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Singaporean Companies Show Interest in Sustainable Energy – What Does This Mean for the Future?

ZUU Online SG logo ZUU Online SG 11/7/2019 Neha Gupta
© ZUUonline SG

Singapore is at the forefront of the move to adopt alternative sources of energy. To be sure, the city-state is shaking up its green energy industry with radical policies. At the same time, the private sector is adopting renewable energy sources fairly well. At the core of this transition is to be able to sustain the current levels of energy consumption without worsening the country’s carbon footprint.

The push for an operational renewable energy program is not restricted to Singapore alone. Many countries across the globe are taking up the challenge. Interestingly, the private sector is at the tip of the spear as it pushes more adoption of clean operations and even clean technology.

For Singapore, it is the case of collaborative implementation of the clean energy program. While private companies are building up the clean energy infrastructure, the government is introducing favorable tariffs via Open Electricity Market.

The current sustainable energy trends

In 2017, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) recognized that renewable energy had gone mainstream. China was leading the world in terms of the expansion of renewable energy infrastructure.

By 2016, China had made a huge investment in its domestic energy sector. During the year, the country plowed $ 32 billion in renewable energy projects based in foreign jurisdictions. The country made a commitment to bet more on a green energy-led future.

In light of this, various trends are taking root in the green energy sector. In particular, workers in the legacy energy sectors like coal and oil are facing layoffs almost constantly. By 2017, close to 440,000 jobs were lost in the global oil and gas industry. The massive layoffs came as major oil companies amplified their expenditure of capital.

On the flip side, the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector were on the rise. In 2017 alone, the sector added just over half a million jobs to 10.34 million. This was over 5% growth in just one year. The contrast is growing sharp as the clean energy concept continues to take root across the globe.

Another trend in the global push for sustainable energy is infrastructure investment. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report, the need for renewable energy infrastructure is the leading in terms of demand. This demand is spurred on by new trends like mini-grids which are hybrid, solar systems which are stand-alone, energy storage via utility scale batteries, integration of buildings into the renewable energy sector, and a growing prominence of artificial intelligence.

Companies in Singapore are also getting involved

The Asia-Pacific region is crucial in the push for a globalized renewable energy industry. Particularly, Singapore is at the forefront as the crusader for clean energy practices.

In 2018, the city-state was host to two major clean energy conferences whose primary objective is to push the renewable energy narrative. This is in line with the country’s ambition to become a “global hub for clean energy investments.”

To be sure, a lot of money is going into development of renewable energy infrastructure in Singapore. As such, the government expects the investments to generate thousands of jobs between 2018 and 2023. Specifically, over 1,000 professional jobs should be created and expenditure on sustainable energy businesses should top $129.8 million in the same period.

Clean energy related companies like Sunseap and Sembcorp are transforming buildings in Singapore into power generators.

Early this week (July 9, 2019), Sembcorp unveiled a partnership with CapitaLand Group where the latter will have its properties fitted with solar panels. Sembcorp will be the sole operator of the installations. The company anticipates to have more 21,000 solar panels on five properties across Singapore with an expected energy production capacity of 8.1 megawatts at peak.

In June 20, Sunseap acquired financial capital from United Overseas Bank (UOB) to fund various solar power installation projects in Singapore. The company has identified 210 sites where solar systems will be installed and it expects to churn out between 21 megawatts and 1,050 megawatts annually.

Benefits of sustainable energy

For some of Singaporean companies, sustainable energy is more of a responsibility than a choice. The companies are looking for ways through which they can cut their carbon footprint. But this is not the primary objective of a clean energy strategy.

The push into this new sector is because companies have a lot to gain than lose. Firstly, sustainable energy is cheap in the long term. To put this context, consider coal. This resource is finite, that is, there is a certain amount of coal deposits which cannot be renewed after depletion. As such, the price of coal tends to increase as the resource nears depletion. In the long run, companies will end up paying more for energy.

On the contrary, sustainable energy is perpetual. This is to say that as long as climate change does not adversely affect the weather elements, there will be an eternal supply of solar energy. Therefore, there is no chance for price inflation solar energy, or any other clean energy.

Sustainable energy diversifies the supply of energy. As such, energy consumers are in a position to cushion themselves against shocks in other markets. The long term effect of sustainable energy, therefore, is that energy prices will remain stable.

Another benefit of sustainable energy is that it helps to combat global warming. In the recent past, weather systems have been erratic with extreme weather having become commonplace. Using renewable energy helps to reduce the chance of such occurrences. Compared to other energy sources like coal, renewable sources like wind emit less carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.

Are there downsides to sustainable energy?

The attractiveness of sustainable energy is that they avoid extraction and burning of fossils. But one must have a range of electronics to tap the wind and solar rays and to convert them to energy.

The production of virtually all electronics needs rare earth elements. From solar panels to wind turbines, rare earths form the core of the infrastructure. The mining of rare earths is one of the most environmentally destructive activities. A lot of mine waste arises from the prospection for rare earths because their concentration is low and they are usually deep-seated in the earth’s crust.

Another downside is that most of the countries which produce the rare earths are politically unstable. Therefore, this poses a danger to the supply of the resources in the long term.

Nonetheless, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in the short term. As such, there is a possibility for a lot of progress to be made in this sector as more people and governments pick up the sustainable energy narrative.

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