Green economy

Solar PV employed around 3.4 million people in 2021

Image: Swinerton Renewable Energy

Almost half of the workers were employed in China, around 280,000 in North America, over 260,000 in Europe, and some 50,000 in Africa, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The vast majority of workers were employed in manufacturing and installation of new capacity, with solar jobs paying lower wage premiums than the nuclear, oil, and gas industries.

From pv magazine

The energy sector employed over 65 million people in 2019, or 2% of global employment, according to the newly published World Energy Employment Report by the IEA. Half of this workforce is employed in the clean energy sector, with solar PV employing more workers than any other power generation technology.

According to the report, power generation employment totaled 11.2 million in 2019, comprised of 3 million in solar PV, 2 million in coal power, and 1.9 million in hydro. Onshore and offshore wind power employed 1.2 million and nuclear power 1 million. Employment in other renewables totaled around 710,000 employees.

The agency estimates that employment in the entire energy sector in 2021 was up by around 1.3 million and could increase by another 6 percentage points by 2022, with clean energy accounting for all of the growth. Energy investment could rise by 8% in 2022, reaching $2.4 trillion, but with almost half of the increase in capital spending linked to higher costs.

Around 3.4 million workers were employed in solar PV in 2021, almost half of which in China, enabled by lower-cost labor, according to the report. North America employed around 280,000 workers and Europe over 260,000. There were around 50,000 people working in the solar industry in Africa, with this number set to grow due to the proliferation of on- and off-grid solutions in the continent, the agency said.

Most employees in the industry work in manufacturing and installation of new capacity, with manufacturing jobs being strongly concentrated in a few countries: China alone accounted for 260,000 workers in the production of polysilicon, wafers, cells, and modules.

“Residential solar panels are often installed by construction workers and electricians who also work on other projects, such that many solar PV jobs are not full-time, and it can be difficult to count employees accurately,” the agency noted.

Shortage of skilled labor poses a major challenge for the industry, which is expected to see continuous growth in annual capacity installation in every IEA scenario. Around $215 billion were invested in the industry in 2021, an annual average growth of 5% over the previous decade, according to the report. Total installed capacity worldwide stood at 740 GW in 2019, comprising 425 GW of utility-scale installations and 315 GW of residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) installations.

Construction of new projects, including manufacturing of components, is reportedly the main driver of employment across the energy sector, employing over 60% of the workforce. Industries with a higher share of workers in construction, like solar, have lower wage premiums than industries like nuclear, oil, and gas, according to the report. The solar industry also has less trade union representation than fossil fuel industries, where labor representation has led to higher wages.

According to the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, 14 million new clean energy jobs will be created by 2030, with another 16 million workers shifting to new roles related to clean energy. In this scenario, around 60% of new employees will require at least two years of post-secondary education, making worker training essential to the sustainable development of the industry.

The report also shows that currently women are strongly under-represented in the energy sector, accounting for 16% of the sector’s workforce, compared to 39% of global employment.

“Women make up a very small share of senior management in energy, just under 14% on average. However, there is substantial variation among energy sectors, with the percentage shares in nuclear and coal the lowest at 8% and 9%, respectively, whereas electric utilities are among the highest with nearly 20%. This compares with 16% of women in senior management economy-wide,” the report says. There are no major differences in the share of women’s employment between fossil fuels and clean energy globally.

Author: Beatriz Santos

The real value of energy storage

A rechargeable battery bank. Image: Jelson25, Wikimedia Commons

An international research team has developed a new way to evaluate the economic value of energy storage technologies. They went beyond pure cost assumptions to consider the benefits that such technologies could bring to energy systems.

From pv magazine

An international research team has developed a new approach to energy storage technologies that does not exclusively consider costs, as it also considers their interaction with energy systems.

The scientists said their “market potential method” can be used to simultaneously analyze multiple energy storage systems. “We show that current cost metrics can be misleading for technology design decisions,” they said. “A narrow cost focus on designing energy storage is not enough.”

The researchers stressed the importance of discovering the “hidden values” of storage technologies. They said network or peak plant deferral, or reduced solar and wind power plant curtailments, are hidden variables that are often neglected in storage cost analysis.

They apply their method in two phases. It initially focuses on a market potential indicator (MPI) and then defines market potential criteria to support design decisions.

“The MPI is not a new metric,” the scientists said. “It is a result of energy system models that analyze scenarios in future energy systems and describes the total quantity of a particular storage technology in a cost minimized electricity system.”

The scientists used the new approach to look at how different hydrogen storage technologies could be adopted across several European markets. They found that technologies with high or low levelized costs of storage (LCOS) could have good market potential.

“Not always a technology with the lowest investment or LCOS is most valuable,” they said. “It can also be the more expensive technology that can lead to a cheaper future electricity system.”

