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Energising Singapore's smart nation vision

Singapore's smart nation vision promises to make the city more efficient and sustainable, but getting the technology right is difficult. DNV GL is a firm eager to use decades of expertise to drive smart energy in Singapore and the region.

Singapore has declared ambitions to become the world’s first Smart Nation, where cutting-edge information technology will improve daily life for citizens and deliver greater energy efficiency. 

But this multi-billion dollar transformation will not come easy, and will require both governments and businesses to keep up with a constantly evolving landscape of new innovations, to decide which ones to implement, and figure out how to do so smoothly and safely.  

One company which believes it has the expertise to help Singapore navigate these challenges is Norwegian energy advisory and certification giant DNV GL. 

Dr Sanjay Kuttan, managing director of the company’s Clean Technology Centre (CTC) in Singapore, tells Eco-Business in a recent interview the company has the experience and technical expertise to help Singapore choose the best technology for the job.

“We will be able to help the government and industry make right technical decisions to accelerate smart technology use in a secure and reliable way,” he says.

The company’s expertise stems from a 150-year legacy in energy technology, testing and certification, and a track record of developing sustainable strategies for cities across the world, adds Kuttan. 

Smart - but risky 

Many have hailed smart tools such as sensors, data analytics software, and mobile applications as solutions that will make life more convenient and easy for urban dwellers. Sensors in flats could detect when elderly residents need medical attention, and mobile applications could make it easier for citizens to access government services, for example. 

Experts are also optimistic that smart technology can make urban energy systems more efficient and sustainable. It can reduce energy use by detecting when lights or air conditioners are not in use and turning them off, help integrate renewable energy sources in the power mix, and make grids more efficient.

But pursuing smart grids also poses risks to citizens and countries. Critics say that energy networks, fitted with meters that monitor virtually every aspect of how consumers use energy, can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks which can compromise private consumer data or worse, shut down the entire system. 

Additionally, market research group Navigant Research estimates that global smart grid technology revenue will grow from $44.1 billion in 2014 to $70.2 billion in 2023. In this burgeoning market where new products are flooding the market, choosing ones that are of good quality and compatible with the other devices in the network can be a challenge, says Kuttan.

DNV GL’s decades of expertise in independently evaluating and testing energy technologies can help the government avoid these pitfalls as it pursues wide-scale smart technology adoption, he adds. 

Headquartered in Oslo, Norway, DNV GL is the result of a mega-merger two years ago between Norwegian maritime and energy conglomerate Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and German classification society Germanischer Lloyd (GL).

Both companies have several brands under them which specialise in ship classification, oil & gas advisory, energy advisory, testing, inspection, certification, software, and business assurance services, among other things.

Through the merger, DNV GL not only expanded the scope of solutions it offers to various industries, it also enhanced its commitment to sustainable and low-carbon development and repowering its 150 year old purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment.

This influences the work of DNV GL’s Clean Technology Centre (CTC), which was opened in Singapore in 2010 and is the epicentre of its energy business in the region.

Housed in an ultra-sustainable facility in western Singapore and situated within DNV GL’s new Asia Pacific headquarters, the CTC researches and provides advisory into cutting-edge ideas such as micro-grids that run entirely on renewable energy and smart asset management; which looks at how to integrate solar, wind, tidal energy, and other energy sources into wider energy networks. 

“DNV GL has been pushing the boundaries on smart nation-related concepts for years”, says Kuttan, who has helmed the centre since 2011along with its currently 43-strong workforce comprising of two thirds with at least a Masters or PhD in various fields of expertise.

Over the past two decades, Kuttan also held various technical, consulting, and leadership roles in Asia Pacific’s energy sector. Prior to joining DNV GL, he worked for the Energy Market Authority (EMA) - Singapore’s energy regulator - and led efforts on an EMA pilot study for an intelligent energy system in Singapore.

We will be able to help the government and industry make right technical decisions to accelerate smart technology use in a secure and reliable way.

Sanjay Kuttan, director and country manager, Clean Technology Centre, DNV GL - Energy

Kuttan and his team at EMA began to look at smart energy back in 2009, and the government’s Smart Nation announcement last year was a welcome step towards scaling up their efforts, he shares. 

