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S2E03: Transiting to Net Zero by 2050

Scientists have concluded that the world needs to reach net zero emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. For the world to reach net zero emissions, a wide range of trends and factors need to be considered, and transformational changes need to be anticipated during this transition.

We invited Mr. Larry Choi, Chairman of Energy Committee 2050, Director and CEO of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute to share with us insights into these findings.

Victor Seet 00:00:05

Hello. Welcome to the Capelle Livechat. My name is Victor, and I’m your host for today. And today here with us, we have a very special guest, Mr. Larry Choi.

Larry is currently the Director and CEO of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. And before he joined there, he was Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. And before that, he was also Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Transport. So we are very privileged to have him with us here today. And so we just want to welcome you, Larry.

Larry Choi 00:00:37

Thank you.

Victor Seet 00:00:38

Today we are going to dive into and explore about the energy sector. There’s lots of discussion and talk about Singapore going green, about the clean energy. We’ve got Larry here with us today, and this is the reason why.

Larry, we know that there is this recent energy report that was just being published, and we know that you are the chairman helming this committee. So we would like for you to share, how did this report come about? And what’s the main thrust of this report?

Larry Choi 00:01:19

Well, the committee was called the Energy 2050 Committee, and it was commissioned by the Energy Market Authority of Singapore. They wanted to bring together a group of experts to look ahead 30 years to 2050 because 2050 is a year in which scientists have concluded that the world needs to reach net zero emissions, net zero carbon emissions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. So given the dire situation for the world as a whole, EMA wanted the committee to realistically assess what Singapore can do in the electric power sector to try and reach net zero emissions. So to do this study, we had to look at a wide range of trends and factors. And therefore, we were looking for a committee with a range of expertise, but also able to be able to work together.

And three types of experts we were looking for: technology experts, because that technology determines how much we can do to reduce carbon emissions. We also needed business experts, people who were in the energy business so that you can assess the business trends going forward. And we also needed some public policy experts, people who can see what the governments can do around the world, in order to bring about this transition. And this committee, which worked together for about one and a half years, we came to three conclusions.

Firstly, that it is technically viable and also realistic for the power sector in Singapore to achieve net zero by 2050. Secondly, this transition will not be easy, as it will need very major transformational changes across the entire energy and power value chain in Singapore. Further complexities arise because of the great uncertainties that still exist in the technological and geopolitical trends. So that’s the second conclusion. The third one is this, that there are many business opportunities for Singapore to tap into in making this transition because the solutions we develop for ourselves will also be deployable to other cities. So what we do for ourselves can also be transferred and in that sense sold as services and models to other countries, other cities, especially.

Victor Seet 00:04:07

Thank you for sharing that, especially the last point, Singapore to pave the way.

I want to focus on this second part. When you talk about this transformational shift, it sounds very big. What do you think are some critical shifts for businesses in the energy sector? What do leaders need to be aware of?

Larry Choi 00:04:27

Okay, so for those who are in the energy power related business today, I think it is best that they start positioning for the future now. Many businesses, I think, very naturally prefer concentrating on their existing lines of business without investing too much in risky future trends. However, this would be a recipe for them to be disrupted by other companies focusing on these new technologies. So they need to have a mindset, not of resisting change, but to anticipate it and to prepare to exploit it, because this transition is coming about as a result of this very strong imperative, which is to avert climate change. Therefore, the changes will have to be done. It will be compelled by the very fact that the world as a whole will face an existential threat if we do not deal with it.

So the power industry, the energy industry, is a very conservative industry. It’s very slow moving in the past, but that is really going to change drastically in the next 30 years because of the changes forced upon it by climate change.

So for those in the power industry, there will be big opportunities in new carbon free sources such as solar power, solar generation, using photovoltaic cells. There’s also new opportunities in hydrogen, as well as some other new technologies such as geothermal, even nuclear technologies and carbon capture. So some of these last three, the geothermal, the nuclear, may come a little bit later. Carbon capture perhaps later still. There will also be on the services side many new needs, many new offerings that have to be found in energy efficiency, managing of what we call, distributed energy resources, and also in a district level energy optimization. In that sense, a kind of within subparts of the grid today, where energy should be optimized or can be optimized further than what is done today.

