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Sustainable energy and water use in industrial sector discussed

The cost of harnessing solar energy for power was one of several concerns raised by industry leaders on Friday at the third focus group discussion reviewing the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.

SINGAPORE: The cost of harnessing solar energy for power was one of several concerns raised by industry leaders on Friday at the third focus group discussion reviewing the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.

At the event, 65 participants discussed the difficulties in adopting greener industrial use of energy and water in Singapore.

Several industry leaders felt that internal production of solar energy gave poor returns on the heavy investment needed as payback can stretch for periods as long as nine years.

And despite avenues to sell surplus energy, meeting the pre-determined quota can prove onerous.

Companies may produce more electricity from their solar panels than they can use -- this can be sold to the national power grid, under licensing agreements.

However, supply may drop below agreed levels during maintenance, disruption, or spikes in energy use, leaving it to other parties like Singapore Power to pick up the slack.

During such periods, companies can be heavily penalised for the shortfall, disincentivising use of the technology.

George Lam, director of operations excellence and sustainability at GlaxoSmithKline, said: "We looked at whether we wanted to put more solar panels and supply energy to the grid and also supply within GSK.

"But for the reasons I talked about earlier, it prevented us from doing that. If the authorities could bridge with the companies to see how we can do that, I think that would be a great step forward."

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who chaired the discussion, said the feedback will be taken into account in order to increase the proportion of renewable energy and at the same time, ensure reliability of the system.

Other suggestions were made for the government to take the lead, like encouraging the establishment of standards and best practices, and building networks to share ideas.

Dr Balakrishnan added: "The more people get to know each other and understand each other's industries, as well as the vertical stack -- you know, there are upstream and downstream, suppliers and purchasers -- the more we can elevate standards across the board. You will see sustainable improvements in energy and water efficiency."

Many of the participants at the focus group on Friday come from industries which are large water and energy users. In fact, more than half of Singapore's water and energy consumption is from the non-domestic sector.

The Environment Ministry said that if current trends continue, water consumption for this sector could reach 70 per cent by 2060.

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