June Newsletter 2018: Oil Market Review

The market has gone through a rollercoaster ride since the beginning of the month with news sentiments swinging prices although it is largely down month to date.

Oil rally has been blunted significantly after announcement of OPEC meeting and trade tariffs between China and US

A historic meeting between the American president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un occurred in Singapore this month. The world watched and applauded this meeting and what it symbolizes; One step closer to a peaceful Korea. Kim Jong Un was given a Korean popstar’s welcome in Singapore and Donald Trump was actually seen having fibre for lunch.  While all this had little impact on the oil markets, the one lesson we do take away from this is that anything is possible.

The hottest news on the block remains to be the production ambitions of the US, Russia and OPEC. With Iran’s sanctions becoming increasingly likely come November and Venezuela’s oil infrastructure gradually crumbling into disrepair, the 3 mentioned earlier seem more than eager to fill in the gap that will be left open.

At the end of the OPEC meeting on the 22nd June, the Saudis presented everyone with a mathematical conundrum where they stated a production increase of 1mpd with a real increase of only 600 kbpd. The subsequent meeting with the OPEC+ meeting on 23rd June reassured everyone that there will be a real increase of 1mpd. In the meantime, the oil markets went on a rollercoaster ride rallying $3 per barrel before falling back down.

The US charged on ahead with an increased rig count and production with estimated expansion of 1.44mpd this year by the IEA. However, there seems to be a supply bottleneck as the US pipeline flows reaches its maximum capacity. So, until that has been resolved, real US shale production outlook is still uncertain.

In other news, the trade war between US and China has been reignited with fiery and Trump-ian fashion. It has weighed heavily on oil prices, equities, commodities and my heart. After a falling out on talks, new tariffs announced last week are due to take effect in July. A cumulative $250bn worth of tariffs were proposed across multiple products including energy related commodities such as coal and crude oil.

All in all, oil is set for a volatile month. A key event to look out for would the outcome of the trade war between China and US. Personally, I would prefer to go back to a simpler time when I was thought Clinton might win. Then again, I’ll probably be spending as much time wondering about the outcome of the trade war as thinking if I should follow the NCPG’s team picks this year.

Author: Zheng Tianbai, Analyst, iSwitch Energy Team

Disclaimer: iSwitch will not be liable for any loss or damage of any kind (whether direct, indirect or consequential losses or other economic loss of any kind) suffered due to any omission, error, inaccuracy, incompleteness, or otherwise, or any reliance on such information. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s personal views and must not be construed as representing the opinion of iSwitch as a company.

Bitcoins

Bitcoin Mining & Electricity

Crazy Energy Uses You Probably Haven’t Realised!

It’s 2018 and most of us today probably have heard of cryptocurrencies and especially bitcoin. From its peak price of around $14,000 a coin to the underlying blockchain technology behind it, the world is buzzing with excitement on how it’s adoption could change the world as we know it!

Will we one day be purchasing our favorite chicken rice or roti prata with bitcoin?

Maybe selling cars or even houses could be done using bitcoin without involving banks or writing a single cheque.

While all these are might be fascinating to imagine, it is equally amazing to note that bitcoin mining today is just using a crazy amount of electricity and its impact on the environment is increasing at alarming rates.

So How Can We Get Bitcoins?

Perhaps the most accessible avenue for people to get a bitcoin is to buy it directly using our dollars or other cryptocurrencies out there in the market (like Ethereum), but at a cost of almost S$10,000 – who has that kind of money to spend on a digital currency hor!

There must be another way!

Enter Bitcoin Mining

All anyone needs to do is to turn on computer help verify ongoing payments in bitcoins within the blockchain network. You are basically using your computer and a special software to solve complex math problems and as a reward you get bitcoins.

In the early days of bitcoin around 2010, you could easily use your home computer to mine for bitcoins. But as time progressed (and as the price of bitcoin soared up), more individuals and even companies moved towards more professional means of bitcoin mining. We are talking about machines equipped with circuit chips and graphic cards designed specifically for bitcoin mining. And that means the electricity needed to run these machines have also skyrocketed.

You might be thinking – if there are more professional machines mining bitcoins, doesn’t that mean the reserves will dry up completely?

Not really, as each additional coin is mined, the math problem gets harder to solve and it will take more computing power and – you guessed it – much more electricity consumption!

