ALTERNATIVE ENERGY / CLEAN TECHNOLOGY

alternative-energy

IN BRIEF

Around the world, governments are stepping up efforts to grow their clean technology capabilities in order to address climate change and reduce reliance on fossil fuel sources. In Singapore, cleantech was identified as a key economic growth area by the government as early as 2007. Today, the city-state is aiming to develop the sector so that it contributes S$3.4 billion to Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) and provides 18,000 jobs by 2015.

As the leading clean energy hub for the region, Singapore is a prime location for major solar companies such as Phoenix Solar, Renewable Energy Corporation (REC), Trina Solar and Yingli, who are tapping its competitive advantages to develop innovative solutions that will propel their growth in the Asian market. Singapore also plays host to a range of key wind technology players, such as, Keppel and Vestas.

Singapore’s strengths in manufacturing sectors such as electronics, precision engineering and chemicals, connectivity with regional markets, access to skilled international talent, and extensive supplier base put it in good stead to add value to such businesses.

A world-class intellectual property regime is another major benefit for companies which rely on innovation activities as a growth driver.

The city-state also welcomes cleantech companies to use Singapore as a ‘Living Lab’ to trial and demonstrate innovative solutions before scaling up for the rest of the world.

OUR EDGE

A CLEAN ENERGY HUB

Home to more than half the world’s population, Asia is regarded as the next major growth frontier for the global clean energy industry as its countries balance their increasing energy demand with tightening supply and climate change considerations.

Singapore is committed to developing its clean energy sector, and in particular its solar energy capabilities, given the country’s location in the tropical sunbelt and strong semiconductor manufacturing and innovation base.  Other important growth areas for the city-state are wind energy, smart grids, green buildings and energy efficiency.

A strategic location in the Asian Sunbelt

Singapore is well positioned within the Asian Sunbelt, which receives about 50 per cent more radiation than temperate regions such as Japan or Germany, both major hubs for solar technology today.

Singapore’s sophisticated supply chain capabilities and extensive linkages to the region make it a particularly efficient base for businesses who wish to serve the Asian Sunbelt. What’s more, with around a billion people in the region currently without access to grid electricity, Singapore-based companies are particularly well placed to develop off-grid clean energy solutions tailed to this huge under-served market. 

Strong logistics capabilities

Singapore’s world class infrastructure, enhanced with specialised logistics capabilities, includes the Airport Logistics Park of Singapore (ALPS) in the airport’s free-trade zone, the Changi International LogisPark which facilitates regional distribution and the Banyan LogisPark on Jurong Island which caters to the specific demands of chemicals and oil companies. All these help to give companies easier and more efficient access to Asia’s untapped markets. The city-state’s excellent connectivity to the wider region also helps Singapore-based businesses meet the huge demand for clean energy products.

Existing strengths in manufacturing

Singapore’s manufacturing know-how (which, in turn, increases economies of scale and reduces manufacturing costs) has proved to be a key consideration for the many leading clean energy companies who are leveraging Singapore as a regional base.

Singapore is already a major semiconductor hub, offering all-round capabilities drawn from its precision engineering and chemicals industries. All of these can be efficiently applied to the solar and wider clean energy industry. 

STRONG R&D CAPABILITIES

The city-state has made significant investments in research and innovation around sustainability. Since 2011, Singapore has announced more than S$800 million of new public sector R&D funding for energy, water, green buildings and addressing land scarcity, a national strategic imperative for a small island.

Such research investments have catalysed the growth of innovation-driven clusters in Singapore. The water sector, for example, has grown to include about 100 water companies – from 50 in 2006 – involved in activities spanning not just R&D but also engineering and manufacturing to regional headquarters. Companies are finding it beneficial to be able to collaborate with other players in the value chain, or adjacent industries, to produce new technologies and solutions.

In terms of clean energy, the environment that Singapore offers for R&D systems is a particularly sophisticated one. A key part of its infrastructure is SERIS, or the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, which conducts world-class industry-oriented R&D and trains manpower for the solar energy sector. It has attracted world renowned talent in the solar industry and is now home to some 160 researchers.

