Is Singapore really renewable energy challenged?

Elspeth Thomson of Energy Studies Institute posed that question to Amory Lovins at an event hosted by the National Environment Council. To look at the wide range of solar projects underway in the city state, you could only think solar has a significant clean energy role here. And Grace Chua of the Straits Times also writes about the trend to smart meters to monitor energy use. Read More

Smart meters in homes

By Grace Chua in Straits Times (2 November 2012):

AFTER she installed a home energy-management system, Ms Kavita Gandhi discovered that her kitchen appliances were draining electricity even on standby mode.

By unplugging devices from standby power throughout her bungalow, the 49-year-old executive director of a sustainable-energy business association has saved at least 10 per cent a month on her $600 monthly energy bill.

“It was a surprise that we were using so much,” she said.

The use of energy-management and energy-efficiency technologies is catching on here.

A handful of household users have bought commercial systems while the Energy Market Authority (EMA) is running a $30 million trial which involves 1,900 Punggol households.

Home energy-management systems include smart meters and software that allow residents to find out how much electricity is being used at any point in time.

They can do audits, like Ms Gandhi did, by turning off everything in the house and switching appliances on one by one to see which guzzles the most.

Even where systems are not as detailed, users can still monitor real-time use and alter their habits.

Punggol resident Nelson Cheong, 35, an engineer whose household has had an EMA smart meter for the past two weeks, said it allowed him to check electricity use by the hour.

Now he switches off the water heater when it is not in use, and hopes to save on his $200 monthly utility bill this month.

Till now, most energy-management efforts have been focused on industry users such as steel plants which can cut usage and save millions a year.

But energy consultant Adrian Bukmanis said the initiatives could help consumers too in two ways: visualisation and automation.

“It’s important to have real-time as opposed to historical data,” he said.

“You can see what happens when things are being used – if you turn the kettle on and your energy use spikes, it’s a powerful visual indicator.”

Automation might mean devices that turn off others when they are not in use, he added.

Ms Gandhi bought her $15,000 system from energy solutions firm Green Koncepts, which installed it about eight months ago with no home renovation needed.

Its director Kenneth Lee said: “We are not marketing to households but they find us.”

It usually provides the systems to firms. It may consider marketing a scaled-down, less costly version of Ms Gandhi’s system for households if there is demand. Since 2009, it has also sold a few hundred units of a simple wireless meter called WattsOn that costs $329 each.

Element14, an electronics distributor, said it has sold 65 units of two types of meters in the past two years, mainly to resellers, individuals, educational institutions and corporations.

Meanwhile, Panasonic will start a one-year trial of a system that lets users control air-conditioners remotely. It will install it in 10 homes in Punggol by year-end and is keen to commercialise it here and in the region, said Mr Low Beng Huat, general manager for environment and external affairs at Panasonic Asia Pacific.



Solar panels ‘save town councils 5% in power costs’

By Rachel Chang in The Straits Times (16 November 2012):

THE Housing Board’s pilot project to equip blocks with solar panels has saved town councils about 5 per cent in monthly electricity costs, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan yesterday.

This works out to about $500 to $800 per block each month for the 100 blocks in the pilot programme, he said in Parliament.

These blocks are scattered across the island so the HDB can study the impact of different micro-climates on the performance of solar panels.

Mr Lee was replying to Non- Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, who asked if cost savings could be passed on to residents directly if the pilot project was scaled up.

Mr Lee said that giving the savings to the Town Councils allows them to mitigate their rising costs and delay increasing electricity tariffs for residents.

He added that there are substantial challenges in expanding the use of solar panels. Although their price has plunged over the past year, it would still take up to 20 years to recoup in energy savings the cost of installation.

“If the costs of production continue to go down, we hope one day the economics will be favourable to us implementing on a wider scale,” he said.

Later, Second Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran said, in response to another question from Mr Yee, that Singapore has limited land for the large-scale deployment of solar panels.

Still, the Government is investing in solar panel research and provides subsidies for the private sector to instal solar technology.

The use of solar energy has grown three times from 2009 to 2012, he said, and there are 157 solar installations here, which represent 0.05 per cent of Singapore’s total power generation capacity.



NTU to go big on solar as part of ‘mini city’ plan

By Grace Chua in Straits Times (25 October 2012):

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will invest about $15.5 million to phase in a 5MW solar panel system on its buildings by 2016 – the largest planned installation for a single site here.

The panels will cover some 50,000 sq m of its current and new buildings and provide more than 5,475 megawatt-hours a year of power – enough for more than 1,000 HDB households. The system will generate 3.3 per cent of the energy used by campus academic buildings.

Mr Tong Kok Kwang, project director at NTU’s office of development and facilities management, said the panels will be installed in phases, as new buildings are constructed, and will be completed by March 2016.

The solar installation is part of an NTU campus masterplan to transform the varsity into a “mini city” and provide more residence halls and academic spaces. This plan was revealed at the Solar Pioneer Awards ceremony at the PV Asia-Pacific conference yesterday, part of the current Singapore International Energy Week.

While there are already some solar panels on university and polytechnic campuses here, they are primarily for academic research and do not make significant contributions to the schools’ energy consumption.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, Economic Development Board cleantech cluster director Goh Chee Kiong spoke on Singapore’s solar industry and the expansion of public and private schemes.

The Housing Board, for example, will launch a project to install a 1MW system of copper indium gallium selenide solar panels – a new, higher-efficiency type of solar technology – next year, as part of its $31 million solar pilot programme.

And the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) is developing a technology road map for the adoption of solar energy in Singapore, mapping the solar potential of nearly every rooftop on the island, and studying the effect of solar’s intermittent electricity generation on the national grid.

Dr Thomas Reindl, director of Seris’ solar energy systems cluster, said dispersing systems around the island would be better than having them all in one place, to ensure they do not all fluctuate and generate power in tandem.


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