- Cover Story
The Director of electricity retailer Geneco is serious about Singapore's energy.
Backed by nearly half a century of expertise as a power generator—and our island’s second-largest at that—Geneco Singapore is breaking new ground as an electricity retailer.
The impetus came in the form of the Open Electricity Market (OEM), the final phase of which was rolled out in May. It’s been some time in the making since Singapore started to deregulate the energy market in 2001. In such a market, consumers get to choose which electricity retailer to buy electricity from. With more competition comes more attractive prices and more flexible options, presumably.
Geneco Singapore is one of 12 gen-tailers in the OEM, which supplies to households and small businesses that use less than 2,000kwh every month. It is owned by YTL PowerSeraya, which has been generating Singapore’s power for 48 years and provides 25 per cent of the electricity consumed in Singapore.
And the man spearheading this latest venture by Malaysian-based conglomerate YTL is Yeoh Keong Hann, or “Hann” to those who know him. YTL was founded by his grandfather Yeoh Tiong Lay in 1955. His dad Yeoh Seok Hong, the fourth among the elder Yeoh’s seven children, runs YTL’s power, utilities and construction businesses.
Yeoh, also an executive director at YTL Power, has been tasked to build Geneco Singapore into “the most forward-looking electricity retailer in Southeast Asia”, reveals that the company has reached 100,000 households over the past six months.
If he’s elated by the figures, he tries to downplay it, allowing himself only a slight smile as he lets on, “I think it’s fantastic.”
The 33-year-old is a little more forthcoming when he talks about why OEM presents great opportunities for Geneco Singapore.
“It allows the company to offer different customised energy solutions, so a customer pays for only what he needs and uses.” That’s why, he explains, in addition to standard fixed price plans and discounted regulated tariff plans, there are weekend and green plans. Each comes with its own price point and contractual period.
His strategy comprises four words: choice, price, reliability and future-focused. It’s important to consumers that plans suit their needs and usage patterns, and are affordable in order to create more opportunities for growth, he says. When deciding who to buy from, they want a reliable gen-tailer who will be around for the long haul and who will explore newer options to help drive a better future.
He rattles off details: “We have the lowest-priced 24-month plan in the market — no deposit, no monthly fees, no hidden charges, plus a pricematch guarantee. We have seven plans to offer everything from fixed price and discount off tariff. We have a fully digital experience so customers can switch in three easy steps: get online, choose a plan and fill up a form. And we have green plans that help promote use of sustainable energy.”
Among Geneco Singapore’s product plans are two that Yeoh feels will appeal to eco-warriors: Get It Green offers customers the option of 100-percent carbon-neutral electricity at 19.26 cents per kWh for a one-year contract while Get Sunny is a 100-percent solar energy electricity plan at 22.88 cents per kWh for an 18-month contract.
Like his father and uncles, Yeoh is trained in engineering. It is a field he’s passionate about as it “allows me to identify problems and create solutions”. Since joining the family business in 2010, he’s championed green energy initiatives across the organisation, including exploring ways in which YTL Power can bring affordable, effective, sustainable energy options to consumers.
Delivered in Yeoh’s crisp British accent, honed in his years in the UK, where he completed his master’s in engineering science at Oxford University, these words are as earnest as they are honest.
“More than just growing business, OEM also places Geneco in a good position to help push Singapore towards sustainable energy solutions,” he says. The Singapore team, which is looking to expand its services with electric vehicle and solar energy options, will tap into partner company Geneco UK to further study innovations in renewable energy solutions.
Yeoh is on the board of directors at YTL-owned Wessex Water, which established Geneco UK in 2008. Geneco UK treats landfill waste and turns it into renewable energy, soil conditioners and biofertilisers, with the objective of eliminating landfill waste by 2020.
It is time spent as a child with his grandfather, who passed on in 2017 (YTL is now led by his uncle Francis), that Yeoh credits for his purpose-minded work ethic. “Seeing how he dedicated his talents and time to the family business impacted my life greatly and inspired me to do the same,” he says.
“From him, I learnt the importance of hard work and humility. These are values that I want to apply in my life, both professionally and personally.”
When Yeoh’s grandfather — who was Malaysia’s seventh richest person in 2017 with a net worth of US$2.1 billion, based on Forbes’ Malaysia’s 50 Richest 2017 list — was alive, he often reminded his children and 27 grandchildren that they were family stewards of the YTL brand, and that their ultimate role is to pass it on to the next generation.
Stewardship is something Yeoh’s generation of YTL leaders is working closely together to uphold. He strives for Geneco Singapore to take on a meaningful role in society, believing that it can be achieved by supporting the community and driving change to create a brighter future for the country. Research shows that millennial consumers are most willing to spend on products and services by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental causes.
“We are working towards linking our product plans to our #ChangeMakersSG programme,” he says, “so customers can do good simply by consuming Geneco energy.” Launched last year, #ChangeMakersSG is the company’s endeavour to engage Singaporeans to use energy more effectively and efficiently.
For #ChangeMakersSG, Geneco Singapore has partnered with organisations such as Comcrop, Cultivate Central, Repair Kopitiam and The Food Bank Singapore on different outreach programmes to help consumers better understand how energy is used, how it can be used more effectively and how we can harness good energy.
The gen-tailer is also actively involved in sustainability-linked learning. It conducts regular events to educate management and energy executives on innovations in energy, sustainability, as well as specific issues such as reducing carbon footprint and understanding carbon tax. Its recent sustainability forum in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore received an overwhelming response and active engagement from SMEs in Singapore.
As early as 2009, YTL PowerSeraya committed $170,000 to the building of an Energy Learning Hub for Greenridge Secondary School. The hub has been providing students with opportunities to learn about environmental issues and serves as a resource centre for 11 schools in the vicinity.
Ensuring a sustainable future requires all hands on deck. Besides learning more about renewable energy from its sister company in the UK, there are plans to harness the knowledge of experts from YTL Sustainability as well as energy experts from YTL Power International operations across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and the UK.
Says Yeoh: “My team is young so we have had to work very hard to gain the trust and respect of consumers. But that also gives us an advantage because we have so many new ideas.”
This is crucial, as Singapore will serve as the springboard for the electricity retailer to take on the rest of Southeast Asia. While expansion plans haven’t been firmed up, Yeoh is keeping his eye on the region, which isn’t surprising given that the International Energy Agency estimates energy demand here to grow by two-thirds by 2040. Understandably, he is “very excited for what the future holds”.
A man on a constant move, Yeoh splits his time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He squeezed in an hour and a half for this photoshoot and interview at the family property in Sentosa Cove—he had meetings before and after. He returned to KL that same evening, in time for a game of soccer, which he enjoys besides reading and travelling.
He thinks a digital detox is “impossible” but insists he is not a workaholic—his communications team laugh nervously behind the camera—but simply one “who’s passionate about my work”. The reason behind this passion, he says, is having found his purpose.
“Everyone is here for a purpose. One of our guiding principles at YTL revolves around whether we are doing the right thing. And my work allows me to use my knowledge and training to impact lives and help others. That’s why I feel blessed to be a blessing.”
We want to ask if he uses any sunscreen when he’s on the football field—even sans makeup, his complexion is ridiculously radiant and smooth — but we decide he probably doesn’t. So we ask if he knows how to rewire cables instead, since he studied engineering. He looks at us with incredulity, but musters a polite “No.”
Art direction by Catherine Wong, photography by Gan, fashion styling by Martin Wong, grooming by Wee Ming using Kevin Murphy and NARS, photography assistance by Loy Kok Wee & Chanel Chan
This article first appeared in the July issue of A.