Going forward, SERIS will be developing a technology roadmap on Solar Photovoltaics in Singapore. This aims to chart technology development pathways in order to identify promising technologies best suited for deployment in Singapore.

Besides SERIS, Singapore hosts the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N), which serves a broad range of energy sectors such as wind, fuel cells, smart grids and green buildings. ERI@N has entered into research collaborations with Bosch, IBM, Philips and Vestas. The Agency for Science Technology & Research (A*STAR) also operates the Experimental Power Grid (EPGC), which houses a 1-megawatt microgrid which allows for research into distributed generation and smart grids.

In addition, Singapore has set aside S$140 million for research into clean energy technologies under the banner of the Energy Innovation Programme Office (EIPO).

Along with its R&D investments, the government is committed to groom research talent in urban sustainability through postgraduate scholarships and specialised courses.

These scholars are carefully selected to be sponsored at top global universities in fields ranging from solar PV to wind energy to energy systems optimization. After their studies, they will remain in Singapore to dedicate their skills and knowledge to the local research institutes and the industrial players, forming a core of deep institutional knowledge and capabilities to catalyze clean energy innovation.

Drawn by this dynamic research and innovation eco-system, an expansive base of leading industry players have set up regional or global R&D centres in Singapore. These include Panasonic, whose energy solutions R&D centre is a key part of its strategy to grow revenues from eco-friendly products and solutions. In partnership with government agencies in Singapore, Panasonic will conduct a first-of-its-kind test-bed of such services before commercialising them globally.

Atlantis Resources Corporation, one of the world’s largest leading tidal energy companies, has established its global headquarters in Singapore to take advantage of the country’s pro-business environment, excellent logistics connectivity, respect for intellectual property and innovation capability.

Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s largest supplier of wind power systems, has chosen Singapore as the base for its largest R&D centre outside Denmark. This facility will employ 200 research scientists and engineers. Singapore also hosts the Asia-Pacific headquarters for Vestas. 

A ‘LIVING LABORATORY’

As a small city-state, Singapore has had to develop its own solutions to constraints such as land and the lack of natural resources such as water. For decades, partnerships between the city-state’s public agencies and industry have played a key role in Singapore’s sustainability agenda.

To foster such partnerships, Singapore has positioned itself to serve as a ‘Living Laboratory’, making its national urban infrastructure available to local and international companies who find it useful to develop, test, prove and showcase their solutions in a real-life urban environment that is also representative of many Asian cities. This also allows the Singapore government to harness the best technologies and solutions introduced by the companies.

Singapore has also focused on building capability at the systems level, just beyond individual technologies, as a way of supporting its industry partnerships. As a result, global giant Panasonic, for example, has been able to use Punggol Eco-Town in Singapore to test and commercialise its ‘Total Energy Solution’, involving the system integration of several clean energy components such as solar systems, lithium-ion batteries, home energy management systems and energy-efficient air conditioning. Punggol Eco-Town is a greenfield public housing area which will eventually house 300,000 residents.

In other examples, EDF and Veolia from France are jointly working with the city-state’s government agencies to develop and implement complex modeling know-how for the design and planning of eco-towns in Singapore and beyond.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), meanwhile, is collaborating with Singapore to pioneer its S$550 million ‘Factory of the Future’ initiative, which seeks to reduce the company’s carbon footprint through the adoption of sustainable processes and green technologies. Once completed, the model of its Singapore factory will be replicated by GSK globally.

Another example is Keppel Seghers’ 1MW (megawatt) PV system, set up on a waste water treatment plant in Singapore. This will be the country’s first commercial-scale PV system to supply solar energy for water treatment.

The concept of a ‘living laboratory’ is also being realised at CleanTech One, Singapore’s new, S$90-million eco-business park. As part of an initiative called the CleanTech Park Living Lab Programme, Singaporean industrial infrastructure developer JTC Corporation (JTC) is partnering industry players to test innovative but-yet-to-be commercialised green urban solutions.

