Energy Efficiency

New grant to support businesses coping with rising energy costs

Companies can apply for the grant from Sept 1 this year to March 31 next year. Image: ST File

From The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Local firms in some sectors will soon be able to apply for a new grant to help them reduce their energy bills amid rising electricity costs.

The new Energy Efficiency Grant was announced by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Tuesday (June 21).

It will provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the food services, food manufacturing and retail sectors with up to 70 per cent funding support to adopt energy-efficient equipment in categories that have been pre-approved.

Capped at $30,000 per company, the grant will cover energy-efficient equipment in categories such as LED lighting, air-conditioners, cooking hobs, refrigerators, water heaters and dryers.

The sectors eligible for the new grant have been significantly affected by higher electricity prices in terms of the impact on their overall business costs, MOF said in a statement.

“The grant will support such firms to improve their energy efficiency and alleviate increasing business costs due to increased energy prices,” the ministry added.

“This is a more sustainable way to help our businesses to manage energy prices which are beyond our control.”

Speaking at a press conference on additional support measures for companies and households, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said: “For businesses in this higher energy cost environment, they will need to continue to restructure and become more energy efficient in order to remain competitive, and we will provide support to firms who need that extra lift to sustain their transformation efforts.”

To apply for the new grant, applicants must be a business registered in Singapore and the equipment bought must also be used here.

Companies can apply for the grant from Sept 1 this year to March 31 next year.

They will then have up to a year from the time that an application is submitted to purchase equipment and submit claims for reimbursement.

The window for claims will run until March 31, 2024.

The new grant complements existing initiatives that help firms here be more energy efficient.

They include the National Environment Agency’s Energy Efficiency Fund, which supports businesses in the manufacturing sector, and the BCA Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings 2.0, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Chee Hong Tat during the press conference.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee said: “I think (the new grant) will power businesses to be more energy-conscious and look at how they can be more efficient in their consumption.”

Fashion retailer Pomelo said the grant will also help support its efforts as it drives change in its industry through sustainable initiatives. 

Ms Kevalin Athayu, Pomelo’s vice-president and head of sustainability, said: “This grant from the Government is certainly a welcome development for the retail sector. We see this as a great opportunity to improve energy efficiency for our Singapore retail operations and will be reviewing the grant’s eligibility criteria in detail.”

Ms Ariel Lee, director of food and beverage firm Sunpark Singapore, which runs brands such as Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen and Belle-Ville pancake cafe, noted that the company is monitoring how bills will increase, as fuel prices go up. 

“(Support for buying) equipment, especially energy-efficient exhaust hoods, cooker hobs and lights would be a great help especially when we build new stores. It is not only capital expenditure support, but also helps with long-term deduction in our running costs,” she said.

Besides support for energy-efficient measures, there will also be help for local companies with cash-flow concerns, Mr Chee said.

The Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan will be enhanced, with the maximum loan quantum increased from $5 million to $10 million from July 1 this year to March 31 next year.

The Government will also continue to provide 70 per cent risk-share for the scheme during this period.

From now till Sept 30 this year, firms can also tap the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme for their working capital needs.

When this programme expires, the Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan will also be enhanced, with the maximum loan quantum increased from $300,000 to $500,000 from Oct 1 this year to March 31 next year.

Author: Sue-Ann Tan

Work to retrofit Tampines town centre with district cooling network to begin

Tampines Mall is one of the seven buildings to be connected in the centralised cooling network. Image: ST Photo / Lim Yaohui

From The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – By the first half of 2025, Tampines will become Singapore’s first town centre to retrofit a centralised cooling system in a project that will slash the environmental cost of air-conditioning. It will also pave the way for more than 80 per cent of buildings here to follow suit.

On Monday (April 18), owners of seven buildings in the town centre agreed to start work on SP Group’s first distributed district cooling network, with another slated to join in the future, said SP Group and Temasek in a statement.

District cooling technology involves generating chilled water in a centralised location, and then sending the chilled water through a network to multiple buildings. In conventional cooling systems, individual buildings have their own chillers.

