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Singapore Country Report

Singapore Country Report

Singapore: Energy, Environment & Future Cities

Seeram Ramakrishna, FREng, FNAE, FIES

Professor and Director, Center for Nanofibers & Nanotechnology National University of Singapore

E-mail: Seeram:nus.edu.sg (replace * with @)

Abstract

Singapore is a highly developed country of five million people living in a cosmopolitan city setting with per capita energy consumption levels comparable to those of the other high income nations. Singapore relies completely on imported energy sources as it has no natural energy resources of its own. Singapore aspires to build a distinctive global city which is livable and lively into the future. To realize this vision over the years Singapore has switched from oil to natural gas to generate needed electricity and to lower carbon emissions, and pursuing energy efficiency across all sectors of economy and society. Singapore’s long term energy security options include a) enhancing energy efficiencies in all sectors of electricity generation, industries, transportation and housing, b) derive 10-20% of energy needs from harvesting solar energy using best available technologies, c) recover energy from waste, and d) import electricity via ASEAN power grid. These options are enabled by advancements in energy efficiency technologies, large scale energy storage technologies and smart grids. Such measures are also necessary to improve the urban living environment for future generations.
Nearly 60% of world’s population is living in urban areas. Most megacities are in emerging countries, which are also faced with growing population, industrialization, congestion and environmental pollution. Many cities of the future are likely to have constraints similar to Singapore. Hence the urban energy security strategies and environmental solutions of Singapore are relevant to the future cities in ASEAN and rest of the world.

Keywords:clean energy, environment, emissions, Singapore, future cities.

1. COUNTRY OUTLOOK

Singapore is a high-income, city state of five million people living in an island of ~ 710km2 with no rural or agricultural hinterland. Singapore’s annual power consumption is ~ 42 TWh. Singapore’s access to alternative energy sources is limited.

Hydroelectric power
Hydroelectricity harnesses the energy of flowing water for the generation of electricity. Much of Singapore is generally flat and less than 15m above sea level.

Marine renewable energy (tidal and wave power)
The tidal range (difference between high and low tide) is about 1.7m, well below the 4m tidal range that is typically required for commercial tidal power generation. The availability of wave power is determined by height and frequency of the waves, but the waters around Singapore are relatively calm as we are sheltered by land masses.

Geothermal energy
Geothermal energy is not commercially viable in Singapore given the lack of conventional geothermal resources and our small land area.

Wind
Harnessing wind energy is also not viable, given our low average wind speeds of about 2m/s to 3m/s and lack of land for large-scale application of wind turbines. Most commercial wind farms leverage average wind speeds of at least 6m/s, while prime wind sites require annual average wind speeds in excess of 7.5m/s. In addition, there are challenges to harnessing offshore winds due to busy maritime traffic in our waters.

Biomass
Biomass, which is used by many countries with available land mass as a fossil fuel alternative, is not viable as a significant energy resource. Singapore already converts much of its waste to energy, providing about 2% of electricity needs.

Nuclear
While nuclear energy is a source of low-carbon electricity, there are considerable challenges given Singapore’s small land area and high urban density.

Solar
Although Singapore is located in the tropics, there are challenges to harnessing solar energy given Singapore’s small size and dense urban landscape. The cloudy, tropical climate and scarce and costly land only gives limited opportunity for Singapore to tap solar energy.
Singapore has attracted Norway’s Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) to build a $ 6.3 billion solar module manufacturing plant. The total installed solar photovoltaic capacity in Singaopre is about 3.5 MWp and expected to reach 10MWp. Biodiesel industries have committed to produce 3 million tonnes by 2015.

2. COUNTRY ENERGY AND BEYOND

Recognising that climate change affects the work and responsibilities of many Ministries and government agencies, the Government of Singapore formed the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) as a dedicated unit in July 2010 under the Prime Minister’s Office to provide coordination at the highest level for Singapore’s domestic and international policies, plans and actions on climate change. The NCCS also supports the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, IMCCC. The 2012 IMCCC report succinctly captures the environment and energy situation of Singapore. For accuracy, key aspects are reproduced in this manuscript.

Singapore has always placed a high priority on environmental issues as part of its aim to create a clean and green garden city for its people. Since independence in 1965, long before climate change became a global issue, Singapore has pursued concurrent goals of growing the economy and protecting the environment. In 1970, the Anti-Pollution Unit was established under the Prime Minister’s Office to tackle air pollution. As early as 1972, following the UN Conference on the Human environment in Stockholm, Singapore set up a dedicated Ministry of the Environment. Singapore also participated actively in the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED4) (commonly known as the Rio or Earth Summit) which adopted the UNFCCC. The first Singapore Green Plan was issued thereafter, highlighting Singapore’s commitment to ensure our environmental sustainability. In 2009, the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint which outlined our sustainable development targets till 2030 was published.

Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change said “To minimise the impact from climate change, efforts from both developed and developing countries are underway to reduce emissions. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban in 2011, all countries agreed to start negotiations on a new climate change framework beyond 2020. As a responsible global citizen, Singapore will do our part to reduce emissions, while ensuring that we continue to grow and prosper”.

