Parlimentary Reply by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Yaacob Ibrahim to Parliamentary Question on the Singapore Sustainable Blueprint
Title: Singapore’s Sustainable Development (update on blueprint)
3. Mrs Mildred Tan asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (a) if he will give an update on the $1 billion blueprint for Singapore’s sustainable development that was unveiled in April 2009, in particular the incentives for greener options such as electric cars and solar energy; and (b) whether his Ministry has any future plans or undertaken any measures to stimulate green businesses in Singapore.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: Sir, the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint is a comprehensive plan to improve resource efficiency, enhance our environment, develop capabilities and build an environmentally responsible community. We will adopt a multi-pronged approach to achieve these goals, including public education, incentives and legislation.
As a start, $1 billion has been set aside over five years to support the implementation of the plans in the blueprint. Since the launch of the blueprint in April last year, various incentive schemes and other investments in sustainable development have been announced, including $100 million to improve the energy efficiency of our existing buildings, $43 million to implement cycling infrastructure in some HDB towns and $31 million to test-bed solar technology. There are also separately funded initiatives that contribute to sustainable development, such as the budget for the expansion of the rail network, park space and ABC Waters.
The Member asked about electric cars. A multi-agency taskforce, co-chaired by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), is spearheading the test-bedding of electric vehicles in Singapore, with $20 million set aside to support infrastructure development and test-bedding activities. The taskforce is working with various automotive manufacturers and electric vehicle charging infrastructure providers on their plans to test their solutions in Singapore from 2010. This project will enable the taskforce to evaluate the scope for larger-scale adoption of electric vehicles in future.
Moving to solar, the cost of solar-generated electricity at the moment is still about twice that of grid electricity generated from fossil fuels. The technology is evolving and the price gap may narrow over time. Our approach is therefore to invest early in solar technology by test-bedding projects to prepare to use solar technology on a larger scale when the cost of solar energy falls closer to that of conventional energy. HDB is embarking on an island-wide test-bed to deploy solar technology within 30 public housing precincts by 2015.
Building new environmental and technological capabilities is one of the key strategies in the blueprint. This not only provides solutions to Singapore’s sustainability challenges, but helps our companies to tap the economic opportunities from sustainable development. The Government has further set aside $680 million to build new capabilities in Clean Energy and Water Technologies. This is on top of the $1 billion sustainable development budget, and supports research and test-bedding programmes as well as manpower development programmes. The Clean Energy and Water Technology sectors can potentially create an economic value-add of $3.4 billion and generate employment of 18,000 by 2015.
In addition, my Ministry has launched a $15 million Environment Technology Research Programme (ETRP) to build up technological competencies in waste management. The ETRP provides funding support for companies and researchers to develop, pilot and commercialise advanced technologies for waste management. The first round of applications ended on 31st August last year. Evaluations of the proposals are underway and we expect to award funding to a number of good proposals.
Various incentive schemes have also been implemented for the business sectors to improve resource efficiency. Examples include the Design for Efficiency (DfE) Scheme, which aims to encourage investors in new facilities to design their facilities to be as energy efficient as possible, and the Grant for Energy Efficient Technologies (GREET) which co-funds the cost of energy efficient equipment with owners and operators of industrial facilities.
The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint will evolve as we work towards our sustainable development goals which will be fine-tuned to take into account factors such as improvements in technology, changes in cost and, of course, public response.
Mrs Mildred Tan (Nominated Member): Mr Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. One quick supplementary question: does he feel that the budget that is being allocated is adequate?
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: Sir, we have to work within what we think is reasonable. The $1 million budget was actually a bottom-up process in which we discuss with the various agencies on what needs to be done. This, of course, has been approved by Cabinet, and we think this is sufficient for us to start with. It is a lot of money, but a lot of it will go into building up capabilities within the industry and the various sectors. I mentioned earlier the funding for the building sector, for example. It is a very huge sector for Singapore, especially the number of existing buildings. Based on the assessment by MND, the funding at the moment is adequate. But if we think more needs to be done, we probably have to go back and ask for approval. We will start with what we have and with the budget that we have, plus the additional funding that I mentioned earlier, we think we are able to implement this blueprint at this point in time to achieve the 7 per cent to 11 per cent reduction that I mentioned earlier.
Mr Viswa Sadasivan (Nominated Member): Mr Speaker, Sir, I would like to ask the Minister if his Ministry or the Government, in general, has any plans to encourage or, if necessary, enforce some form of measures to get office building owners to increase the temperature of their office complexes. Because some of these offices are unbearably cold, and I cannot see why it has to be so. I am sure there can be a lot of savings of energy as a result of this. Are there any plans?
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: Sir, at the moment, what we have are guidelines for building owners to set their room temperatures between 22 and 24 degree centigrades. Of course, we should take the lead. For Government buildings, they should also be doing so. But having said that, the more important thing for us now is to ensure that buildings themselves are efficient in the way they use energy. A lot of effort has gone into, for example, changing the chillers and coolers to more efficient ones which are available out there in the market.
Meanwhile, Sir, BCA and MND have already drawn up a building code for all new buildings. They will have to meet certain requirements. We are confident that when they meet these requirements with regard to energy and water efficiency, our carbon footprint will come down in terms of energy consumption. So, rather than stipulating it upfront, let us work with the industries on how best they can be more efficient in the way they manage the buildings. Whether or not we will come to that, I think this is something which we have to continue to evolve. We have studied the legislation of other countries, and we think it may not be necessary at this point in time. The more important thing is to try and level up the building sector as much as possible. Clearly, I think the public will also have a role to play. As building owners and people who use the building, they may want to impress upon the building owners that these are the kinds of standards that we should live by. So, we will continue to educate the public, work with the building owners, impose new standards and I am confident that, over time, as I mentioned earlier, with all these programmes, we will be able to achieve the 7 per cent to 11 per cent that we announced in our blueprint.
Mr Speaker: Ms Irene Ng. Last question.
Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong (Tampines): Sir, I am encouraged to hear that the Ministry is planning to build more infrastructure as part of its plans to promote environmentally friendly practices in Singapore. Can I ask the Minister whether there are any plans to work with the relevant agencies to make sure that beyond the infrastructure, cycling is also a viable and safe mode of transport? If we want to promote cycling as a green mode of transport, it not only requires infrastructure but it also requires shower rooms in offices, education and enforcement to ensure that cyclists ride safely.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: Sir, as mentioned in my earlier reply, the Ministry of Transport (MOT), together with HDB, has a programme to build up the cycling infrastructure. I do not have the details of it, to the extent, as mentioned by the Member, of shower facilities in some of the buildings. But, certainly, this is being tried out by MOT, together with the various local agencies, to ensure that if the infrastructure is built, the users are responsible and safety is ensured. As you know our roads are already crowded and if we were to build cycling paths within the main roads, there are concerns and issues which we should bear in mind. But, as I said earlier, this is something which MOT is studying very carefully. This is one of the plans in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. So we have to test it out and pilot it. But, to a large extent, if you ask me personally, it is about personal behaviour on how we work together as a community, ie, when we use the roads, we use it in a responsible manner.