District cooling is more energy-efficient as the system reaps the benefits of economies of scale by sharing chiller capacity.

Such technology is being implemented worldwide in countries such as Malaysia and Bahrain, as they seek to reduce carbon footprint.

While air-conditioning was hailed by late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore’s secret to success in the tropics, its cool comfort comes at the price of up to half of a building’s energy consumption.

The shared infrastructure from Tampines’ future district cooling system is expected to help the town reduce carbon emissions by 1,359 tonnes annually, equivalent to removing 1,236 cars from the roads, said the statement.

The network will also achieve savings of more than 2,800,000 kilowatt-hour annually, which can power more than 905 three-room Housing Board households for a year, it added.

The buildings to be connected in the network are Century Square, CPF Tampines Building, Income At Tampines Junction, OCBC Tampines Centre 2, Our Tampines Hub, Tampines Mall and Tampines 1.

Because this system is being implemented on an existing site, chilled water pipes will be retrofitted and installed on the buildings’ own chiller plants. Some members of the network will share the cooling load to provide air-conditioning to other buildings in the network.

As the first town to pioneer such infrastructure, Tampines is expected to become a blueprint for other existing buildings, as the nation aims to lower carbon emissions to net zero by or around 2050, the statement said.

Separately, Ascendas Reit affirmed its interest to subscribe to the cooling system for commercial building Telepark.

The brownfield project marks one of the efforts to transform Tampines into an ecotown in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

The township was selected for its ageing infrastructure and diverse portfolio of buildings, which allows it to benefit from economies of scale, said Mr S. Harsha, managing director of sustainable solutions at SP Group.

Building the novel network, which was announced to be feasible in August last year, is expected to cost between $40 million and $60 million, he added.

Residents in Tampines will get to enjoy more greenery, with a new park slated to be built by 2022. Image: Tampines Town Council

Out of 14 buildings considered for the pre-feasibility study, only eight have expressed intent to join it so far because some buildings with newer chillers did not find it commercially viable to integrate their systems, he said.

In the network, Century Square, Our Tampines Hub and Tampines 1 were selected as chilled water supply nodes based on their excess cooling capacity and superior energy efficiency.

These developments will supply chilled water through an underground pipe about 1.5km long to the remaining buildings in the network, doing away the need for their own chiller plants.

“Most of the work will take place outside of office hours,” said Mr Harsha, noting that construction will take place with minimal disruption to operations.

While Tampines’ distributed district cooling network has not been tested in a smaller setting, chief engineer of Singapore District Cooling Foo Yang Kwang is cautiously confident that the firm’s experience building the world’s largest underground district cooling system in Marina Bay will be able to pull the feat off.

“We have done it before, this modification work is no different from normal chiller plants doing their own retrofitting,” said chief engineer of the SP Group subsidiary.

Despite being pioneers to trial such a network, building owners participating in the project are confident that it will help promote sustainability.

Said Mr Lim Khiang Tong, group chief operating officer of OCBC Bank: “Climate change and its effects have made sustainability a fundamental business driver and an agenda for collective action.

“We are pleased to be partnering like-minded organisations such as SP Group and our neighbouring building owners on this initiative that seeks to reduce energy consumption and our carbon footprint.”

Given that a significant proportion of buildings today will continue to exist in 2050, the project is crucial in illustrating how sustainable solutions can be integrated to transform existing townships, said Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, who witnessed the signing of the agreements.

The Tampines GRC MP added: “The energy and cost savings, as well as reduction in carbon emissions enjoyed by building owners prove that with the right solutions, doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive and will address our challenge posed by climate change.”

What’s the difference between district cooling and conventional cooling?

District cooling

• Instead of having individual chiller plants in each building, chilled water is produced on a large scale in a central cooling plant and supplied to buildings.

• The district cooling system operates at maximum energy efficiency by selecting the most suitable mix of chillers and using thermal storage tanks to manage electricity demand during peak periods.

• Buildings that tap into this centralised system benefit from reduced equipment cost and energy savings, and free up leasable space while reducing their emissions.