Over the years Singapore replaced energy source fuel oil with natural gas—the cleanest form of fossil fuel—as the primary fuel for electricity generation. About 80% of Singapore’s electricity is now generated by natural gas. By increasing the share of natural gas used in electricity generation, from only 19% in 2000 to about 80% today, Singapore substantially reduced emissions growth. Singapore generates relatively low levels of CO2 emissions per GDP dollar in the world. This places Singapore as a country at 123rd out of 137 countries in terms of CO2 emissions. In terms of emissions per capita Singapore ranks 27th out of 137 countries. There is no international consensus on which indicators best reflect the respective responsibilities of countries in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions. Nonetheless, given the magnitude of the challenge, all countries, developed or developing, should contribute to global action to address climate change in accordance with their national circumstances.

In line with its vision to be a liveable city, Singapore is committed to reduce emissions growth further. Plans to improve energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy were included in its 2009 Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. Prior to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Singapore pledged to reduce our emissions by 16% from the 2020 business-as-usual (BAU) level, contingent on a legally binding global agreement in which all countries implement their commitments in good faith. Although a legally binding agreement has yet to be reached, Singapore has nonetheless started to implement mitigation and energy efficiency measures which should reduce our emissions by 7% to 11% from the 2020 BAU level. This pledge is not contingent on international financing and Singapore will utilise our domestic resources. The first phase of measures to encourage even greater public transport usage and improve energy efficiency in industry, buildings and households is being rolled out.

To achieve more emissions reductions over time will require deeper behavioural adjustments and changes in business processes. There is a need to consider more stringent energy efficiency standards and legislation, more innovative energy efficiency financing schemes and capability development initiatives. Market forces will also have an important role to play to ensure that people and businesses get the right carbon price signal and have the right incentives to reduce carbon emissions. Despite its best efforts to reduce emissions, Singapore is constrained as a small and highly urbanised city-state, with more than 5 million people occupying a land area of about 710km2. There is no rural hinterland and limited access to alternative, low-emission energy sources such as wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal or nuclear power. Deployment of solar power is limited by Singapore’s small land area even though the solar generated electricity in Singapore has reached the grid parity without subsidies (Figure 1). Singapore, as an alternative-energy disadvantaged city-state, relies on imported fuels to power our daily activities, and there are no viable technology alternatives that can replace its reliance on fossil fuels in the foreseeable future.

Increasing electrification of urban mobility and increasing connectivity in various transportation modes such as walking, cycling, cars, buses and trains are pursued to make the city travel more energy efficient. For the built environment, zero-energy building and green building certification are introduced to encourage the use of more climate-neutral energy sources.

3. CURRENT STATUS ON RESEARCH and DEVELOPMENT

Singapore government provides strong support for research, development and test bedding in clean energy, water treatment, energy efficient manufacturing, and green buildings sectors with a total funding of S$700 million2.

With concerted research and development efforts over time, emerging technologies could gradually enhance its ability to reduce emissions. Singapore can share this knowhow with other countries which have greater potential for deployment. As a small city-state with significant expertise in sustainable urban solutions, Singapore is doing our utmost to raise energy efficiency levels, support companies and businesses to test new technologies, business models and solutions, so that climate-friendly goods and services can be developed, improved, and eventually exported.

Singapore also shares expertise in climate change and environment management with other countries, through training courses on a wide range of topics including sustainable urban development, water management and energy efficiency. Singapore is also a partner in a number of key bilateral initiatives such as our collaboration with China in the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city project, envisioned as a replicable, practical and scalable model for sustainable development for other cities in China and other parts of the world.

Recognizing the importance of public engagement and participation, outreach programmes such as the 10% Energy Challenge and the President’s Award for the Environment have been launched to raise awareness and encourage behavioural change.

4. CONCLUSION

Singapore is constrained as a small and highly urbanised city-state, with more than 5 million people occupying a land area of about 710km2. There is no rural hinterland and limited access to alternative, low-emission energy sources such as wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal or nuclear power. Deployment of solar power is limited by Singapore’s small land area. Singapore, as an alternative-energy disadvantaged city-state, relies on imported fuels to power our daily activities, and there are no viable technology alternatives that can replace its reliance on fossil fuels in the foreseeable future. Despite these constraints, Singapore’s reputation as a clean and green garden city is an outcome of decades of sustained effort and conscious decisions. Singapore has been paying closer attention to the environment and energy nexus since its inception.

Singapore’s long term energy security options include
a) enhancing energy efficiencies in all sectors of electricity generation, industries, transportation and housing,
b) derive 10-20% of energy needs from harvesting solar energy using best available technologies,
c) recover energy from waste, and
d) import electricity via ASEAN power grid.

5. REFERENCES

[1] S. Ramakrishna, Asia energy mixes from socio-economic and environmental perspectives, Energy Policy (2009).
[2] http://siew.sg/energy-perspectives/energy-singapore/singapores-prospects-regional-carbon- hub
[3] National Climate Change Strategy 2012