Victor Seet 00:07:05

Wow, sounds like a lot of development and innovation is going to happen in this space, at least, coming up. That’s what I’m hearing, lots and lots of different things.

Other than this energy sector that you talked about, how might this transformational shift affect the wider economy? Any inputs from you?

Larry Choi 00:07:28

So I think at the economy level, because in a sense we have to think of energy as the lifeblood of the whole economy. So whatever any economy does, it needs energy to drive it. So at the economy level, there will be a much greater consciousness of carbon conservation and of energy efficiency. So land transport, for example, will be moving towards full electrification or it will have to move to other carbon-free fuels. And then on the industrial side, on the industrial part of the economy, today’s industries that use fossil fuels in their industrial processes will also need to redesign their processes using different technologies. They cannot stay still and continue to use fossil fuel in the future.

For sectors that do not use fossil fuels directly, they also have to become much more efficient in their use of technology. By using better equipment, by harnessing the opportunities to produce their own energy and also by collaborating, as I said earlier, within a district level in order to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. And this is something that will, I think, pervade throughout the whole economy here in Singapore, but actually also in any city.

So workers in the energy industry also have to be more adaptable. They have to learn new technical skills as the sector goes through its radical transformation in order to reach net zero. While the current energy sector, as I said, happens to be one that is very, very conservative and very risk averse, the future will not be so benign. I expect it to be very fast moving, very disruptive, and it will necessitate workers to move rapidly from the disrupted segments of the industry to their disruptors. And if it is the same company that is sort of able to transit from disrupted to disruptor, then all the better for workers. But if not the workers need it move also, because the old industry will dry up, the new companies will be in a sunrise sector.

Victor Seet 00:10:01

As I hear you, it feels like there’s a certain old image of a more conservative, more risk averse, and it’s going to be something very new. The way we look at this sector, very, very futuristic, very fast. And in a sense, lots of disruptions are going to happen in this space. Very, very interesting.

I’m wondering about also, we talk about the workers in this sector, because of this shift, what skillsets do you think they need to be intentional in learning, because it feels like a very big shift. So what skillset would you think people who are currently in the sector, or people aspiring to join this sector, what do you feel like they should be intentional to pick up?

Larry Choi 00:10:56

I think they have to be conscious, as I said, and which you have also echoed. There are many changes that are going to happen in the sector, and it is happening fast. It is also going to happen in such a way that today, sitting here in 2022, we don’t know exactly what these changes are going to be. For example, we don’t know which new technologies will succeed and how long it will take. So, many of the technologies that will be needed for a net zero world in 2050, today they are still not mature. But some of them will definitely come through. The problem is knowing which ones, right?

So there are risks that have to be taken by companies, by leaders in companies, and they are the ones who will have to pioneer, sort of blaze the trail into these new technologies. At the worker level, I think they have to be very ready to learn new things.

I think the way the world is changing now, it’s no longer going to be like what we have seen in the past where you can learn one discipline and your work will just be from that discipline. So, for example, it will not be just purely from engineering, it will not just purely be from economics. In many ways, in the future, there would have to be a lot of interdisciplinary kind of work, a lot of interdisciplinary skills, because this fast-moving world does require people to understand a more diverse set of forces at work, in their industry. So therefore, I think that for workers, average people would have to be much more adaptable, would also have to be much more able to think across different disciplines.

Victor Seet 00:13:19

Thank you for sharing that. I am reminded of really this idea of transdisciplinary thinking skills. as you share about that, and of course, being able to be nimble and adjust for these sectors.

As you share about this sector moving into a very new image, I can really imagine this sector would be something that the young generation, the new generation will be looking forward to, because it’s so dynamic. And this would be something that when we look at the new workforce there could be many aspiring young entrepreneurs in this space. At least that’s how I imagine it to be when we talk about how this sector is going to develop.

Thank you so much for sharing these insights. Very short, but I think it’s so important that we understand this report. This is how this sector is going to move, very fast.

So viewers, this was a very short but important update about the energy sector. And we have Mr. Larry Choi just sharing the key thrusts of this 2050 report. We are coming to the end of today’s Livechat. We hope that you stay tuned for future updates. Thank you.