They described their findings in “Beyond cost reduction: improving the value of energy storage in electricity systems,” which was recently published in Carbon Neutrality. The research group includes scientists from the University of Edinburgh, Technische Universität Berlin, and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).

The team said the “market potential method” could help to identify potential growth markets, assess future cost reductions, and reduce the structural uncertainty of linear programming energy system models.

“The results suggest looking beyond the pure cost reduction paradigm and focus on developing technologies with suitable value approaches that can lead to cheaper electricity systems in future,” they said.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

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

Acra, SGX RegCo set up committee on sustainability reporting for S’pore firms

Acra and SGX RegCo are developing a road map for wider implementation of sustainability reporting for Singapore companies. ST Photo: Lim Yaohui

From The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Companies in Singapore may soon have a clearer picture of how to carry out sustainability reporting, with a committee set up to discuss the suitability of implementing international standards here.

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) and Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) have formed a sustainability reporting advisory committee to provide guidance on a road map for companies incorporated here.

“As part of its work, the committee will provide inputs on the suitability of international sustainability reporting standards for implementation in Singapore,” said Acra and SGX on Tuesday (June 21).

Acra and SGX RegCo are developing a road map for wider implementation of sustainability reporting for Singapore companies beyond those listed on the local bourse.

SGX RegCo has mandated sustainability reporting for listed companies since 2016 and climate reporting from financial year 2022 on a comply-or-explain basis.

Climate reporting will be mandatory for issuers in the financial, energy, and agriculture, food and forest products industries from FY2023. Listed companies from the materials and buildings, and transportation industries will also be subject to mandatory reporting from their FY2024.

“The growing interest in environment, social and governance (ESG) issues globally has led to a call to provide greater transparency and assurance on companies’ ESG-related information which investors and other stakeholders can incorporate into their decision-making,” said Acra and SGX on Tuesday.

The new committee is chaired by Ms Esther An, chief sustainability officer of property developer City Developments.

Its 13 members include other chief sustainability officers, representatives from financial institutions, institutional and retail investors, sustainability reporting professionals and academics.

Ms An said effective ESG integration and disclosure are critical to accelerating global efforts to build a greener and more resilient future.

She added that the committee’s efforts will complement Acra and SGX RegCo’s initiatives to rally corporates and stakeholders to contribute to the Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the global agenda on sustainable development.

Author: Prisca Ang

A fast-changing renewables PPA landscape

Structured PPAs are becoming more common in mature PV markets, where risks are shared. Image: Axpo Solutions

Power purchase agreements are ideal risk-management tools, given that electricity price volatility is the new normal and renewables uptake is a matter of urgency due to untenable Russian gas dependency. pv magazine sat down with Andy Sommer, team leader of fundamental analysis and modeling at Swiss trader Axpo Solutions, to discuss the situation of prices and PPAs in Europe.

From pv magazine 05/2022

Wholesale electricity prices in Europe have been rising – a trend which started before the war in Ukraine, but is no doubt exacerbated by it. How long will it continue?

It’s impossible to tell of course, nobody has a crystal ball and under current conditions predicting in the near term, let alone the more distant future, is risky. It’s a basic liability issue. But we can understand the many different factors, including how long Russia’s war against Ukraine lasts, and whether imports of Russian gas by Europe (and potentially other relevant countries, especially in Asia) will eventually be banned. The weather in Asia and the Americas, and the availability of replacements for Russian coal in Europe/Japan are other factors which could contribute to continued price increases.

The medium-term development is important for those planning and building PV power plants. What do you expect for wholesale electricity prices in the medium term (five to 10 years)? Can PV investors rely on higher revenues?

As mentioned, the short-term outlook for Europe’s electricity prices is almost impossible to judge right now. Neither can we predict with any certainty whether politicians are going to intervene further in the markets, affecting how fast renewable power generation capacities can expand, for example.

Assuming that PV and wind will continue to be built quickly (supported either by subsidies or favorable market conditions), that the phasing down of coal and nuclear continues as scheduled, and the general energy transition progresses, we believe wholesale market prices will decline substantially in the mid-term versus current levels. This would be due to the presence of more renewable energy sources (RES) in the system, reducing the need for low-efficiency thermal plants, and a significantly less tight gas market (with increasing volumes of LNG coming online around 2025) more than compensating for higher carbon costs.

In the long term, factors such as the cost of investment in carbon capture, utilisation and storage and green hydrogen technologies could become a stabilising influence. Nevertheless, as long as Europe is dependent on LNG imports to cover its gas needs, the market will remain dependent on weather, as well as economic and political conditions in Asia and other regions of the world.

Axpo is a major PPA offtaker in Europe. What does electricity price volatility mean for new solar PPA prices and contracts?

