Under Singapore’s new Energy Conservation Act, companies that use more than 15 gigawatt hours each year – enough to power 3,000 four-room flats – will have to appoint an energy manager, submit yearly reports and explain how they will improve their energy efficiency. But eight Members of Parliament want more energy efficiency measures. Meanwhile, Taiwan will end a long-standing government subsidy to raise electricity rates in a bid to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions, possibly slowing the island’s economic recovery. Electricity rates will increase by between 10 and 35%. Read More
By Feng Zengkun in Straits Times (10 April 2012):
8 MPs call for more to be done to make firms more energy-efficient
A bill to make energy-guzzling companies more accountable drew a lively debate in Parliament yesterday, with no fewer than eight MPs rising to ask for more to be done to make companies more energy-efficient.
While the proposed law targeted high-end users of electricity, they wanted its scope expanded to cover more companies and the law to be given more teeth.
Under the Energy Conservation Act, companies that use more than 15 gigawatt hours each year – enough to power 3,000 four-room flats – will from next year have to appoint an energy manager, submit yearly reports and explain how they will improve their energy efficiency.
The new law, which Parliament eventually passed, will affect mainly companies in the manufacturing, transport and energy supply sectors such as oil refiners, shipping companies and semiconductor manufacturers.
The debate saw MPs rising to their feet to call for more to be done to push energy efficiency, and to raise numerous questions about the Bill.
Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam said the Bill would not cover the ‘vast majority’ of companies in Singapore, while NCMP Lina Chiam noted the lack of penalties for companies that do not shape up.
‘(The Bill) seems to be a weak instrument,’ she said.
Nominated MP Faizah Jamal suggested making the energy reports public to pressure companies to reduce their energy footprint, while MP Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) asked whether existing courses to train energy managers were sufficient and which funds companies could tap to do so.
Responding, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Bill was only ‘a first step’, and that any changes had to be done carefully so as not to inflate companies’ costs.
The Government, he added, will consider adding more measures when the Act is reviewed in 2015.
He gave details on how companies could certify their employees and the funding available, but turned down the idea of making the reports public, saying that this could lead to potential conflicts of interest.
‘We need to beware of… enforcing companies to reveal commercially sensitive data,’ he said.
According to the ministry, the industrial and transport sectors collectively account for the lion’s share of energy use in Singapore – more than 70 per cent in 2010 – but it is unclear how many companies within these sectors will be affected by the new law.
Dr Balakrishnan also rejected a call by Mr Giam to introduce tiered electricity tariffs to get bigger users of electricity to pay higher rates, saying that it would put an additional burden on large consumers and Singapore’s industrial sector.
And while MPs criticised the Energy Conservation Act for not including alternative energy considerations, Dr Balakrishnan noted that studies have shown that green energy sources such as wind or solar energy could not provide more than 14 per cent of Singapore’s needs each.
The higher cost of green technology, he added, was another factor.
‘While you want to be more green, you don’t want to impose costs on your consumers,’ he said. ‘That’s why we’re technology-agnostic and very careful… in rolling out green renewable sources of energy.’
Taiwan to raise utility rates by up to 35 percent
By Annie Huang for Associated Press (12 April 2012):
Taiwan will end a long-standing government subsidy to raise electricity rates in a bid to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions, possibly slowing the island’s economic recovery.
Effective in May, electricity rates will be increased by an average of 35 percent for manufacturers and between 10 to 25 percent for households, with higher rates for heavier users, Economics Minister Shih Yen-hsiang said Thursday.
No price increases will apply to households consuming minimal electricity, he said.
The government already stirred a public outcry last week by raising gasoline prices by 10 percent.
President Ma Ying-jeou has pledged to reverse a decades-long policy using subsidies to keep utility rates low. The main utility firms have run up large debts as the subsidies don’t fully cover losses from keeping prices low.
Taiwan, meanwhile, has come under international pressure to cut carbon emissions that many climate scientists believe contribute to global warming. Coal-burning plants generate up to 70 percent of Taiwan’s power, with nuclear and hydroelectric plants providing the rest.
Economists say Taiwan’s mainstay steel, petrochemical, cement and a few electronics sectors have long stalled investments in energy-saving equipment because of the subsidies.
“The government has moved in the right direction, but the large-scale price adjustments could have a negative impact on the economy in the short-term,” said Yang Chia-yen, a researcher with Taiwan Economic Research Institute.
Taiwan’s export-driven economy has slowed amid a weak U.S. recovery and Europe’s austerity drive.
With the higher utility costs expected to cut consumer spending and corporate profits, Yang said the government may have to lower the 3.9 percent economic growth rate projected for this year.
Government-run Taiwan Power Co. has accumulated losses of 137 billion New Taiwan dollars ($4.6 billion).