Scientists have concluded that the world needs to reach net zero emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. For the world to reach net zero emissions, a wide range of trends and factors need to be considered, and transformational changes need to be anticipated during this transition.

We invited Mr. Larry Choi, Chairman of Energy Committee 2050, Director and CEO of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute to share with us insights into these findings.

Transcript

Victor Seet 00:00:05

Hello. Welcome to the Capelle Livechat. My name is Victor, and I’m your host for today. And today here with us, we have a very special guest, Mr. Larry Choi. 

Larry is currently the Director and CEO of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. And before he joined there, he was Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. And before that, he was also Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Transport. So we are very privileged to have him with us here today. And so we just want to welcome you, Larry.

Larry Choi 00:00:37

Thank you.

Victor Seet 00:00:38

Today we are going to dive into and explore about the energy sector. There’s lots of discussion and talk about Singapore going green, about the clean energy. We’ve got Larry here with us today, and this is the reason why.

Larry, we know that there is this recent energy report that was just being published, and we know that you are the chairman helming this committee. So we would like for you to share, how did this report come about? And what’s the main thrust of this report?

Larry Choi 00:01:19

Well, the committee was called the Energy 2050 Committee, and it was commissioned by the Energy Market Authority of Singapore. They wanted to bring together a group of experts to look ahead 30 years to 2050 because 2050 is a year in which scientists have concluded that the world needs to reach net zero emissions, net zero carbon emissions in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. So given the dire situation for the world as a whole, EMA wanted the committee to realistically assess what Singapore can do in the electric power sector to try and reach net zero emissions. So to do this study, we had to look at a wide range of trends and factors. And therefore, we were looking for a committee with a range of expertise, but also able to be able to work together.

And three types of experts we were looking for: technology experts, because that technology determines how much we can do to reduce carbon emissions. We also needed business experts, people who were in the energy business so that you can assess the business trends going forward. And we also needed some public policy experts, people who can see what the governments can do around the world, in order to bring about this transition. And this committee, which worked together for about one and a half years, we came to three conclusions.

Firstly, that it is technically viable and also realistic for the power sector in Singapore to achieve net zero by 2050. Secondly, this transition will not be easy, as it will need very major transformational changes across the entire energy and power value chain in Singapore. Further complexities arise because of the great uncertainties that still exist in the technological and geopolitical trends. So that’s the second conclusion. The third one is this, that there are many business opportunities for Singapore to tap into in making this transition because the solutions we develop for ourselves will also be deployable to other cities. So what we do for ourselves can also be transferred and in that sense sold as services and models to other countries, other cities, especially.

Victor Seet 00:04:07

Thank you for sharing that, especially the last point, Singapore to pave the way.

I want to focus on this second part. When you talk about this transformational shift, it sounds very big. What do you think are some critical shifts for businesses in the energy sector? What do leaders need to be aware of?

Larry Choi 00:04:27

Okay, so for those who are in the energy power related business today, I think it is best that they start positioning for the future now. Many businesses, I think, very naturally prefer concentrating on their existing lines of business without investing too much in risky future trends. However, this would be a recipe for them to be disrupted by other companies focusing on these new technologies. So they need to have a mindset, not of resisting change, but to anticipate it and to prepare to exploit it, because this transition is coming about as a result of this very strong imperative, which is to avert climate change. Therefore, the changes will have to be done. It will be compelled by the very fact that the world as a whole will face an existential threat if we do not deal with it.

So the power industry, the energy industry, is a very conservative industry. It’s very slow moving in the past, but that is really going to change drastically in the next 30 years because of the changes forced upon it by climate change.

So for those in the power industry, there will be big opportunities in new carbon free sources such as solar power, solar generation, using photovoltaic cells. There’s also new opportunities in hydrogen, as well as some other new technologies such as geothermal, even nuclear technologies and carbon capture. So some of these last three, the geothermal, the nuclear, may come a little bit later. Carbon capture perhaps later still. There will also be on the services side many new needs, many new offerings that have to be found in energy efficiency, managing of what we call, distributed energy resources, and also in a district level energy optimization. In that sense, a kind of within subparts of the grid today, where energy should be optimized or can be optimized further than what is done today.