The risks associated with PV development through PPAs have not changed; they always existed. However, we are now seeing most of them under an unprecedented spotlight, including factors such as electricity price volatility, regulatory uncertainty, CPI shocks, transportation difficulties, and permitting delays, among others.

PPAs as risk mitigation tools are adapting to this new reality with more flexible approaches to cope with potential delays, more short-term contracts to capture temporary price spikes, floor structures to leave potential price upsides within the project developer, and more structured approaches to capture higher prices, such as baseload hedges instead of traditional pay-as-produced contracts, and more.

PV plants with a PPA business model don’t need subsidies. Considering that electricity prices are high, what limits the growth of this sector?

Current limits include the not-in-my-backyard or the NIMBY social phenomenon, the limitations of electricity grid infrastructure, and sometimes complex, lengthy and bureaucratic approval/permitting processes, although these hurdles are now beginning to be addressed politically.

The PV-PPA market in Spain is probably the most mature in Europe. What can other countries learn from there?

We have seen the Iberian PV-PPA market evolve over a very short period of time. We started with traditional pay-as-produced structures, in which the producer is paid a fixed price for the full production of a power plant. It was an environment where there was little demand for buying power long-term, and PPAs were seen as an alternative to pay-as-produced feed-in-tariffs.

In a more mature market with many different players, we now see more structured PPAs, where risks are not only borne by the off-taker, but also shared between the two parties. It makes a lot of sense, since pay-as-produced contracts provide very limited returns on the investment and are only suitable for very risk-averse investors. Higher ROIs are still achievable in more sophisticated PPA structures with shared risks, which should be suitable for investors with greater market knowledge and experience.

Does the uncertainty of electricity price instability make PPAs more attractive?

It most certainly does. PPAs are risk management tools that enable developers to secure their investments. These contracts are adapting to different investor needs and market views.

Singapore, China ink MOUs to deepen cooperation in green and digital economies

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong (left) and China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao at the signing ceremony on June 13, 2022. Image: Ministry of Trade and Industry

From The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – China and Singapore have strengthened bilateral relations after the two countries announced collaborations to promote the green economy and enhance cooperation and exchanges in the digital economy.

On Monday (June 13), Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong and China Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao signed two memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on the sidelines of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

An MOU on green development will promote bilateral cooperation in the green economy through policy sharing and business cooperation.

It will focus on areas such as renewable energy, green building, green finance, as well as water and waste management.

Both countries will also encourage businesses to carry out joint research and development activities and jointly promote low carbon technological innovations, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a release.

Meanwhile, an MOU on the digital economy will strengthen bilateral cooperation and exchanges in the digital economy.

This will be done through the exploration of joint opportunities for growth in areas such as investment cooperation, digital trade and digitally enabled services, among others.

Singapore’s MTI and China’s Ministry of Commerce will establish working groups to oversee the implementation of both MOUs.

In a post on LinkedIn, Mr Gan spoke of his meeting with Mr Wang, saying that they discussed the deepening of the countries bilateral relations as well as collaboration in international fora such as the WTO.

The digital economy is an important driver of global economic growth, while the green economy is increasingly critical to help countries address challenges arising from global climate change, said Mr Gan, in a separate statement issued by MTI.

He added: “The signing of the two MOUs not only signify Singapore and China’s commitment to broaden and deepen our bilateral cooperation, but also provide new impetus for our countries to explore new areas of cooperation in digital economy and green economy that can address shared policy priorities and business interests.”

Author: Anjali Raguraman, Consumer Correspondent

WTO goes green as climate change impacts trade

The WTO is staging its first meeting of trade ministers in nearly five years and environmental issues are rocketing up the agenda. Image: EPA-EFE

From AFP

GENEVA (AFP) – The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) boss insisted on Monday (June 13) that turning trade green was now urgent business, with the WTO putting climate change at the heart of its negotiations.

The WTO is staging its first meeting of trade ministers in nearly five years and environmental issues are rocketing up the agenda at the global trade body.

The European Union on Monday teamed up with Ecuador, Kenya and New Zealand to launch a new Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate, in the expectation that other countries will join the forum.

And diverse nations are already banding together in other groups to try and find mutual ways forward on topics such environmentally sustainable trade and tackling plastic pollution.

“Greening trade is urgent: climate change isn’t waiting,” WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said after attending the new coalition’s launch on day two of the WTO ministerial conference in Geneva.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the new group would try to tackle the climate crisis in a fair manner through trade policy.

“Trade has to be part of the solution. It is an engine of growth that can create new green jobs, reduce poverty and support the transition to climate-neutral economies,” he told the group’s launch.

Children’s future

Its ministers want to boost trade, and trade policies, in support of sustainable development and the 2015 Paris Agreement climate goals.

A first meeting is planned for July to work out the coalition’s next steps.

