Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Commissioning of the Marina Bay District Cooling Network
I am very happy to join all of you this morning for the official commissioning of the Marina Bay District Cooling Network.
The Network is not new and has in fact been running for 10 years. It has reached critical mass and it is time for the official commissioning. District Cooling is not a new technology and has been used in other places. The idea is a simple one - instead of buildings having individual chiller plant rooms and cooling towers; we have centralised chilling network providing greater energy efficiency and more economies of scale.
But what we have here in Marina Bay is special. It is the largest underground district cooling system in the world in terms of total installed capacity. It is also the deepest in the world, going down to Basement 5, putting otherwise unusable deep underground space into good use.
This really is an engineering feat, one which is developed in Singapore, made in Singapore, and operated by our very own home-grown company Singapore Power and Singapore District Cooling. This is something which we can all take tremendous pride in and I want to congratulate everyone who has contributed to this success. A big round of applause for everyone involved, including the civil servants who were part of the process.
How It All Happened
As Kim Yin (Group CEO, Singapore Power) mentioned earlier, this District Cooling Network is just part of the bigger, painstaking effort we put into transforming Marina Bay. This transformation did not come about by chance. It is the result of many years of planning; it is the result of the foresight of our founding leaders under Mr Lee Kuan Yew; it is the result of the hard work of many Singaporeans coming together.
We started reclaiming land in Marina Bay as early as 1967, with the view of enabling the city centre to extend towards the sea. It was a leap of faith to think of that 50 years ago. It took foresight, but we went with the hope and belief that Singapore can succeed. One of the things we paid attention to when we put Marina Bay together, was to make use of the underground space for utility services.
Again, this is not the first time we have gone underground for utility services. If you look around Singapore – I came to appreciate this when I was at the Energy Market Authority, there are no overhead power cables here, unlike other countries. We take this for granted but this is actually very rare. One of the first things you see when you drive out of the airport overseas, are overhead cables. We have none of those because we run our cables underground, and we are one of the very few countries in the world which has the entire power transmission system laid underground.
In the case of Marina Bay, we have gone even further underground. We implemented a Common Services Tunnel (CST), a comprehensive four kilometre-long underground tunnel network that houses and distributes utilities such as electricity, water and telecommunication services to all developments in Marina Bay. It is more expensive with more upfront capital investments involved, but it is cost-effective as it helps to free up surface land and reduce the need for road digging when repair works have to be done. We thus minimise traffic disruptions, inconvenience, as well as noise and dust pollution.
With the CST, we had the opportunity to house the District Cooling water pipes within the tunnel and serve the entire Bay area. It sounds like the logical thing to do, but the District Cooling project in Marina Bay was fraught with major challenges. It was a subject of great and intensive discussion at that time as District Cooling was still a relatively new concept in Singapore at that time - the first project was done in Biopolis but on a smaller scale. We were venturing into new territory and it was a huge plunge into the unknown, particularly given the massive scale of this undertaking in terms of costs and complexity.
We had to put in high capital investments with uncertain financial returns. Left to the market, this project would never have taken off. How did we overcome this challenge? In our uniquely Singaporean way – strong collaboration between a proactive government, a responsible private sector employer and a very capable workforce supported by the unions. Government did its part to de-risk the project:
I. Made it mandatory for the developments in the area to take up the District Cooling System (DCS) supply to mitigate the demand risk; II. Regulated the District Cooling pricing to ensure it is competitive; III. Incorporated requirements through the GLS programme for the DCS plant to be integrated with the GLS development; and IV. Allowed the operator to make staged payment for the DCS space in tandem with the take-up by developments to reduce financing risks considerably.
At the same time, Singapore Power and SDC stepped up its role and capabilities to implement and operate the system. Our workers and unions also came together and rallied behind this effort. This is really is a strong tripartite partnership that brought about win-win outcomes for everyone.
Benefits of District Cooling System
As a result, we’ve achieved considerable benefits today. With the District Cooling System underground, we have freed up land space – approximately 16,000sqm of usable GFA. We have also freed up the rooftops of buildings for other uses. In place of unsightly cooling towers, we have rooftop gardens and the world’s largest infinity pools which have become an icon of Singapore. Our rooftop experience would have been very different.
We also have energy savings – users of the Marina Bay District Cooling System enjoy the efficiency and energy savings of more than 40 per cent. We have higher operational efficiency and overall reliability for everyone around the Bay. More importantly, the District Cooling System is now financially viable and a success story. The System has grown steadily and significantly and it is ready to reach critical mass with new developments choosing to use the District Cooling System on a voluntary basis (c.f. the mandatory phase in the beginning). We now have the world’s largest underground district cooling system in terms of capacity. The expertise has even gone beyond Singapore’s shores - SDC has built and is operating an advanced energy-efficient cooling system in Chongqing city as well.
This is excellent example of what the Singapore Story is all about: we start out with very little and with the odds stacked against us, but confront challenges head-on as one Team Singapore - with a strong government-private partnership. We develop engineering solutions to improve our daily lives; and these solutions are sought after by others and are exported to other countries as well.
We must continue this journey of developing new urban solutions. What are our next steps? First, given the success of the District Cooling System serving the existing developments in Marina Bay, we will extend the network as Marina Bay develops. We are also going to explore the use of the Common Services Tunnel and the District Cooling System in other growth areas such as the Jurong Lake District – where the High-Speed Rail Terminus will be located – which will potentially be developed into our second CBD. We are studying how best to go about doing this; and will consider what role the Government has to play. For this project, we played a very active role and it was necessary as it was the first time we were doing something like that. Given the proven benefits of District Cooling System, we may need to consider whether it is still necessary for the Government to play the same role, or whether there is more room for free play by the market. We are looking into that and will announce details in due course.
Second, the success of the Common Services Tunnel and the District Cooling System show that there are many benefits that can be brought about through the innovative and effective use of the underground space. We will explore and push further to go underground. We have already started to use the deeper underground space for storage, utilities and infrastructure, such as the Jurong Rock Cavern and the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System. We are now developing an Underground Masterplan that charts out underground spaces which could be utilised for different developments in view of their geological conditions. We are in the midst of several feasibility studies for siting infrastructure underground. For example, we are looking into how best to locate electrical substations underground; we are also exploring an underground drainage system in one of our reservoirs.
Going underground is not make-believe, there is a very real potential beyond the District Cooling System. In doing so, we can free up tremendous amount of surface land which can be used for other developmental purposes. We are looking into the possibilities, and projects will be studied further under the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) led by Minister Heng Swee Keat. There is a sub-committee on Future City which I co-chair with Mr Tan Chong Meng, Group CEO of PSA. We will look at how we can continue to enhance our infrastructure and create an outstanding living environment for all Singaporeans.
To reiterate, 50 years ago, the Marina Bay was just water – there was no Marina Bay Sands, Marina Barrage and Gardens by the Bay. Today, we have an outstanding global business and financial centre with state-of-the-art infrastructure support. It is truly a remarkable transformation. With more successful public-private partnerships like this, and the collective efforts of all Singaporeans, we can look forward to an even more sustainable and liveable Singapore in future! Thank you.
Source: Ministry of National Development