There is also Singbridge, a commercially driven enterprise recently set up by the Singapore government that’s dedicated to developing eco-cities in Asia. One of its landmark projects – the Guangzhou Knowledge City in China – is expected to eventually house more than 500,000 residents.

The country has also become a choice training hub for city mayors across Asia to better understand how to implement and develop sustainable solutions for their cities.

MOVING AHEAD

Industry projections suggest that the global clean energy industry will continue to experience growth due to rising energy demand, climate change concerns and rapid technological advances. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the share of renewables in global electricity generation, for example, will increase from 20 per cent today to almost a third in 2035.

In solar energy, specifically, Asia is expected to contribute to about 30 per cent of the global solar market by 2015, compared to just over ten per cent in 2010. China is pushing ahead, with strong government support for solar as well as a range of other renewable energy technologies. In India, favourable government policies are encouraging large-scale solar installations. Growth is also being driven by Japan, Australia and the Southeast Asia region.

Building on its distinct competitive advantages, Singapore is already strategically positioned to play a strong role in helping the cleantech industry capitalise on this continued growth. Leading businesses will continue to use Singapore as a reference market to develop and sharpen solutions before expanding to Asia and globally.

SINGAPORE’S INITIATIVES

Project development and finance

Technological innovations are not Singapore’s only strengths. The city-state is also leveraging its position as the leading project development and financing hub for the region to develop new clean energy project-financing capabilities. One key initiative is to attract the renewable energy desks of financial organisations to use Singapore as the springboard to serve Asia. The development of novel financial instruments such as project bonds and green business trusts are also being developed and implemented.

In addition, innovative financing and business models are being piloted which will address high upfront costs and further encourage the adoption of solar technologies. Under Singapore’s first solar leasing project, for example, Punggol Eco-town will have 2 MW of solar PV capacity.

Offsite PPA is an additional innovative business model currently being explored to create the possibility of meeting the clean energy demands of energy-intensive operations, such as data centres, by indirectly consuming clean energy from solar energy generated on an unrelated site.

New areas: energy management and urban systems

As a limited land mass that is subject to rapidly fluctuating weather patterns, Singapore needs to address the challenge presented by an intermittent supply of solar energy. As a result, the country is conducting research into novel kinds of control and optimisation platforms. The government is also piloting smart meters, building energy management systems, demand response and electric vehicles as part of the overall national testbed in smart grids.

Another innovative approach has been an ongoing floating photovoltaic pilot project on Singapore’s reservoirs, which seeks to investigate an alternative to rooftops. Solar cooling technology, meanwhile, in the form of the largest solar cooling system in the world today, is being tested at United World Campus (UWC), an educational institution.

FEATURED PLACES

Alternative Energy / Clean Technology

Punggol Eco-Town
Eco Housing Development

Singapore’s new Punggol Eco-Town is the city state’s first eco-development and a showcase for urban living solutions by the Housing & Development Board (HDB). It’s also a test-bed for technologies that foster eco-friendly living and integrated communities. The award-winning Treelodge apartments utilise sustainable energy and smart design to improve life for citizens. “Instead of providing a functional and utilitarian kind of infrastructure we designed something that is beneficial and useful for the public to enjoy,” says Alan Tan Hock Seng, director of Environmental Sustainability Research, HDB. “We have incorporated various new technologies and solutions to encourage a green lifestyle for residents. HDB hopes to be a sustainable development solution hub so that we can share similar experience and knowledge with other cities of high-rise and high-density built environment.”

In association with Monocle, EDB brings to you a selection of people, places and products that make Singapore a nation that is punching far above its weight despite its relatively compact size and population (content first published in Monocle).

CONTACT EDB

Mr GOH Chee Kiong

Mr GOH Chee Kiong

Executive Director
Clean Technology and Building & Infrastructure Solutions

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