Design key to managing demand for sustainable energy supply: Minister

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaks during the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week at Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Oct 29, 2019.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaks during the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week at Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Oct 29, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Even as Singapore moves to green its fuel mix, the country should also see how its energy usage can be managed, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

In charting Singapore's progress towards a future with a sustainable, reliable and affordable supply of energy, managing energy demand was also important, Mr Chan said.

"I think we need to see how we can save on our usage of energy," he added. Key to this is design, he noted, citing the unnecessary cooling of an entire hall to keep its occupants comfortable.

Said Mr Chan: "If you look at a typical audience hall, we just need to cool 2m up from the ground level to provide thermal comfort to the audience. Much of the cooling for the rest of the building is probably unnecessary."

The importance of design also applies to the broader scale, he said, from the design of individual buildings to clusters of buildings, industries, and residential areas.

For example, technology can be harnessed to determine exactly how much cooling is needed.

And in Singapore, the direction a building faces could have significant impact on its occupants' energy consumption, not just because of where the sun rises and sets, but also depending on where the wind is coming from, said Mr Chan.

"So how we design the precinct to make full use of the natural ventilation to reduce the cooling needs will be both an opportunity and a challenge," he added.

Singapore also has the opportunity to refresh the entire island's infrastructure in the next 50 years, he said, unlike other urban cities which grow as an urban sprawl, randomly and organically.

 
 
 

Efficient design could minimise the energy wasted in transporting people and goods across the island, and get rid of the "tidal effects" of traffic patterns, he said.

This essentially refers to the surge of people travelling in one direction to get to work - usually from north to south and east to west in the mornings - and back home in the other.

Said Mr Chan: "But if we can progressively redesign the entire Singapore, we will get rid of this tidal effect, which will lead to a much more efficient use of our transportation system and network, and certainly the amount of energy that we will need for the entire system."

But even as Singapore continues to explore new technologies, and build new buildings with zero carbon footprints, the challenge would be to find cost-effective ways of retrofitting existing buildings and precincts and make them energy-efficient, he said.

"That is the area where the Energy Market Authority, together with (industrial developer) JTC, are looking at new capabilities to see how we can help existing... sites convert into much more energy-efficient sites."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2019, with the headline 'Design key to managing demand for sustainable energy supply: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe