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Smart Nation = sustainable nation?

Schneider Electric spearheads the sustainability aspect of the country's Smart Nation initiative. PHOTO: SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC
Schneider Electric spearheads the sustainability aspect of the country's Smart Nation initiative. PHOTO: SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC

Does the push towards a Smart Nation leave any room for sustainability?

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Smart Nation”?

The standard responses often apply: total interconnectivity through the proliferation of smart devices. Faster data transfer speeds across a 5G and even 6G network. Autonomous vehicles and their infrastructure. The gradual assimilation of our city into the Internet of Things (IoT). 

But one of the key focuses of the Smart Nation initiative is its push towards making cities more sustainable. In all the excitement about living in a connected and convenient future, the push to make our cities greener and more sustainable is often overlooked. 

In fact, large-scale efforts to make Singapore’s buildings more sustainable started as long ago as the My Smart HDB Home @ Yuhua initiative in 2015, in which over 9,000 residents were announced as the first residents to experience “Smart Living” in an existing Housing Board estate. 

The initiative saw 3,194 flats outfitted with smart features like the Home Energy Management System and Home Water Management System, which allowed residents to monitor and reduce their electricity and utilities usage accordingly. 

More recently, the Building and Construction Authority launched the Super Low Energy Programme two weeks ago, in an attempt to improve energy efficiency in non-residential buildings. 

Under the Programme, buildings that achieve at least 60 per cent energy savings will receive the Super Low Energy status, while buildings that get all of their energy from renewable energy will receive the highest accolade — Zero Energy status. 

One such building on track to achieve the Super Low Energy status is French energy management and automation solutions provider Schneider Electric’s Asia Headquarters located on 50 Kallang Avenue. It is also the first office building to qualify for the BCA’s Green Mark Platinum Award for non-residential buildings.

In line with the company’s goal to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2030, the office is powered entirely by a hybrid electricity power source from solar panels. 

The same low-voltage energy-saving solutions that helped Schneider Electric’s headquarters net its Platinum Award, such as light switches, wireless sensors and power monitoring systems are adopted in buildings all across the nation.

They can be found in Singapore’s largest installations like the Singapore Sports Hub, the Esplanade and Changi Airport, to individual residences — collectively saving utility costs as well as reducing tons of carbon emissions every year. 

Furthermore, adoption of the company’s EcoStruxure power management system, an IoT-enabled architecture and platform, by logistics and freight forwarding company Bollore Logistics resulted in a 10 per cent decrease in energy consumption and a significant reduction in the company’s carbon footprint.

EcoStruxure also features heavily in the design of the zero-energy Singapore Sustainability Academy, a 4,300 sq ft training and networking facility focused on developing sustainability initiatives. 

The building’s energy comes entirely from solar photovoltaic panels, while Smart Panel and Lighting Control Systems enable real-time monitoring of energy use and automatic management of different lighting scenarios according to room occupancy. 

But the road is as much a part of the city as the building — which is why Schneider Electric is just as dedicated to making Singapore’s roads greener and more car-lite. It recently introduced the New Renault Kangoo ZE into its fleet of field service vehicles, a vehicle that is 100 per cent CO2 emissions-free and quieter than a conventional vehicle.

The company supports car-sharing programme BlueSG by supplying the electrical components in each of their electric vehicle charging stations, as well as providing car charging stations in private car parks, streets, condominiums and other venues.

Sustainability beyond borders 

Still, a Smart Nation cannot stand in isolation, least of all one as small as Singapore. 

Schneider Electric is well aware of this. By establishing the first large scale Innovation Hub in Singapore, it hopes to expand sustainability efforts not just in Southeast Asia but throughout Asia. 

To date, Schneider Electric has collaborations with 50 small and medium-sized enterprises in go-to market operations and digitalisation programmes, including the Sanwa Group, GP Manufacturing and Microcast. Concurrently, it is also helping distributors set up e-commerce platforms, allowing them to perform up to 80 per cent of their transactions digitally. 

But the greatest value in the Innovation Hub lies in the EcoXpert Partner Programme. In this programme, Schneider Electric empowers world-leading technology providers with skills and expertise in the latest IoT technologies and solutions, such as EcoStruxure, to pioneer the future of electrical automation.

In the long term, Schneider Electric hopes to build an ecosystem of local and regional certified partners under the EcoXpert Partner Program, trained in their fields of expertise such as power monitoring, building automation and data connectivity.

And speaking of long-term goals, a key part of any sustainability strategy is the two-fold approach of equipping future generations with technical knowledge, as well as cultivating a mindset centred on sustainability.

For instance, Schneider Electric supports the Singapore Renewable Energy Integration Demonstrator project on Semakau Island by Nanyang Technological University to test-bed the integration of solar, wind, tidal, diesel, waste-to-energy and power-to-gas technologies. 

“We strongly believe that to develop the leaders of the future, it is about having an international perspective and exposure to other cultures and other ways of working,” says Tommy Leong, zone president of East Asia & Japan at Schneider Electric.