Budget debate: $63m scheme to help building owners with green energy retrofitting costs

Building owners can receive grants based on how much emissions are reduced through upgrading older systems, subject to a cap for each project. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Building owners can tap a $63 million incentive scheme to retrofit their buildings and make them more energy efficient from the second quarter of 2022.

Under the Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings 2.0, building owners can receive grants based on how much emissions are reduced through upgrading older systems, subject to a cap for each project.

Announcing the scheme on Tuesday (March 8), National Development Minister Desmond Lee said it is a significant enhancement from its earlier incarnation as buildings have to meet a higher standard of energy efficiency to qualify for a grant.

The scheme, which will also be expanded to include residential and light industrial buildings, comes on the heels of the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) $100 million Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings that was introduced in 2009 and helped more than 80 buildings with retrofitting costs.

Mr Lee said during the debate on his ministry's spending plans that more than half of Singapore's buildings that are more than 20 years old have not been retrofitted.

"They lag behind newer buildings in terms of energy performance. Retrofitting older buildings costs a lot more upfront, and it may take several years to recoup this investment," he noted.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) and Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC) had asked how BCA will support Singapore's transition to a low-carbon society and reduce emissions.

Under the new scheme, building projects that pursue higher standards of energy efficiency will be eligible for higher rates of funding.

For instance, buildings that achieve the highest Green Mark rating of zero energy after retrofitting will get $45 for each tonne per carbon dioxide-equivalent (tCO2e) reduced, capped at $1.2 million.

Those that achieve the super low energy rating will receive $35 per tCO2e reduced, capped at $900,000, while those that get a platinum rating will receive $25 per tCO2e reduced, capped at $600,000.

Funding is also capped at 50 per cent of the retrofitting cost, whichever is lower.

The grant will be disbursed in two tranches, with 30 per cent of the estimated amount given out when retrofitting works begins. The remaining 70 per cent will be given out upon attaining the Green Mark certification.

"Building owners can choose the strategies and technologies that are most appropriate for their building," Mr Lee said. For example, they can upgrade the cooling system, install solar panels, or redesign spaces for natural ventilation.

Privately owned buildings with a gross floor area (GFA) exceeding 5,000 sq m can tap the scheme, including commercial and institutional developments such as hotels, offices and healthcare facilities, as well as light industrial buildings.

For light industrial buildings, energy savings from manufacturing, industrial and commercial processes are excluded when assessing funding.

For residential buildings, energy savings from common areas, services like lifts and shared recreation amenities like function rooms will count towards their funding under the scheme.

Building owners can also tap the BCA's Building Retrofit Energy Efficiency Financing Scheme and Monetary Authority of Singapore's Green and Sustainability-Linked Loan Grant Scheme for retrofitting works.

Giving an update on the progress of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan, Mr Lee said more than 49 per cent of buildings by GFA were greened to date.

The Green Mark scheme was revised in September last year to set higher sustainability standards to be certified green, and emphasise other sustainability outcomes like reducing carbon emissions.

On the target to have at least 80 per cent of new developments classed as super low energy buildings from 2030, he said close to 7 per cent of new buildings by GFA have been certified as super low energy over the past year.

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