Singapore, Cambodia and Laos on Wednesday made progress towards promoting energy connectivity with the formation of a working group. 

In a significant move towards regional energy integration, the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry, Lao PDR Ministry of Energy & Mines, and Cambodia Ministry of Mines & Energy jointly announced the formation of a working group dedicated to facilitating cross-border electricity trade. 

“Through the work group, we hope to create a cooperation framework to facilitate cross-border electricity trade projects and coordinate subsea power cable issues in ASEAN,” said Singaporean Second Minister for Trade & Industry Tan See Leng at the group’s first meeting on Wednesday.  

ASEAN Power Grid vision

The initiative aims to advance the ASEAN Power Grid vision, promoting energy connectivity and sustainability across Southeast Asia. 

The APG initiative aims to build a regional power interconnection that initially focuses on cross-border bilateral agreements. It will then gradually expand to a sub-regional basis, ultimately creating a fully integrated Southeast Asia power grid system. 

The APG process will be lengthy, as the transmission grids in each ASEAN country operate at varying frequencies and voltages. 

Synchronizing these grids will necessitate a comprehensive overhaul of each nation’s entire grid system, which is a complex and challenging task. Additionally, significant financial investment will be required to upgrade the grids, and there must be a agreement on the standards to be adopted for this integration. 

Working group objectives

The newly established Singapore-Cambodia-Lao PDR working group aims to achieve three primary objectives. 

Firstly, it will create a framework to develop cross-border electricity trading projects, starting with a pilot project involving Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Singapore. This project is envisioned as a steppingstone towards a more interconnected and resilient regional power grid. 

Secondly, the group will streamline regulatory processes for the generation, export, and import of electricity. This includes developing guidelines for project developers on the application and permit processes necessary for subsea surveys and the installation of cross-border subsea power cables. By simplifying these procedures, the group hopes to hasten the realization of cross-border electricity trading projects. 

Lastly, the working group will explore commercial arrangements and the development of necessary generation and transmission infrastructure. This will enable efficient cross-border electricity trade among the participating countries, facilitating a more integrated regional energy market. 

Singapore, Cambodia and Laos taking lead

Wednesday’s meeting was jointly chaired by Singapore’s Second Minister for Trade & Industry Tan See Leng; Lao PDR’s Vice-Minister for Energy & Mines Chansaveng Boungnong; and Cambodia’s Minister for Mines & Energy Keo Rottanak. 

“We are delighted to collaborate with Singapore and Lao PDR to advance the ASEAN Power Grid. Our combined efforts to deepen regional energy integration and share clean energy efficiently set a strong example. We hope this partnership will encourage other ASEAN nations to join us in building a sustainable and interconnected energy network for the region,” Cambodia’s Rottanak said.  

Lao PDR’s Chansaveng noted that the project is a great opportunity to add to the region’s transition to cleaner energy.  

“This project is an important step for us to realize the goal of the ASEAN Power Grid and we are excited to be an important part of the regional goals for interconnection. Furthermore, it will create opportunities for Lao PDR to increase its invaluable resources in green renewable energy to assist the region to meet its clean energy transition and net-zero goals,” Chansaveng said.  

The collaboration between Singapore, Lao PDR, and Cambodia marks a crucial step towards the ambitious goals set out by the APG, potentially setting a precedent for other ASEAN countries to follow.