Former Pasir Panjang Power Station was the second power station in Singapore, after St James Power Station. Built at a cost of $38m, the power station was officially opened on 3 July 1953 by then-governor of Singapore, Sir John Nicoll.
It was recognised as early as 1940s that St. James Power Station was unable to meet the island’s future electricity demand. In September 1948, the site for the new Pasir Panjang Power Station was approved. The site covers 37 acres and is designed for an ultimate capacity of 150,000 kilowatts. Construction of the new power station, awarded to George Wimpey and company, however, did not begin until January 1951. Some attributed the delay to the amendments in the design for the power station.
Pasir Panjang site may have been selected for the new power station due to its proximity to the sea and St James Power Station as water was needed by the power station for cooling and there were oil piping and transformers for the interconnection of the St. James Power Station to the Pasir Panjang Power Station.
Due to the prevalence of electricity breakdowns and blackouts on the island during that period, there was an urgent need for the new power station to come into operation. Blackouts was said to be “Singapore’s greatest civic problem” in 1951.
Construction of the power station was not at all smooth sailing. For the project to be completed ahead of contract date in 1953, the Special Electricity Committee of Singapore City Council approved the unforeseen increase in expenditure arising from the local purchase of steel, payment of overtime to workers and import of 40 skilled workmen from Hong Kong among others. Most of the construction materials for the new station were from Britain and this led to the City Electrical Engineer, Mr C. C. Payne’s six-week visit to Britain to speed up deliveries to complete the Pasir Panjang power station.
The power station came into operation in December 1952, months before the contract date, costing $38,000,000. The initial approved expenditure was about $27,000,000. According to Resident Engineer Mr J.W. Marshall, who was in charge of the installation of the plant at the new power station, building the first generator in 23 months was very nearly a world record. The first generator, with a capacity of 25,000 kilowatts, was then carrying about two-thirds of the Singapore’s electricity load.
After the official opening of the power station, the Singapore City Council tried to boost electricity sales by offering air-conditioning unit for hire at a nominal rate. Electrical Department, on the other hand, cleared their backlog of applications for electric stoves. This is to prevent them from suffering a loss from the power station project.
Apartments were built in the early 1950s at 5 Pasir Panjang Road for senior officers who worked at the power station. Paul Rodrigues, a former resident, recounted that the first residents were mostly expatriates from England and his father was among the first Asians employed by the power station.
Pasir Panjang Power Station has undergone expansion over the years. By 1992, Pasir Panjang, one of the four power stations owned by PUB, was said to have a capacity of 201 MW. The other three power stations under PUB were Pulau Seraya, Senoko and Jurong. The four stations could generate more than 4,000 MW of power.
With the expansion of facilities at Pulau Seraya and Senoko and a new power station at Tuas, Pasir Panjang Power Station and Jurong Power Station were phased out in 1997.