Mr McGregor is Group President & CEO of leading utilities, marine and urban development group, Sembcorp Industries.
Mr McGregor has a unique and varied background spanning business, operations and investment in the energy and infrastructure sectors across Europe, USA, Asia and Oceania. His rich international experience includes over a decade spent in Singapore serving markets in the region. Previously, he also led companies in India and Singapore as CEO, including Singapore LNG Corporation and PowerSeraya Group, and headed Temasek International’s Energy and Resources Group.
1. What are some of the key challenges facing Asia’s energy sector today?
Population and economic growth are key drivers behind the growing demand for energy, especially in emerging economies. Today, Asia faces a stark reality – either it secures adequate energy or its future economic growth could suffer. A key challenge facing this region is therefore strengthening a supply of energy that is secure, reliable, affordable and yet at the same time sustainable.
In particular, affordable access to power is a prerequisite for inclusive growth. However, there is a gap in the supply and demand of energy in many markets in Asia. To address this issue, some governments in Asia have set aggressive generation and electrification targets to sustain and fuel economic development. While setting a target is easy, the challenge for these governments is in putting in place the necessary infrastructure and investment conditions that would attract private investors and independent power producers.
Equally pressing are the challenges of climate change, socio-economic development with regards to the protection of the environment and the need to improve air quality.
2. As a prominent energy player in Asia, how is Sembcorp helping the region meet its growing energy demand?
Given Sembcorp’s track record and experience in both thermal and renewable energy, we see a clear role for ourselves as an independent player that can partner markets in Asia in meeting their demand for power. We have proven expertise as a developer, owner and operator to provide a wide spectrum of capabilities from power generation to gas to multi-utility offerings. In this regard, we can take into account each market’s specific needs and context to apply the right solutions and tap on the best available energy solutions and technology.
For example, we are developing a 225-megawatt gas-fired power plant in central Myanmar that is expected to be completed in 2018. The Sembcorp Myingyan project is our first investment in Myanmar and it is set to be the largest gas-fired independent power plant in the country. Utilising the most efficient technologies, the plant will be able to maximise power output while minimising emissions. It is set to play a key role in meeting the country’s growing demand for electricity.
While in Bangladesh, one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a growing energy landscape, we see tremendous opportunity for us to further expand our utilities and other businesses in the country. We are developing a 426-megawatt power plant in the Sirajganj district of Bangladesh that is also expected to be completed next year. The combined cycle power plant will be fuelled primarily by natural gas, with high speed diesel as backup fuel.
3. Sustainability is also a key part of the energy conversation. With major companies expected to lead the low-carbon transition, what is Sembcorp doing on this front?
Sembcorp constantly harnesses the power of technology to achieve greater efficiency and lower emissions in our operations. We invest in energy-efficient, renewable and low-carbon generation technologies that not only help manage emissions, but also make business sense.
Globally, Sembcorp has a growing low-carbon energy portfolio. To date, we have over 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy and energy-from-waste capacity in Singapore, China, India and the UK, including wind and solar power, biomass and energy-from-waste assets. We remain committed to setting achievable energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, and developing strategies to mitigate the impact of operations on the environment.
In Singapore, we have also ventured into adding rooftop solar facilities to our global renewable energy portfolio. Our rooftop assets are located at the premises of Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore, Stolthaven Singapore as well as on SATS Airfreight Terminals 5 and 6 at Singapore’s Changi Airport. These acquisitions are in line with Sembcorp’s goal to grow solar power capacity and move into the emerging distributed solar energy market in Singapore. It also reinforces Sembcorp’s commitment to sustainability and supporting greener energy for Singapore, as the power market here moves towards full retail competition.
4. The potential that digitalisation brings to the energy industry is vast. How has it impacted the energy supply chain and the way energy players operate?
Digitalisation is changing the way we operate today. It is bringing about the evolution of new integrated business models as emerging technologies alter landscape. As a utilities provider, we see valuable opportunities in digital innovation across our sector. Investing in digital technologies helps save generation and maintenance costs, addresses business challenges, enhances performance and helps ensure sustainable growth and value.
An example of how Sembcorp has leveraged innovation to achieve efficiency can be seen through our Global Asset Management System (GAMS). Launched in March 2017, the Sembcorp GAMS utilises advanced digital tools and puts the company at the forefront of using predictive analytics in the operations of utilities plants. The system consolidates operational data for Sembcorp’s global operations on a real-time basis and focuses on three key areas – plant optimisation, predictive maintenance and process improvement. We are one of the first Singapore utilities generation companies to operate such a system to manage global asset performance. With this, we will be able to run our global portfolio more efficiently and effectively at a lower cost.
5. What are your thoughts on the SIEW 2017 theme, “Rethinking Energy; Navigating Change”?*
The energy landscape in Asia is undeniably shifting and we can expect more disruptions ahead. Gas markets are becoming increasingly integrated. Renewables are also gaining momentum. With a rising concern for the environment, there is increasing expectation from market players to operate responsibly and to offer solutions that meet energy needs with less impact on the environment. At the same time, technology has changed the economics of operating low-carbon energy businesses.
Against this backdrop, companies with a growth mindset to leverage opportunities from an evolving environment will be the ones to succeed in this market. At Sembcorp, we believe that our balanced portfolio and capabilities across the energy value chain will give us strength as a Group to navigate through the changes and position ourselves for the future.