Tech road maps show the way to make Singapore greener

Solar panels on the roof of Greenpac’s new 180,000 sq m premises in Boon Lay. Solar power could supply up to 30 per cent of Singapore’s electricity needs in 2050, depending on factors such as how much space is devoted to the technology.

THE path towards a greener Singapore is being charted in a series of technology road maps, which will guide the country in how it can reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions over the next few decades to as far as 2050.

To steer research in the same direction, a $100 million fund to help buildings and data centres become more energy-efficient has also been announced.

The first four road maps, developed over the last three years by various public agencies as part of Singapore's Energy National Innovation Challenge, were unveiled yesterday. They deal with solar energy; buildings' energy efficiency; making data centres greener; and the capture, storage and use of waste carbon dioxide.

The one on the use of solar power, for instance, considers issues such as the need to forecast how much sunlight there is over the course of a day.

It also points out that any widespread installation of solar panels must go hand in hand with the ability to store the energy collected, and making sure the power grid can handle the extra power.

The road map on carbon capture looks at the harvesting of carbon dioxide emissions from power generation and other activities, works out what the gas can be used for, and examines the financial viability of such projects.

Speaking at the Energy TechRoadmap symposium at the Suntec City convention centre, National Research and Development Permanent Secretary Yong Ying-I said the road maps can do more than guide national policy. They can provide a direction for research and development and businesses.

Three more road maps, on industry energy efficiency, the adoption of electric vehicles, and the management of solid waste, are in progress. Others may be developed for sectors where high energy consumption can be reduced through technology and policy.

These road maps are key to making sure that Singapore's emissions-reduction plans are in sync, said Dr Yeoh Lean Weng, director of the National Research Foundation's energy and environment research directorate.

At the one-day symposium yesterday, government agencies and industry representatives discussed the current state of green technology here, and what needs to be done over the next few years and further down the road to lower Singapore's energy use and carbon emissions - which contribute to global climate change.

Meanwhile, Singapore is putting $100 million into research that makes buildings more energy-efficient, and technology and software that help data centres, where computing servers are housed, use less energy, said Ms Yong. Roughly half of the funding will go to each area. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will administer the kitty for building energy efficiency, while the Infocomm Development Authority will govern that for green data centres.

Why these two areas? Buildings consume about 50 per cent of Singapore's electricity, Dr Yeoh explained. And Singapore is an increasingly popular site for South-east Asia's data centres: The server facilities currently use 7 per cent of electricity consumed.

The funding can be used for competitive research grants and even to build installations to test new technology, he added. The BCA yesterday announced separately that it was giving $8.3 million worth of grants to eight research projects tackling air-conditioning efficiency; and smarter ways to integrate and manage buildings' power, lighting and other equipment.

caiwj@sph.com.sg

zengkun@sph.com.sg

 Some Signposts

FOUR technology road maps which will guide Singapore's research and development in certain areas as far as 2050 were unveiled yesterday. Here are some of the findings.

SOLAR POWER TECHNOLOGY

- Solar power could supply up to 30 per cent of Singapore's electricity needs in 2050, depending on factors such as how much space is devoted to the technology.

- Research needed includes ways to forecast how much solar power will be generated over different time periods.

- In the longer term, Singapore should explore offshore floating platforms for solar panels, and the possibility of importing solar power from neighbouring countries through a transnational power grid.

BUILDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY

- Singapore's buildings account for about half of the country's electricity use. More than half of the energy goes into powering air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems.

- A lot of energy could be saved by improving buildings' ventilation and finding more efficient ways to remove moisture from air.

- In the short term, Singapore should also create a database of building components used here, including the materials' properties, to find ways to improve designs of buildings.

GREEN DATA CENTRES

- Singapore accounts for more than 60 per cent of South-east Asia's data centre market, but the country's high temperatures and humidity make cooling the centres much more energyintensive than elsewhere.

- Two ways to reduce the high cooling cost are to find more efficient technologies and to improve the IT equipment's ability to withstand higher temperatures and humidity levels.

CARBON CAPTURE, STORAGE AND USE

- To reduce emissions, Singapore could capture some of its carbon dioxide (CO2) and then store or convert it into usable products, such as fuels, chemicals and building and construction materials.

- Countries such as the United States, Norway and the Netherlands store their CO2, but Singapore lacks suitable storage sites and will negotiate with other countries to store CO2 in foreign sites. It is costly to transport CO2 over long distances.

FENG ZENGKUN

 

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