The amount of electricity it would take to mine for a single bitcoin 5 years ago might be 10 times or more needed to mine bitcoin today, and that is not even counting in the serious amount of dollars you would need to invest in a professional mining hardware machine!

Mining’s Electricity Use Is Tremendous

In a recent study, it is estimated that the entire bitcoin network consumes about 2.55 gigawatts of electricity and can reach to 7.67 gigawatts by the end of the year – that’s enough energy to power a country the size of Austria!

Siao right?

Think about the amount of electricity used to power your home, it will take 9 days or 250 kWh worth of power for a single bitcoin transaction. But it gets even more frightening – by 2020, bitcoin mining could consume all the world’s electricity if it continues to increase at this rate!

Today itself, bitcoin mining is now using more electricity than 159 individual countries that include Morocco, Iceland and Ireland.

The Environmental Impact Is Serious Too

It is predicted that the bitcoin network emits about 7.7 million tons of carbon dioxide every year added on to the fact that bitcoin miners are increasingly moving to China where electricity prices are considerably lower than countries like the United States.

With cheap electricity and land in China also comes with it electricity generation from coal-powered plants that are inefficient and release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

No wonder every year it’s getting hotter – part of the blame is due to bitcoin!

The Need For Renewable Energy

While it is anyone’s guess if bitcoin will continue to soar and be used globally or fade out of existence, it is undeniable that the world is becoming more technological. From more gadgets, yes that iPhone in your pocket, to new inventions and breakthroughs, the need for green energy is coming more urgent with every passing year.

If you are mining bitcoins in Singapore, maybe take some time and consider the environmental footprint you are having and choose to opt for green energy sources. This means your electricity supply is coming from renewable energy sources that include solar energy.

Let’s mine responsibly!

electric car

Is An Electric Car The Best Way To Go Green In The Lion City?

We all have heard about them, know someone who owns one and we have probably ridden in one before – we are talking about electric cars of course! While we are hearing new breakthroughs and swifter models almost every single year, 100% electric cars really only began showing up from 2010 onwards with the Nissan Leaf being the world’s first major manufactured fully electric vehicle.

That means the cars you sat in before 2010 – with the driver calling it electric – was most likely a hybrid car that ran on a mixture of gasoline and electricity, switching between the two depending on if it was cruising or accelerating.

But perhaps the true mark of going green is the complete switch to 100% all-electric car and no company is more committed to producing fully electric cars than Tesla.

Leading The Green Revolution On The Roads

When the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, first began the company, he decided to commit fully to producing a car that is sleek looking – unlike many of the ugly hatchback options still seen today, as well as powered by a cleaner form of energy – electricity.

While many companies from Ford and Nissan first came to market, Tesla accomplished something the rest couldn’t. Tesla has made electric cars desirable, cool and popular. From onboard software that auto-updates to self-driving capabilities, it is no wonder that quite a few Singaporeans are jumping over various hurdles to import their very own Tesla cars from the Californian manufacturer!

So How Good Are Tesla Cars For The Environment?

When we first compare the emissions of Electric Vehicles (EV) versus that of gasoline vehicles, we can see that electric cars on average emits only 50% of greenhouse gases when compared to our traditional petrol cars – but wait, it gets better hor!

Because the way Tesla manufactures their cars by using nearly 0% of coal-generated electricity and their Gigafactory is to be fully powered from renewable energy by 2020, Tesla cars are actually being manufactured in a more environmentally friendlier way than other electric vehicles in the market!

But Does It Make Sense To Get One In Singapore?

Before we get too hyped up on Tesla cars, getting one on the road has been notoriously hard – someone tried and had to wait 1 year and had to pay a $15,000 electric vehicle fine instead! Even Elon Musk himself dropped our Prime Minister Lee a phone call to find out what was going on.

But has things changed? Thankfully it has!

When Elon Musk tweeted to a Tesla admirer in Singapore that “Singapore is a very prosperous city and yet has very few electric cars”, it was countered by unveiling that Singapore already has a scheme that grants electric vehicles up to $20,000 in tax breaks. Plus, electric vehicle drivers will avoid more than $10,000 in petrol duty over 10 years, sounds good right?

Hold on ah!

