As climate change moved from being a fringe issue to a mainstream concern, 2007 will be remembered as the year of the environment. With the green business becoming the world's fastest-growing industry, we look at the milestones in Singapore for the year.
Clean energy blueprint
IN MARCH, Singapore heralded its entry into the clean energy race as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a $170 million research fund for the industry.
The Economic Development Board (EDB) soon unveiled a more detailed $350 million blueprint - for research and development, testing and pilot projects in clean energy.
The aim: To create a major industry worth $1.7 billion which will employ 7,000 people by 2015.
Singapore's foray into clean energy - that is, energy generated from renewable sources such as the sun and wind - comes just as the global clean energy market is enjoying massive growth.
Leading research house Clean Edge has reported revenues in the industry climbing from US$40 billion (S$58 billion) in 2005 to US$55 billion last year. This is projected to hit US$226 billion by 2016.
Mega green investments
IN OCTOBER, Singapore was propelled into global limelight when Norwegian solar firm Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) announced that it will set up the world's biggest solar equipment manufacturing plant here, worth $6.3 billion.
This was the fruit of 'nine months of intense courtship' between EDB and REC. Singapore trumped more than 200 locations to emerge with the prize, said EDB managing director Ko Kheng Hwa.
The Tuas plant, which will begin operations in 2010, is expected to employ up to 3,000 staff - with an initial 1,500 selected to be hired next year. A good number of these will be sent to Norway for extensive training.
Earlier this month, oil giant Neste Oil said that it would build the world's biggest biodiesel facility in Singapore at a cost of 550 million euros (S$1.17 billion).
The plant, ideally located near Indonesia and Malaysia - the world's two largest palm oil producers - will convert the feedstock into fuel for vehicles. The investment will create 100 jobs and boost the Republic's goal of expanding its environmentally-friendly industries.
TO REALISE Singapore's ambition of becoming a major clean energy player, a Clean Energy Programme Office (Cepo) was announced in March to drive the growth of the sector.
Cepo comprises six government agencies, including the EDB, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).
Its first initiative was to set aside a $17 million kitty for the Clean Energy Research and Testbedding (Cert) programme, which will provide sites for foreign and local companies to test all kinds of clean technology.
In October, Cepo launched a $50 million research fund for the next five years to accelerate the industry's research and development efforts. This was soon followed by a $25 million scholarship programme to groom a workforce to serve this industry. Cepo plans to award master's or PhD scholarships to about 130 students over the next five years.
The NEA also launched an Energy Efficiency Programme Office (E2PO) to coordinate nationwide efforts to streamline Singapore's major sectors of energy use, namely in power generation, industry, transportation, buildings and households.
A world-class research centre that will focus on environmental issues - the first of its kind in Singapore - is also likely to be set up soon. It will likely to be called the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability.
The research house will be a partnership between the National Research Foundation in Singapore and a top European group of research and teaching institutes from Switzerland, ETH Domain.
Carbon: a new commodity
WITH the Kyoto Protocol creating a new market commodity in carbon, Singapore is positioning itself to become the region's carbon trading hub given its standing as a financial services capital.
A local company - Asia Carbon Group - said last month that it was working with the Singapore Exchange to launch a potentially lucrative carbon credit trading facility.
Catalist-listed ecoWise Holdings, a local environmental solutions company, also signed a deal this year with Japanese firm Kansai Electric Power to sell up to 95,000 carbon credits over five years - making it likely to be the first company in Singapore to sell carbon credits under the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism.
The trading carbon credits is designed to limit industry carbon dioxide emissions, widely blamed as a contributor to global warming.
Solar: Option with most potential
THE solar industry has been the rising star of Singapore's burgeoning clean energy sector this year - and looks set to remain so in the near term.
The Government has singled out solar as the clean energy with the most potential for Singapore due to its existing strength in the similar semiconductor industry, and its strategic location among the sun-belt countries.
Big players such as Norway's REC, German solar firm Conergy, United States-based SolarWorld have been courted to set up manufacuturing facilities or regional offices in Singapore; while local companies such as Solar Energy Power made history by becoming the first Singapore company to manufacture solar cells this year.
Cepo has also called for proposals from firms to test a range of solar technologies at selected sites.
BCA last month unveiled a $10 million zero-energy building - Singapore's first - which will also have such test facilities.
The complex will have a net zero energy consumption over a typical year, made possible by a massive array of solar panels covering about 1,300 sq m - the biggest in Singapore - which will be integrated on the roof of one of the buildings.
BCA expects different generations of solar technology to be tested here, paving the way for further innovations and adoptions of solar energy in Singapore.
The greening of corporate S'pore
THIS year, chief executives have found that environmental issues, once an afterthought, are now key to any corporate strategy.
Firms, foreign and local alike, have been jumping on the green bandwagon, initiating numerous 'corporate social responsibility' practices from funding environmental groups to streamlining their operations.
Those with genuine intentions have often found recognition for their efforts.
In April, for example, property firm City Developments (CDL) became the first private developer to be awarded BCA's Green Mark Platinum - the highest accolade for green buildings - for its Oceanfront@Sentosa Cove project.
CDL's reputation and experience as a green developer also in some way led to its clinching of a 3.5ha prestigious site at Beach Road from the Urban Redevelopment Authority in September, which features an eco- friendly mega mixed development.
The number of local companies joining the race for environmental solutions have also swelled, with more diversifying into the green business.
For retail investors, 2007 is also the year green investment funds went mainstream.
Former US vice-president and environmental crusader Al Gore, who came to Singapore in August for the Global Brand Forum, gave a separate talk on the growing range of green investments in the market that could give high returns and urged investors to 'put your money where your values are'.
|Is this article useful to you?