Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the opening of the World Engineers Summit 2017, 19 July 2017

“Developing Low Carbon Cities and Urban Energy Systems”

A warm welcome to the 400 engineers and climate change professionals from more than 30 countries to the World Engineers Summit.  

The theme of this year’s summit, “Low Carbon Cities & Urban Energy”, is timely. Urbanisation is taking place rapidly as people move from rural areas to seek opportunities in towns and cities.Globally, already about half of the world’s population lives in urban areas today.They produce 80% of global GDP, but also 75% of greenhouse gas emissions.By 2045, the urban population will increase by 1.5 times to 6 billion, adding 2 billion more urban residents.     

Many cities globally are looking into urban solutions that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact so that we can achieve sustainable, low-carbon growth. Cities are also studying how to increase resilience against climate impacts such as rising sea levels and temperatures and extreme rainfall that will be even more keenly felt by future generations. 

Singapore’s Climate Change Commitments

Singapore is no exception. As a small and low-lying island, we are vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change. Coordinated actions by all countries provide the best chance of addressing this global issue. We therefore played a constructive and facilitative role to help arrive at the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Singapore is amongst the best performing countries when we look at emission intensity that is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted per dollar of GDP. 

Singapore has pledged to reduce our emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030 and put forward our Climate Change Action Plan. This is a significant commitment for a small country with limited alternative energy options. 

Developing Low-Carbon Cities and Reducing Urban Energy 

Scientists and engineers can play a crucial role to address climate challenges through low carbon and urban energy solutions. These solutions can be applied at two levels - (i) At the sectoral level. These constitute the key components that make up a city, for instance buildings, the transport network, and industrial facilities; and (ii) At the cross-sectoral level. These are ways to address sustainable cities, for instance urban energy systems and data networks that enable the different sectors to function optimally.  Let me highlight some of Singapore’s approaches at these two levels.

Sectoral Efforts to Improve Energy and Carbon Efficiency 

First, at the sectoral level, we are adopting technologies and good design to lower energy consumption upfront, raise energy efficiency and increase the share of clean energy in the energy mix. 

In the building sector, we target to achieve 80% Green Mark Certification for all buildings by 2030. All new Public Sector buildings will attain the more stringent Green Mark Platinum standard. This Certification system helps developers to have green buildings by design and adopt the best-in-class energy-efficient technologies upfront. 

We are also stretching the boundaries to develop buildings which require no net use of energy to operate. This requires buildings to be well-designed, and use renewable energy. In 2009, the Building and Construction Authority completed Southeast Asia’s first low-rise Zero Energy Building to be used as its Academy. It is a living classroom for professionals in the building and energy industry. The Academy incorporated more than 30 innovative technologies and has produced more energy than it consumed over the past seven years of its operation.

Since then, our agencies are working with scientists and engineers to push the frontier to realise the vision of “Positive Energy” for low-rise, “Zero Energy” for medium-rise and “Low Energy” for high-rise buildings in Singapore. This will require a mix of policy tools and research outcomes from our multi-disciplinary teams comprising engineers, scientists, environmentalists, planners, and policy makers.  

In the transport sector, we have by policy invested in public transport, and will expand our rail network to 360 km by 2030. By then, eight in ten households will be within a ten-minute walk of a train station. This helps to reduce the demand for privately-owned transport.

Meanwhile, we have stringent policies to control the car population, car use and incentives for the purchase of more carbon-efficient vehicles such as electric and hybrid vehicles. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Economic Development Board (EDB) are working with the private sector to introduce a nation-wide electric vehicle-sharing scheme to offer commuters a greener alternative to owning a car. This programme is targeted to start in the later part of this year.  

To support the deployment of low-carbon solutions, we will continue to enhance our incentives for energy efficiency. We will also introduce a carbon tax from 2019 to encourage the development of innovative solutions to improve energy performance and carbon efficiency. 

Cross-Sectoral Efforts to Improve Urban Energy Systems and Data Networks

Second, at the cross-sectoral level, our approach is to invest in R&D in critical areas that are most suited for city environments. Under our national Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan, Urban Solutions and Sustainability is one of four key domains, with $900 million to support R&D and innovation. As the research and technologies mature, our scientists and engineers can use Singapore as a living lab to test-bed and deploy innovative urban solutions. This rapid prototyping will allow Singapore and our companies to shorten the learning curve and reap the benefits of future energy technologies as they become commercially viable. 

We are making large-scale pilots to make our urban energy systems more efficient and for our grid to be ready to transmit higher amounts of renewable energy. Our agencies are deploying floating solar photovoltaics in our reservoirs, forecasting solar irradiance and piloting micro-grid test-beds. Renewables, energy storage and smart meters are being integrated to supply electricity more flexibly to end-users. 

Our Singapore-based companies are taking part actively in these test-beds. The experience in next-generation energy network technologies such as sensors and smart energy management, will provide a good reference for developing other micro-grids in our region. Such micro-grids could help meet the electrification needs of remote communities, for example the thousands of islands in Southeast Asia that are not currently connected to their national grids.  

We are also piloting technologies to enable a network of green data centres that can support the Digital Economy. 

Our engineers are also developing a Smart Nation Sensor Platform to support city-level sensor deployments to enable sharing of sensor data and analytics to enable the city to operate more responsively and efficiently, while reducing resource usage.  Sharing integrated data of the many facets of the city with citizens and businesses can also allow citizens to make better choices, and businesses to offer new and innovative services.  

Conclusion

In a fast-changing global economy, Singapore is constantly looking for innovative ways to create business opportunities and good jobs, and make city living more convenient and enjoyable. Our scientists and engineers can drive further innovation at the sectoral and cross-sectoral levels to steer our cities towards a low carbon and sustainable future.

I have an interest in this area because I chair a number of cross-cutting groups in Government. I chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change and in this committee, we look at climate profiles, greenhouse gas emissions, how and where we can most efficiently reduce these and the type of measures we need to take to protect ourselves from effects of climate change. I also chair the National Research Foundation and therefore we direct research resources and funds towards those areas which are most important to us. I also look at Smart Nation and digital initiatives for Singapore, as well as for the government sector. These are all very interesting cross-cutting areas. Apart from that, I also front the Public Service Division, where we are trying to strengthen and build stronger engineering capabilities and technological capabilities in the Public Service so that we can use engineering and technology more strategically. These are all interesting areas where we are pushing ahead to make living more enjoyable, green and more convenient for all our residents. 

I hope our professionals, scientists and engineers will have a good exchange learning from each other at this Summit. And I wish our international delegates a pleasant stay in Singapore. Thank you. 

Last updated 18 Dec 2017


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