How business can help Singapore reduce its carbon emissions

We do not hear enough from countries such as Singapore. Here we have Monica Kotwani from 938LIVE write a good article on the Channel News Asia website about the benefits from prioritising energy-saving investments.

 

Companies can step up for greater energy efficiency: Experts

Heavy energy users, such as pharmaceutical companies, the waste-management sector and the petrochemical industry, can step up their energy-efficiency measures, said experts.

This comes on the heels of a landmark climate deal reached in Paris earlier this month, where countries now need to deliver on domestic policies to reduce carbon emissions.

For Singapore, its target is to reduce Emissions Intensity (EI) by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, and aims to do this by the year 2030. There are also plans to stabilise and ultimately peak emissions by around 2030.

Experts have said this is where energy guzzlers can contribute by prioritising energy-saving investments, and by collaborating to train a larger pool of qualified energy managers to conduct audits.

Their comments came after the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement to 938LIVE that more than half of 168 energy-intensive companies do not have the systems and tools to accurately monitor their energy consumption.

This was just one of the several observations made by the NEA after companies submitted their energy consumption and efficiency plans as part of the Energy Conservation Act. These plans were submitted for the first time last year.

Assessing Current Efforts

According to NEA, the 168 companies, which run more than 210 energy-intensive facilities, made up 63 per cent of Singapore’s final energy consumption in 2013.

Many, however, are already making efforts to invest in energy-saving measures. The agency said companies are planning to invest about S$1.24 billion over the next five years, saving close to S$200 million a year from the investments.

Based on the reports submitted by companies last year, NEA said many of their investments are low-cost, with a pay-back period of less than three years.

One such company that has taken the first step is Air Liquide Singapore, a multi-national industrial gas manufacturing company. Most of its operating costs come from energy use in a process that separates nitrogen and oxygen, which is then sold to its customers.

The company’s energy manager Cheong Zhen Siong said there are challenges ahead after the company’s initial steps: “In infancy, we could deliver 20 to 30 per cent reductions quite easily, but as low-hanging fruits are picked, it becomes more and more challenging to achieve, and sometimes it’s already a struggle to maintain optimal efficiency of the equipment.”

Taking the Next Step

However, it seems others can afford to be more ambitious. According to NEA, energy targets set for manufacturing facilities by these companies would achieve an average improvement of just 0.7 per cent each year for the next two years, lower than the 1 to 2 per cent achieved by similar companies in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Prof Subodh Mhaisalkar, the Executive Director of the Energy Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University, said companies here are being cautious with their projected improvements, possibly because it is the first time industries are taking on such energy-efficiency targets.

He also claimed they can meet targets achieved by their European counterparts. “Data from the US shows that 64 per cent of energy consumption in manufacturing plants go towards waste,” he said.

“So the opportunity to improve in terms of energy efficiency is massive. If you have pharmaceutical or petrochemical process, heat is essential for it. While the process is going on, heat is also being wasted. So if you can recoup back that heat, that is something companies can tap into.”

He added that gas-fired generators also have significant waste heat, and that such heat can be reused in the form of steam generation, or hot water generation that could be used for other processes.

Mr Allan Loi, an analyst at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore added that companies could be projecting a low improvement, as they wait to see the actual savings first, before committing to longer-term measures.

Building Capacity

Mr Loi said many others may not have set their baseline targets as they lack accurate data. This observation is in line with NEA’s findings, which showed that more than half of the 168 companies regulated under the Act do not have the measurement systems and tools to accurately monitor their energy consumption.

Mr Loi said: “In order to monitor their energy savings, they require high-frequency meters, motion-sensors, thermostats to capture such information. For electricity consumption, you need to capture air-flow, the humidity and temperature on a real-time basis. Such equipment is pretty expensive in terms of start-up costs and businesses may want to use the money elsewhere.”

Earlier this month, Environment and Water Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli said the Government may have to regulate energy-intensive companies further.

Currently, companies that consume more than 54 terajoules (TJ) of energy each year – equivalent to the annual energy consumption of about 3,300 4-room HDB households – are regulated under the Energy Conservation Act, and have to hire energy managers to track their consumption.

Mr Loi said in future, those consuming below this threshold could also be regulated. This is especially so as Singapore works towards meeting its carbon emission targets, following the landmark global climate deal reached in Paris.

For a start, more energy managers will be needed, with Prof Mhaisalkar saying that the authorities, industry and institutions of higher learning will need to collaborate to train a larger pool of experts, who can implement energy-saving features.

For now, both experts said the Act is a first step to achieving energy efficiency, but that it could be at least five years before investments into capacity building take hold.

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