Conventional cooling

• Most buildings have dedicated space for their on-site chiller plants and rooftop cooling towers.

• Building owners need to buy cooling equipment and incur operational and maintenance costs. They may also need to invest in more chillers than necessary as a buffer for potential increases in cooling needs.

• Since the cooling demand of a building fluctuates throughout the day, the chiller in one building is unlikely to operate at its optimal efficiency. On-site cooling equipment, chillers and cooling towers need to operate round the clock regardless of energy demand.

Author: Ang Qing

Inaugural $1 billion in green bonds to fund new sustainable HDB projects

An artist’s impression of Heart of Yew Tee, which will include sustainable features that lower its energy consumption, thermal load and carbon footprint. Image: MKPL ARCHITECTS

From The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Some $1 billion in green bonds issued by the Housing Board on Tuesday (March 15) will be used to fund public sector residential and non-residential projects, as the nation moves to tap opportunities in green finance and achieve its sustainability targets.

The first tranche includes the Parc Residences @ Tengah Build-To-Order (BTO) project and Singapore’s second “vertical kampung”, Heart of Yew Tee, which is also an integrated development, said HDB in a release on Wednesday.

They are among 30 new residential projects that could be financed by proceeds from this and upcoming green bonds. The list will be reviewed annually, said the board.

Green bonds are financial instruments used to fund projects with environmental benefits, and provide investors with regular or fixed income payments.

Funds raised through green bonds will be used exclusively to finance or refinance new residential and non-residential projects that are able to achieve the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark certification of GoldPlus or higher, said HDB.

The certification is awarded to projects that can achieve the highest level of energy and water efficiency, greenery provision and active mobility considerations, among other criteria, and are among the top green building performers in Singapore.

These projects must also have their construction tenders awarded after the bond is issued or within 24 months before the bond is issued, said HDB.

HDB said there are plans to issue at least one green bond per year, subject to market conditions, to sustain its portfolio of green and sustainable developments.

The green bonds issued will be guided by HDB’s new Green Finance Framework, which sets out how to assess the projects that can be funded and the structure for transparent reporting on the allocation of proceeds.

Funds will be allocated to eligible green projects no later than two years from the issuance date of the bond and an independently audited green finance report will be published annually.

The framework was announced by National Development Minister Desmond Lee at a joint segment during the Budget debate last week.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah said that HDB, as Singapore’s largest housing developer, has taken another “bold step” in sustainability with the issuance of the inaugural green bonds.

“The new framework will also boost our efforts to develop the green bond market in Singapore,” she said.

She noted that the Parc Residences @ Tengah BTO project was eligible because it meets high green standards, with a host of sustainable features such as regenerative lifts, centralised chutes for recyclables, dual bicycle racks and a pneumatic waste conveyance system for more efficient waste collection and estate maintenance.

Regenerative lifts are able to recover up to 20 per cent of energy from kinetic movement and braking.

An artist’s impression of Parc Residences @ Tengah. Image: HDB

The upcoming Heart of Yew Tee integrated development is set to have bioswales to treat surface water run-off, multiple layers of landscaped desks and skyrise greenery to help cool the environment and bring nature closer to residents.

Since the first eco-precinct, Treelodge @ Punggol, was completed in 2010, sustainable features have been extended to all new housing projects in Punggol from 2011 and subsequently to all new housing projects across Singapore from 2014.

These features include solar-ready roofs, smart lighting and an urban water-harvesting system that collects rainwater for irrigation and cleaning of common areas, among other things.

HDB chief executive Tan Meng Dui said the board actively researches and develops green solutions, ranging from state-of-the-art environmental modelling techniques to more sustainable methods of construction.

“The issuance of green bonds to finance current and future green projects in HDB’s building programme is thus timely and a natural progression of our sustainability journey,” he said.

“More than just a means of funding building projects, HDB’s entry into green financing underscores our commitment to make every town not only liveable, but also green and sustainable.”

Author: Michelle Ng