Insights on Energy

By Claudia Tan

The Discovery+ Series is a series of events, delivered through online digital solutions, which give students the chance to speak directly with working professionals, and learn about careers they aspire to enter. Given the developments in the COVID-19 situation, Advisory is keen to provide support to the many students who are experiencing woes in this time of disruptions, by digitalising professional mentorship.

On the 16th of January 2021, Advisory organised its 28th part of The Discovery+ Series, covering the topic of Energy. On the panel, we had Serene Tan-Johnson, Global Policy & Advocacy Manager from the Royal Dutch Shell Group; Eugene Khoo, Deputy Director, from SP group; and Lawrence Kwan, director for energy from Sunseap Group. The session was moderated by Desiree Tung, Deputy Director from the Energy Market Authority. Through this session, attendees could gain deeper insights into the challenges and opportunities in the Energy Industry.

Energy is the heart of the economy. Having a comprehensive understanding of how we interact with energy is vital in ensuring the livelihoods of residents, the future of the climate and our environment, making it a very integral and essential industry. A key focus of the industry is sustainability, where we find out ways to utilise energy to create power while incurring minimal costs to the environment. Those in this industry also deal with both the generation of energy and the transmission and distribution of energy, ensuring that everyone gets this resource affordably and reliably.

There is also a large spectrum of opportunities available in the energy industry. As energy is a necessity in many businesses, and are available in different forms, such as wind, oil, gas, solar, and even water, working in the energy industry will allow one to take up different projects in various positions internationally. For instance, Serene shared that while her work in the Netherlands involved sales and marketing, she was involved in strategy management (Shipping and Aviation) when she came back to Singapore. Eugene shared how his work allowed him to build, troubleshoot and diagnose equipment in various countries while working with multiple people from different cultures.

The panellists also shared how energy is constantly upgrading; as more and more businesses begin to use new machinery and robotise their systems, there is a need to utilise more energy to meet their needs. This gap creates new opportunities for developing new forms of energy, and this kept our panellists excited and passionate about this industry.

In today’s world, there are finite resources but unlimited demands for energy. New regulations on the use of energy also makes it unsustainable for us to use energy at our current rate. In Singapore, satisfying our energy consumption needs is an even greater challenge as the lack of natural resources makes it difficult for us to obtain energy from mines or renewable sources. Therefore, creating new energy solutions is the goal of the industry.

One key aspect of the industry is to find the balance between the benefits and consequences of the solutions. For instance, in recent years, some cities are beginning to leverage solar energy by putting solar panels on top of buildings. However, this may negatively affect the aesthetics of the buildings. Moreover, seemingly environmental-friendly solutions, such as biogas and biomass, are also not carbon-free.

Workers in the energy industry also often have to deal with oil tanks and equipment that may combust and explode at any point in time. Hence, another key aspect of the industry is to create solutions that ensure and improve the safety of our staff while improving the distribution of energy.

Singapore has also recently pushed out our first smart and sustainable town with green features and smart technologies in Tengah. Using air conditioners will easily take up 40% of our electricity bill, and this is even worse in offices. Hence, centralising such resources in an urban environment will benefit people both economically and environmentally. 

In the transportation industry, the government has also encouraged people to adopt environmental-friendly energy methods, such as encouraging car-sharing and the use of green-fuel vehicles in aviation, land, and water. This new focus is also another source of opportunity for the next generation.

One of the key jobs in the industry is to manage the supply chain by coordinating the logistics required for the imports and exports of chemical products and tank farms. The use of petrochemicals in transportation is another large sector in the industry. Besides that, augmented reality, augmented intelligence and digitalisation are also used in the industry to reduce workers’ exposure to safety risks in high chemical pressure operating procedures. On top of that, finding the most cost-efficient solution to energy-related problems is also a job prospect in the industry. As a lot of the technologies discussed are expensive, it is important for companies to find sufficient funding for their proposed solutions while managing the risks of the investment opportunities. Moreover, there are also carbon traders whose job is to buy, sell, and trade carbon credits for clients in the form of carbon permits or offsets.

This industry is not just about engineering equipment and petrochemicals, but also about upgrading processes to make them more efficient and effective. Furthermore, political aspects (such as the way international and domestic governments react to situations), safety aspects (such as the potential harm that the projects can have on the environment and our personal health) and economic aspects (such as the costs of implementing the new solutions and ideas) would all have to be taken into consideration as well.

As energy is limited but increasingly demanded, the industry is going to be constantly upgrading at a fast pace, especially with international competition for this resource. Hence, you will need to learn to be adaptable, be open to the challenge of doing something new on a daily basis, and be skilled to deal with both technical and social problems while staying creative and resilient. This will allow one to effectively bring new solutions to energy-related problems, such as possessing limited resources, that we face in the world today.

Figuring out where you fit in the industry is also important. To do so, it is recommended for one to broadly learn about issues happening around the world, even if it is not related to engineering. For instance, possessing a certain level of legal knowledge is also a plus factor, as it can help you to better understand law contracts, learn how to write ideas legally and know what are the insurance available to better hedge the risks you face in the projects that you work on in your job. By appreciating the value chain required to sustain the energy industry, you will realise that there is a need for and a fit for everybody.

Lastly, by working in the energy sector, you will continuously be exposed to many new challenges and opportunities along the way. As long as you are interested in the energy industry, any amount of skills is enough to make a change.