Victor Seet 00:07:05

Wow, sounds like a lot of development and innovation is going to happen in this space, at least, coming up. That’s what I’m hearing, lots and lots of different things.

Other than this energy sector that you talked about, how might this transformational shift affect the wider economy? Any inputs from you?

Larry Choi 00:07:28

So I think at the economy level, because in a sense we have to think of energy as the lifeblood of the whole economy. So whatever any economy does, it needs energy to drive it. So at the economy level, there will be a much greater consciousness of carbon conservation and of energy efficiency. So land transport, for example, will be moving towards full electrification or it will have to move to other carbon-free fuels. And then on the industrial side, on the industrial part of the economy, today’s industries that use fossil fuels in their industrial processes will also need to redesign their processes using different technologies. They cannot stay still and continue to use fossil fuel in the future.

For sectors that do not use fossil fuels directly, they also have to become much more efficient in their use of technology. By using better equipment, by harnessing the opportunities to produce their own energy and also by collaborating, as I said earlier, within a district level in order to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. And this is something that will, I think, pervade throughout the whole economy here in Singapore, but actually also in any city.

So workers in the energy industry also have to be more adaptable. They have to learn new technical skills as the sector goes through its radical transformation in order to reach net zero. While the current energy sector, as I said, happens to be one that is very, very conservative and very risk averse, the future will not be so benign. I expect it to be very fast moving, very disruptive, and it will necessitate workers to move rapidly from the disrupted segments of the industry to their disruptors. And if it is the same company that is sort of able to transit from disrupted to disruptor, then all the better for workers. But if not the workers need it move also, because the old industry will dry up, the new companies will be in a sunrise sector.

Victor Seet 00:10:01

As I hear you, it feels like there’s a certain old image of a more conservative, more risk averse, and it’s going to be something very new. The way we look at this sector, very, very futuristic, very fast. And in a sense, lots of disruptions are going to happen in this space. Very, very interesting.

I’m wondering about also, we talk about the workers in this sector, because of this shift, what skillsets do you think they need to be intentional in learning, because it feels like a very big shift. So what skillset would you think people who are currently in the sector, or people aspiring to join this sector, what do you feel like they should be intentional to pick up?

Larry Choi 00:10:56

I think they have to be conscious, as I said, and which you have also echoed. There are many changes that are going to happen in the sector, and it is happening fast. It is also going to happen in such a way that today, sitting here in 2022, we don’t know exactly what these changes are going to be. For example, we don’t know which new technologies will succeed and how long it will take. So, many of the technologies that will be needed for a net zero world in 2050, today they are still not mature. But some of them will definitely come through. The problem is knowing which ones, right?

So there are risks that have to be taken by companies, by leaders in companies, and they are the ones who will have to pioneer, sort of blaze the trail into these new technologies. At the worker level, I think they have to be very ready to learn new things.

I think the way the world is changing now, it’s no longer going to be like what we have seen in the past where you can learn one discipline and your work will just be from that discipline. So, for example, it will not be just purely from engineering, it will not just purely be from economics. In many ways, in the future, there would have to be a lot of interdisciplinary kind of work, a lot of interdisciplinary skills, because this fast-moving world does require people to understand a more diverse set of forces at work, in their industry. So therefore, I think that for workers, average people would have to be much more adaptable, would also have to be much more able to think across different disciplines.

Victor Seet 00:13:19

Thank you for sharing that. I am reminded of really this idea of transdisciplinary thinking skills. as you share about that, and of course, being able to be nimble and adjust for these sectors.

As you share about this sector moving into a very new image, I can really imagine this sector would be something that the young generation, the new generation will be looking forward to, because it’s so dynamic. And this would be something that when we look at the new workforce there could be many aspiring young entrepreneurs in this space. At least that’s how I imagine it to be when we talk about how this sector is going to develop. 

Thank you so much for sharing these insights. Very short, but I think it’s so important that we understand this report. This is how this sector is going to move, very fast.

So viewers, this was a very short but important update about the energy sector. And we have Mr. Larry Choi just sharing the key thrusts of this 2050 report. We are coming to the end of today’s Livechat. We hope that you stay tuned for future updates. Thank you.

 

 

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