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Budget 2020: Electric vehicles, environmental concerns on the agenda

Budget 2020: Electric vehicles, environmental concerns on the agenda

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng was among those who asked if Singapore would diversify its green vehicle options to include hydrogen fuel cell alternatives.

SINGAPORE: Electric vehicles (EVs) were on the agenda again on the second day of Budget debate, with several Members of Parliament (MPs) asking if other alternative fuels were also being considered in the country’s move to a cleaner transport sector. 

The questions came after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced plans to phase out the use of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040, as well as a number of measures to spur EV adoption here in his Budget speech last week.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng asked if alternatives were being considered to complement the use of EVs here. 

Mr Ang - who is also the chief executive of ComfortDelGro Taxis, which has four EVs as part of its fleet - noted that while he supported the move towards cleaner vehicles, Singapore should not bet on the “wrong green car”. 

He pointed to the country’s experience with compressed natural gas (CNG) driven vehicles - once touted as the clean alternative to petrol, but whose popularity eventually fizzled out, in part due to the lack of refuelling stations. 

READ: Budget 2020: Additional incentives to encourage use of more environmentally friendly vehicles

His concerns were shared by Nominated MP Mohamed Irshad, who asked: “Even as we transition toward electric vehicles, how can we ensure that even less pollutive technology such as hydrogen fuel cells are not locked out of the market?”

Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea are working to put “millions of hydrogen-powered vehicles on their roads”, said Mr Ang.

He noted the driving range and refuelling times for hydrogen vehicles were comparable to those of petrol-driven ones.  

Mr Ang noted that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had last year awarded a contract to American engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root to assess the feasibility of importing hydrogen for uses ranging from vehicle fuelling to power generation. 

He asked if PMO or the Land Transport Authority could share their preliminary thoughts on the findings from the study so far. 

While the country moves towards greater adoption of EVs, both Mr Irshad and Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan asked if the carbon footprint of Singapore’s electricity generation could be reduced.

Both men noted that up to 95 per cent of Singapore’s electricity is generated by natural gas, which is a fossil fuel. 

Mr Tan also asked what was being done to build infrastructure to support EVs, noting the mass adoption of EVs could tax Singapore’s electricity grid in the future. 

READ: Incentives likely to encourage electric vehicle adoption in Singapore, but questions remain, say analysts

OTHER CLIMATE CONCERNS

A number of MPs also voiced concerns for other environmental issues. 

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah asked if town councils could be allowed to install photovoltaic panels on rooftops so as to harvest solar energy. 

NMP Mr Irshad asked what was being done to protect Singapore’s food security, noting that climate change would have a serious impact on the country’s food supply. 

Pointing to the Environment and Water Resources Ministry’s goal of having 30 per cent of Singapore’s food grown locally by 2030 - as well as the S$300 million dollars committed to supporting agri-food related start-ups in the Budget - he asked what was being done to ensure the success of these efforts, compared to previous attempts to encourage local agriculture. 

The WP’s Mr Tan also asked if more could be done to protect Singapore’s nature reserves and natural ecosystems, pointing to projects such as the Cross Island MRT line, a 2km stretch of which will run 70m under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. 

This could be done while also finding “better ways to plan land use, housing, transport and tourism", he said. 

Source: CNA/az(hm)

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