As director and country manager of the CTC today, Kuttan oversees DNV GL’s work to solve some of the most granular and technical challenges in Asia and Singapore’s energy industry. 

These include developing harmonised standards for the myriad devices used in IT infrastructure, and testing the different smart devices and systems flooding the market to ensure that they are reliable, secure, and can integrate with the rest of the energy network.

While the company’s new brand in relation to Energy advisory, is not widely recognised in Asia yet, Kuttan shares that DNV GL has a wealth of global experience that it is excited to bring into the region especially since the CTC has integrated the rich heritage of KEMA and Garrad Hassan into its suite of advisory services.

Global expertise, local solutions

One noteworthy project it wants to replicate in Singapore is the PowerMatching City initiative, carried out in the Dutch city of Hoogkerk in 2009.

DNV GL in partnership with several European energy companies installed smart appliances in 45 homes in the city, and connected the residences to one another to create a small energy ecosystem. The project sought to depict a smart energy system in 2030. 

With this new system, users could save both money and energy. Smart freezers and washing machines in the homes were fitted with meters that could control when the device was switched on. This tool is useful in countries where energy costs more at certain peak times of the day. These appliances can analyse price information and operate only when it is cheaper to do so. 

In addition to installing smart devices, DNV GL and its partners also trialled a local energy marketplace among the homes participating in the project, where residents could sell the renewable energy generated in their homes to one another, and even to the wider market. 

Participants responded well to the project, and it even won an award from the International Smart Grid Action Network for consumer engagement and empowerment last year. 

DNV GL is trying to get a similar test-bed off the ground in the Singapore, shares Kuttan. “It will be a great showcase of how the smart community could work here, contextualising consumer behaviour, technical requirements and market signals” he notes.

In addition to honing its own solutions in the smart energy space, the company is also involved in industry-wide efforts to set standards that will keep the entire sector operating smoothly, shares Kuttan.

An example of this is the Universal Smart Energy Framework, a Netherlands-based initiative to define a universal standard for the design and implementation of smart energy projects.

American technology giant IBM, Swiss power and automation powerhouse ABB and Dutch energy network operator Alliander are among the other companies involved in this initiative. 

Powering Asia with smart energy

Smart energy systems, with their ability to reduce energy use and support renewable power, could be a “game-changer” for Asia, where about 615 million people have no access to electricity today, says Kuttan.  

To find solutions for Singapore and the region, the centre recently commissioned the Protocol Test Centre that will provide independent profile and compliance testing of communication components to enhance the security and reliability of the grid.

The test centre will focus on providing IEC 61850 - an international standard for grid communication devices - and other related testing services to electricity utilities, large generation plants and grid-tied distributed energy resources in the Asia Pacific region.

The certification of communication components for central and distributed control systems in the electricity supply network enhances the reliability of the grid and is necessary to secure the future of the smart grid development in the region, says Kuttan. The facility in Singapore is the company’s first of its kind in the Asia Pacific region.

CTC has also deployed DNV GL’s latest technology called KEMA Smart Cable Guard in Singapore, which is a unique monitoring system developed by DNV GL in cooperation with STW, the Technology Foundation of the Dutch government and Dutch grid operators.

The KEMA Smart Cable Guard not only monitors the cable on weak spots which can lead to failures, but also locates the weak spots in the cable within an accuracy about one per cent of the total cable length. This obviously smart technology is one of the key parts of a Smart Grid, where faster and accurate determination of faults along a cable is key to enabling a Smart Nation, says Kuttan. This is because a smart nation has higher power system availability and reliability as a key deliverable.

Together with DNV GL’s Software team, the CTC is also introducing DNV GL proprietary smart asset management software, known as CASCADE, to provide unique analytics and enhance the reliability of the power system assets.  

“The government’s ambition to adopt ICT indicates to us that we have been working on the key trends in society ahead of the curve,” he says. “We hope we can have the opportunity to  contribute all our knowledge towards helping energise Singapore’s Smart Nation Vision towards success.” 

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