Forum: Rope in households, industries to join climate fight

Solar panels on the rooftop of a block in Ang Mo Kio.
Solar panels on the rooftop of a block in Ang Mo Kio.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan highlighted that the building industry is crucial in tackling the two mega trends of climate change and urbanisation (Cities can be ally in climate action: Experts, Nov 6).

Singapore has done well in mitigating the environmental impact of buildings - about 40 per cent meet the Building and Construction Authority's green standards.

Additionally, one in two Housing Board flats is expected to sport solar panels on rooftops by 2020 (Singapore to ramp up use of solar energy for power needs, Oct 30). While laudable, these initiatives could be further expanded to include households, and even industries, in the climate change fight.

Household energy consumption makes up about 19 per cent of energy consumption in Singapore.

Recently announced initiatives such as the installation of smart meters in households and personalised energy-saving tips are a good start in developing a sense of ownership in the climate fight.

Households are now empowered to track and manage their energy consumption. Incentives provided by the Government further encourage households to go green.

Yet, these initiatives do not do nearly enough to ensure that energy consumption stays in the consciousness of households.

The authorities should mandate that smart meters be placed in highly conspicuous areas, ensuring data is easily visible.

With the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) appliances, reports showing the consumption levels of individual appliances could also be provided. These may allow households to be more conscious of their energy consumption levels, possibly spurring them to change lifestyle habits.

We could also extrapolate this principle to more high-impact areas, such as industries - which are jointly responsible for around 60 per cent of total emissions in Singapore.

While acknowledging the concerted efforts by companies to minimise their carbon footprint, additional data points supplemented by IoT devices can further help companies streamline their processes and achieve lower carbon emissions.

In line with the Smart Nation Initiative, the Government should consider partnering industries in digitalising operational practices, helping companies to improve analytics that may push them to implement more carbon-friendly practices.

Through combined efforts, innovative initiatives, such as net zero carbon buildings which utilise carbon-free renewable energy to meet the building's operation needs, can be further developed and could become the norm in our society.

Kevin Tay Yong Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2019, with the headline 'Rope in households, industries to join climate fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe