also previously announced the Green Plan 2030, as an effort for the country to fight climate change and meet its international obligations.

But how exactly does it affect Singaporeans – particularly youths – and how big an impact would it have on us?

In the third episode of the What The Future (WTF) podcast series by the National Youth Council’s (NYC) Asia-Ready Exposure Programme (AEP), hosts Germaine Tan and Avery Aloysius addressed this with insights from two guests: Law Gee Yong and Cheryl Chen. 

Mr Law is the director of policy & planning at the Energy Market Authority, while Ms Chen works at S&P Global as the global environmental, social, and governance strategy and engagement director. 

The WTF podcast series is done in partnership with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). 

The 23-minute episode delved into several topics, including the cause behind high energy prices in Singapore and jobs for youths in the emerging green sectors. Here are some takeaways from it: 

Effects of Russian-Ukraine war on energy prices

A lot about sustainability has to do with energy. But in the past year since the Russian-Ukraine war started, energy prices have been steadily climbing worldwide. 

Singapore has been affected by the climbing prices, too, although tariffs have decreased slightly between November 2022 and January 2023. 

This is because sanctions and export bans placed on Russia, one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and liquified natural gas, meant that supply for energy dropped and created a supply and demand mismatch. 

And while Singapore does not import electricity or gas from Russia, the competition for energy sources pushed up prices. 

“The truth is that the gas market in the world is a global one,” explained Mr Law. 


The electricity tariffs reached a high of 30.17 cents per kWh in Jul to Sep 2022, before declining to 28.95 cents per kWH in Jan to Mar 2023. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/XYNTHEA ONG


The shortage in energy supply has also resulted in some “backsliding” as some countries used more fossil fuels for energy security because of a lack of supply in clean energy sources. 

But at the same time, it has also prompted countries to push and invest in new technologies to speed up the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources.

“Everything we have is built on energy and now we are transiting away from fossil fuels to something that is cleaner, hopefully more sustainable and it affects our day-to-day life,” shared Mr Law. 

“Our entire lifestyle revolves around technology and tech relies a lot on energy. How can we maintain our current lifestyle and have a much more sustainable way of achieving this is important for us.”

How Singapore intends to reach net zero emissions goal

As part of Singapore’s goal to tackle climate change, the nation aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050

What this means is that Singapore aims to, on aggregate, produce zero emissions. While this does not mean that Singapore doesn’t produce emissions at all, there are some negative emissions to trade off.

One such example is the Tengeh Reservoir solar floating farm consisting of 120,000 solar panels launched in 2021, which is enough to power 16,000 HDB homes, noted Ms Chen. 

“These innovative solutions and ideas really help us transcend our constraints and challenges,” she said. 

While Solar is the most sustainable, and most viable and renewable resource in Singapore, the country can’t run entirely on it. 

“It only powers us during the day, and it requires land and Singapore is land scarce,” explained Mr Law. “We are not able to put enough solar panels to power Singapore.” 


The solar floating farm at Tengeh Reservoir spans about 45 football fields. PHOTO CREDIT: SERIS


The target will be for solar panels to supply 10 per cent of Singapore’s total energy needs by 2050, added Mr Law. 

Among Singapore’s current sources of energy, 95 per cent is drawn from natural gas, the cleanest type of fossil fuel. The country will likely rely on this for the next 10 to 20 years too, he said. 

Singapore will also likely rely on regional power grids. Much like how the country buys most of its water supply from Malaysia, Singapore will also likely buy electricity and natural gas from our neighbours.

“This potentially goes up to 30 per cent of our total needs,” Mr Law said. 

At the same time, Singapore is also investing in future technology such as the national hydrogen strategy that is “extremely expensive” today. 

“If you use natural hydrogen today, we’ll probably pay three to four times the (usual electricity) prices. It’s really expensive today, but there’s momentum. A lot of countries are seeing this as a possible way for them to decarbonise the power sector,” Mr Law stated. 

How Singapore is facilitating the regional collaboration in energy

Apart from buying energy sources from our neighbours, Singapore has also taken the lead in facilitating collaboration among ASEAN countries. 

Citing untapped opportunities, Ms Chen said that the other ASEAN countries have land and natural conditions that allow them to run solar farms or hydro dams in creating energy. Where they are lacking could be capital and funding, and that is where Singapore can come into the picture. 

“It’s really coming together, bringing our expertise, our experience, our markets and the system. And it’s really about making the pie bigger for everybody,” said Ms Chen. 


Singapore relies on neighbouring countries for its energy needs. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/LIAM WILLETT


Creating green jobs for youths

As a whole, the sustainability sector is something that’s growing. More importantly, it’s a sector that will cut across many sectors, noted Mr Law. 

The EMA is also developing a new framework for green jobs and different skillsets are required. 

“It’s a growing area. We are looking into how to grow the Singapore economy. There are jobs on that front as well. There’s really a wide spectrum of jobs available. What’s missing is that there is a lack of skillsets within the manpower today,” Mr Law shared. 

“From the electric sector, you may be used to doing wiring in your houses but do you know how to wire a solar panel? Not everybody has experience in this, so we need to ramp up so everybody is familiar with such new technology.”  

Apart from that, there are also opportunities for those with skillsets in the different industries to jump into the green sectors. Calling it “sustainability-integrated roles”, Ms Chen explains that she liaises with colleagues in different fields on a daily basis, such as finance, procurement, real estate, research and even marketing. 

“There are all these different interesting synergies between different domains… Many times, it’s not a knowledge gap. We already know what to do. It’s really what you can do to advocate for others to follow the same. 

“The opportunities are unprecedented,” said Ms Chen.  

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