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Clean Tech in Singapore?

July 7, 2010
by

Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) has recently launched it’s latest development – CleanTech Park. JTC has partnered with the Economic Development Board (EDB) to unveil the Master Plan for the park, which is set to be “Singapore’s first eco-business park”.

JTC Corporation (JTC) is Singapore’s leading industrial infrastructure specialist spearheading the planning, promotion and development of a dynamic industrial landscape.

For more than 40 years, JTC has played a key role in the growth of the economy by providing cutting-edge industrial real estate solutions. Some of its landmark projects include wafer fabrication parks, business parks, Biopolis and Fusionopolis at one-north, a chemicals hub on Jurong Island, biomedical parks as well as logistics hubs for various industries. These industrial and business parks are now home to renowned global companies and promising local enterprises. To learn more about JTC, click here!

I recently added a Singapore-Germany Business Seminar on Environmental Investment Opportunities and Technology Collaboration and there, Ms Tang Wai Yee from JTC explained the reasons for pushing the development of CleanTech Park and also showcased its many features. She explained that the global clean technology industry is worth over US$700 billion and if Singapore were to leverage on this, it would create 18,000 jobs by 2015 and contribute S$3.4 billion to our GDP.

Image courtesy of JTC

Image courtesy of JTC

Here are some of the features of the CleanTech Park:

  • To be constructed at Nanyang Avenue, adjacent to Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
  • 50 ha
  • To serve as a large-scale integrated “living laboratory” for testbedding and demonstration of system-level clean technology solutions
  • House a core nucleus of cleantech activities to serve as an epi-centre for research, innovation and commercialization in clean technology
  • Foster a conducive environment which promotes collaborations between industry and academia
  • Construction is set to begin in July 2010 and estimated cost has come up to S$52 million (News article here)
  • Estimated completion 2018

Overall, the CleanTech Park hopes to grow a “comprehensive business eco-system”.

Image courtesy of JTC

Phase one of the CleanTech Park development will see it’s first building being developed. This building is to be called CleanTech One and will provide business park and laboratory spaces and a total lettable area of over 25,000 sqm. It’s aim is to support the growth of key clean technology activities.

The building boasts of green design features and is set of have a sky trellis which JTC claims will have a cooling effect within the building and reduce the need for air-conditioning. When further probed, JTC responded saying that the designs are just in it’s initially phase and have not been test-bedded yet so CleanTech One will be just a starting point for JTC to move towards greening it’s existing and future buildings.

For more information about CleanTech Park, here are some articles:

Development and Business Opportunities in CleanTech Park, Singapore’s First Eco-Business Park (Available only until 7th September 2010)

EDB and JTC joint press release: Eco-Business Park to house a working population of 20,000 by 2030

About CleanTech Park

For those who are not too sure what clean technology is… I’ve managed to dig out some information for you! Here is the Wiki link to Clean Technology if you are interested.

Basically, clean technology refers to energy efficient technology or technology that harnesses renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro power, biomass, bio-fuels etc). Clean technology does not have a strict definition, but it should “dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes”. Industrial and governmental interest in clean technology only gained momentum since 2000 and has since spin off into a billion dollar industry altogether.

The UNEP reported that wind, solar and biofuel companies received a record $148 billion in new funding in 2007 and attributed this hike in investment to the rise in oil prices during the time. Fortunately, oil prices continue to be volatile and investments in clean technology have continued to pour in. There was huge concern that when oil prices dipped, interest in research and development (R&D) of clean technology would dissipate and we would go back to depending on fossil fuels and other “dirty” sources of fuel. However, we need to question whether clean technology is really all that feasible in Singapore, when we don’t have the wind, hydro, biomass or bio-fuel power to harness in the first place? Solar is one renewable energy that we have, but wait… wasn’t there are huge investment already made in solar here in Singapore?

REC's solar wafers, cells and modules plant in Singapore

Yes, the Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) has invested US$2.5 billion in Singapore in the first phase of an integrated manufacturing complex for production of wafers, cells and modules in Singapore (read more). You may also access the press conference slides that REC provided here.

It is also interesting to note that, the REC plant in Singapore is set only to produce solar cells, wafers and modules… but are we actually using them for our buildings here in Singapore or exporting them? It’s perhaps economically viable for REC to have a plant here, seeing that it has this on it’s website:

The new plant will allow REC to increasingly offer products that will compete with traditional, grid-based electricity. REC’s ambition is to achieve manufacturing costs below 1 Euro per watt in the new Singapore plant.

Sure solar energy is a viable source of clean energy for economies and countries which are looking to cut emissions and go green, but is Singapore stepping up to the plate? Who buys the manufactured cells, wafers and modules? Where do they go and how energy efficient are they? REC only goes so far as to say that the key  international solar energy market are primarily continental Europe, the USA and Asia but there is no explanation as to which countries and by how much?

I think more needs to be done to convince people (and myself) that Singapore is working on harnessing the clean technology for ourselves to cut emissions than just setting up the infrastructure for research and development into clean technology because unless it is tapped and creates real and tangible emission cuts, we’re really not moving forward at all. I welcome any comments on clean technology here in Singapore and of course I must add that this debate isn’t by any means exhaustive. There are issues that I haven’t covered in this article including electric vehicles, green lots, sky-rise greenery, bio-energy & fuel research in Singapore (which I understand to be growing here in Singapore) and so on. While it is comforting to know that Singapore is doing what it can (while making sure that our industries remain competitive and economically viable) to move towards a more livable and sustainable urban environment, it’s not entirely convincing. Moreover, most people fail to question the initiatives by huge TNCs and MNCs like REC in Singapore and what they’re doing beyond their role in manufacturing solar cells, wafers and modules. For example, where do the materials come from? Are they from sustainable sources? Where do the cells, wafers and modules go to after they are made here and are they used in the correct manner such that maximum efficiency is achieved? These questions should be and can be applied to other industries as well. Should we not start to question and push for answers, we will never know and never achieve the 16% cuts that the government has so kindly bestowed (responsibility) on us to achieve. So, some things to think about and I hope the Singaporean society can begin to question clean technology and it’s real feasibility in Singapore.

Can CleanTech Park really be successful and what are the barriers to it’s success? What are the consequences of having the park near Nanyang Technological University, which is so far out from the city and may eventually increase road traffic? Has an environmental impact assessment (EIA) been done on the land on which CleanTech Park is due to be built on and what may be the consequences on biodiversity in that area? Furthermore, are the “green” designs in CleanTech One going to work? How will the public be able to know if they do or don’t, or will we ever? If they don’t what are the effects of failure of the sky-trellis and can air-conditioning really be reduced? What are some benchmarks of success of CleanTech One and how will efficiency be enforced in the park when it is fully up and running?

These questions may never be answered but at least they’re out there and I’ve got a load off my chest. Perhaps if any one of you are interested to submit a paper to JTC/EDB to have these questions answered please do not hesitate to contact me I will be happy to work on something together 🙂 In the meantime, I hope some one picks this up and can help me clear some of my doubts on clean technology in Singapore!

Cheers,

Mel

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