Unfortunately, Tesla cars have too much horse-power and might not qualify for the full rebates. In Singapore, there are only 348 fully electric cars registered, 3 are Tesla Model S’s and only 4 EVs that qualify for the maximum $20,000 rebate and none of them are Tesla cars. Two of the Teslas, however, only received $10,000 and $15,000 partial rebates respectively.

In fact, the Tesla Car models in Singapore today starts at a whopping S$426,800 (with COE included)…psst you can probably buy a five-room BTO flat with that amount lor!

Is There A Better Way To Go Green?

Thankfully there is a way where you can help the environment daily, not burn a big hole in your wallet and save money monthly too!

See that electric bill on your table? If you are an environmentalist and staying in Jurong, it is high time to take a look at your electricity plans. As from April onwards, Singapore’s Open Electricity Market is finally open to residents of Jurong first before extending to the rest of the nation!

You can choose to do your part for the environment by opting for a green electricity plan that supplies your household with carbon-neutral electricity. That means your electricity use has a net zero emissions effect on the environment, there is no carbon footprint at all!

Best of all, you will be enjoying guaranteed savings of the old electricity tariff from Singapore Power and there is no need to shell out S$400k+ for a Tesla car!

Interested in learning more about our green plans? Go here and enjoy guaranteed savings on your electric bill while helping the environment!

Not sure what green energy is? You can also check out our article that breaks down green energy here!

Smart homes

It’s Time To Control Your Home With A Single Touch!

Smart Walls Are Coming

Sit back and gear up! While the world is becoming increasingly more connected with the internet being connected to almost every appliance we have from our phones to even the fridge and door-bells, nothing could be more exciting than the latest innovation in smart wall technology that could very well change the way we live at home forever.

Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University teamed up with researchers from Disney to transform our old boring walls into marvelous high tech smart walls. Just imagine sliding your hand down on your wall to turn on your television in the living room…or even holding down on your wall to check if the kettle you left on in the kitchen has finished boiling.

How Does This Technology Work?

You might be thinking – Not possible la! Don’t bluff leh!

Must we wire up our entire wall and install touchpads everywhere, turning our entire wall into a giant LCD screen -while spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process?

Nope. The researchers have developed a type of water-based conductive paint that can be rolled onto any wall to create electrodes on the surface of a wall. This innovation, called Wall++, will track a user’s touch and gestures through “airborne electromagnetic noise” — the same type of sensing your smartphone or iPad screen does.

With distance sensing and hover tracking, the smart wall can accurately sense gestures and pinpoint the exact point of where someone pressed or swiped the wall. Press to call and swipe right to answer the door? – It’s definitely coming soon!

But perhaps the best part might be the price tag on this. At just US$20 per square meter, we can probably turn out bedroom walls into smart walls at less than 200 dollars! (Unless your room is really really big lah)

Chris Harrison, the assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) stated that “Walls are usually the largest surface area in a room, yet we don’t make much use of them other than to separate spaces, and perhaps hold up pictures and shelves”. With this in mind, the team has now taken the first steps to turn our walls into high-tech remote controls!

Through its electromagnetic sensory technology, the research team has managed to use its electromagnetic sensor to track appliances like hair-dryers if they are held close enough to the wall. This alone opens up a whole world of household appliance tracking. Not sure if you left the living room’s television on while wasting electricity? The smart wall can help detect if the TV is still switched on and in the future, we might just be able to just swipe down on any wall near us to turn the TV off.

But How Can Smart Walls Really Help Us?

Don’t worry, we have compiled the 3 most common future ways Smart Walls can help us Singaporeans in our daily lives to make each day a little more shiok!

  • Use your wall as a master light switch! Press one thumb to turn on the living room lights, two fingers to switch on the bedroom lights and your entire palm to brighten up every room in the house (as well as skyrocket your electricity bill)
  • Use different poses to trigger different home appliances – stand in front of your wall and point up to turn on the TV, point to the left to switch on your charging ports and maybe even do a little dance in front of the wall to start playing your favorite music beats!
  • Answer the door while you are stuck in the shower! I’m sure all of us has experienced doing our business or taking bath in the toilet while someone is knocking on the door. It gets worse if we are expecting an important delivery from Lazada or Amazon! With Smart Walls, we could eventually just unlock our door directly for our family or the delivery man by just touching the nearest wall. Killing two birds with one touch!

