Singapore’s low-carbon, efficient future

With rising greenhouse gas emissions and increasing resource scarcity, governments around the world are implementing a range of policies to increase efficiency in production and resource use.

However, rather than focus on command and control regulations that directly regulate what industry can and cannot do, governments are now raising the bar by showing what is possible themselves.

One government that is leading the way towards a low-carbon, efficient future is Singapore, which has released, in June of this year, the Public Sector Sustainability Plan 2017-2020.

Singapore’s public sector leading the way

Singapore’s Public Sector Sustainability Plan outlines the city-state’s collective efforts in environmental sustainability. The Plan aims to reduce energy and water consumption by more than 15% and 5% from FY2013 levels respectively by 2020 across the whole public sector, which comprises 16 institutions and 64 statutory boards and employs 145,000 workers across 1,000 facilities on the island.

From 2013-2015, the public sector accounted for an average of 4% of Singapore’s total electricity consumption and 3% of its total water consumption. To help the government’s various institutions reduce energy and water consumption, the government has launched a variety of initiatives including demonstrating technologies, replacing or upgrading technology and changing organizational habits.

Singapore's government leading the way forwards

Singapore’s government leading the way forwards

Cutting energy usage through hardware and software changes

The Demonstration Fund helps pilot innovative solutions for environmental sustainability within the public sector. One project receiving funding is the Integrated Energy Management System that was launched in selected large public sector buildings to monitor energy consumption and identify opportunities for energy use optimization. The government will also make ‘hardware’ improvements such as replacing or upgrading air-conditioning systems and lightings and ‘software’ actions like promoting organizational habits that minimize electricity consumption.

Overall, the government aims to make electricity savings of 15.2%. This will lead to electricity savings of 290 GWh/year – sufficient to power 50,000 households for an entire year – resulting in $60 million in annual cost savings. It will also result in a reduction of 130 kT carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the emissions of nearly 28,000 cars in one year.

Saving water, one drop at a time

Regarding reducing water consumption, the public sector will aim to surpass the 5% targeted savings rate and achieve water savings of 5.1% by FY2020 compared to FY2013 levels. This will be achieved by a range of initiatives including:

  • 3.2% savings from flow-rate and flush volume reductions
  • 0.5% savings from air-conditioning system enhancements
  • 0.4% savings from swimming pool enhancements
  • 0.3% savings from adoption of irrigation systems and practices
  • 0.3% savings from demand management e.g. reducing washing frequency of buildings
  • 0.2% savings from private meter installation
  • 0.2% savings from other measures including engagement and outreach programs to promote conservation awareness and habits

Overall, the public sector will save around 900,000 m³/year of water (enough to fill 360 Olympic-sized swimming pools each year) and make cost savings of $2.5 million/year.

The take-out

Government leadership can light up the path towards a low-carbon and resource-efficient future.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley), and of the forthcoming titles Blue and Green Cities (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance and society.

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