Although the possibilities sound exciting, it will probably take another few years to integrate this technology into our lives and also solve the electricity consumption issue with it.

Will Smart Walls use a lot of electricity throughout the entire day? Can we turn the technology on and off as and when we like? How much might Smart Walls affect my electric bill?

While these are important questions the team at Carnegie Mellon have to answer, it is undeniable that once Smart Walls come into our homes, our lives will forever be changed and there is no going back to the plain old bare walls!

open electricity market

OEM: A World Of Benefits To The Consumer!

Before electricity deregulation, consumers only had one option when it came to getting their energy supply; the local utility, there wasn’t any other choice. While this made things relatively simple, it could foster a rather monopolistic marketplace. Bo swee right!

That’s why since 2001, Singapore’s Energy Market Authority has been deregulating the electricity market in phases starting with businesses and from April 2018, consumers can now choose between different electricity retailers for the best electricity plan in the market.

This liberalisation means retailers will be fighting hard for your business and we all get to enjoy cost savings on our electric bills!

Electricity Deregulation Is Happening Globally

While Singapore likes to be number 1 in everything (hint hint, Changi Airport), energy deregulation is nothing new and has been implemented in many countries from the USA to Australia. In fact, more than 35 countries have been deregulating their energy markets with the bulk of them being in the European Union.

Europe

Before energy deregulation of the entire continent, many parts of Europe were divided into different energy regions. While countries like the UK and Italy already had deregulated markets internally, some countries paid more, while others paid less. Not fair hor? Thankfully today, European customers can now choose their electricity supplier and generate individual supply agreements.

USA

It is quite interesting to note that not all parts of America are able to enjoy electricity deregulation. Some states such as Texas allow 85% of their residents to benefit from electricity deregulation, while the majority of other states are fully regulated markets.

Australia & New Zealand

Been down under or visited the land of the kiwis? You might be surprised to learn that Australia & New Zealand are 100% deregulated meaning all residential and commercial customers can get to choose their electricity supply from various providers in the open market.

In fact, thanks to the significant amount of competition present due to deregulation, Australia now boasts one of the most open and best run electricity markets in the world.

But you might be wondering, what has all these got to do with me ah?

I tell you, it has everything to do with you – it concerns you saving money on your electricity bill!

While electricity deregulation is still new to residential customers in Singapore, the main thing we should note are the incredible benefits that are now open to us.

The 5 Biggest Benefits Of Singapore’s Open Electricity Market
1. Save More Money Lor!

With more choices in your electricity retailers means more transparency in prices and electricity plans. With every retailer trying their best to get your business, there will be more plans created to suit different types of consumers.

  • Are you a night owl? – Check out the Peak & Off-Peak plans!
  • Do you want guaranteed savings no matter what? – The Discount Over Tariff (DOT) plan is for you!
  • Budgeting a key concern for you? – Fixed Price Plans might be your best choice!

No matter which plan you choose, it is likely you will be enjoying sweet discounts on your electric bill versus what you were paying before, when you were buying electricity directly from Singapore Power.

2. You Can Switch Without Interruption!

Deregulation only affects the supply of energy, not its distribution channels. That means you don’t need to install any new hardware or suffer any blackouts or periods without electricity.

It’s easy to switch. Just choose your new retailer and sit back and shake leg!

3. You Can Make A Conscious Decision & Go Green!

Are you an environmentalist or care greatly for the environment? Now you can do your part and make a conscious choice and opt for Green Energy. Deregulation allows retailers to give our customers green plans that help align with their priorities.

4. Enjoy Better Customer Service – People Will Now Pick Up The Phone!

Have you have tried calling in to check on your electric bill but left with a poor customer service experience? Not anymore!

As the competition heats up for your business, retailers will be doing their best in the customer service department; from helping you choose the best plan for your household to assisting you with any bill matters.

5. Rebates & Loyalty Programs

Yes, it can get even better!

With various rebates and loyalty programs, don’t be surprised if your retailer hooks you up with discounts, vouchers or even free movie tickets.

At iSwitch, we have partnered with various brands to bring you offers such as iPromo Plan with a complimentary iPad on top of the incredible savings on your electric bill and oh so awesome customer service of ours!

So if you haven’t switched to a new electricity retailer yet, it’s time to do so and start enjoying the benefits of Singapore’s Open Electricity Market.

Chiong ah!