Climate change is not strictly within the WTO’s purview but the organisation – which is looking to revive its importance on the world stage – wants to make sustainable development and environmental protection among its core objectives.

“We need to profoundly change how we produce and consume things if we want our children to have a sustainable, peaceful and comfortable life in 50 years’ time,” said WTO deputy director-general Zhang Xiangchen.

The WTO traditionally reaches agreements by consensus, and some of its 164 members form groups on various issues to try and find ways forward, with climate change being no exception.

Several dozen WTO member countries pledged in late December to intensify discussions on plastic pollution, fossil fuel subsidies and environmentally sustainable trade, in a move hailed as historic by Mr Okonjo-Iweala.

Fossil fuel subsidies ‘insane’

Australia’s WTO ambassador George Mina, who co-chairs the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution, said 72 countries were now on board.

Mr Mina said countries had failed to tackle major environmental problems through the WTO, but in recent months, “we’ve seen a significant elevation in the profile, energy and focus” on such issues.

“Trade policy has to be a part of the solution on the environment and climate change response,” he said.

Co-chair Li Chenggang, China’s WTO ambassador, added: “Plastic is an important basic raw material but the leakage of plastic waste in the natural environment has brought environmental pollution and harm.”

At a press conference on fossil fuel subsidies, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun R. Gylfadottir said renewable energy was “good business”, making economic and environmental sense.

“The fact that global subsidies for fossils fuels exceed those for renewable energy should come as a wake-up call for all of us,” she said.

Meanwhile New Zealand’s trade minister Damien O’Connor said subsidies at a time when countries needed to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels “seems somewhat contradictory, if not insane”.

Indonesia eyes subsidies, nuclear power in renewable energy Bill

The Bill seeks to ensure all Indonesians have access to power and to entirely transition to renewable energy by 2060. Image: AFP

From Bloomberg

JAKARTA – Indonesia, the biggest thermal coal exporter, vowed to subsidise renewable energy projects and open its first nuclear power plant by 2045 in a draft legislation to help it reach its net-zero emissions goal.

The Bill, which still needs approval from President Joko Widodo and Parliament before becoming law, seeks to lead the country on a path that would both ensure all 270 million residents have access to power while also making the country entirely reliant on renewable energy by 2060.

The draft sets out a strategic outline, with more detailed rules to be issued later.

Officials have their work cut out for them, as the nation with the world’s fourth-largest population also has one of the world’s smallest wind and solar power fleets. Indonesia relied on fossil fuels for 86 per cent of its electricity in 2020, according to BloombergNEF.

Here are a few key issues in the latest draft of the Bill, which will soon be discussed by the government:

Export tax

Indonesia will prioritise local demand before allowing renewable energy to be transmitted overseas, with exporters required to pay a tax. The stipulation would follow a ban by nearby Malaysia, and could hamper neighbouring Singapore’s plan to import clean electricity. The focus on domestic use also applies to the coal sector, where miners will have to set aside at least 30 per cent of their output for local consumption at a ceiling price of US$70 (S$96) a tonne for high-quality coal, compared with current global prices around S$400 a tonne.

Funding incentives

The government will give incentives, including tax and administrative ones, to support new projects. It will also subsidise renewable energy when the cost of producing it is unable to compete with fossil fuels. A renewable energy fund will collect money from the state budget, export taxes, carbon trading funds and other sources, then use the cash to build infrastructure, give incentives for developers or to support research.

Nuclear power

Indonesia will set up a nuclear power assembly that will monitor the development and operation of atomic plants. Only state-owned companies would be allowed to build, operate and shut such plants. The country plans to operate its first one in 2045.

Coal reliance

The Bill differentiates between “renewables” – wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass and a few other small technologies – and “new energy”, which includes nuclear, hydrogen and several coal-based technologies, while carving out room for both to aid in the transition. Indonesia is building its first coal gasification plant that will start operating in 2024.

Local impact

The government seeks to ensure renewable energy investments would benefit surrounding communities. Companies must prioritise the use of local workers as well as domestically sourced materials, while investors are expected to transfer their technology to local workers. Companies must also prevent pollution and have recovery plans in place if their operations lead to environmental damage.

China pilots low carbon bonds to help companies become greener

A worker wearing a face mask works on a production line manufacturing bicycle steel rim at a factory, as the country is hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China March 2, 2020. Image: China Daily via REUTERS

From Reuters

SHANGHAI : China is rolling out so-called low carbon transition bonds to help companies become greener, the country’s interbank bond market regulator said on Monday, as Beijing strives toward carbon neutrality.

Under the pilot scheme, companies in eight sectors including electric power, steelmaking, petrochemicals and civil aviation will issue bonds to fund decarbonisation efforts, the National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors (NAFMII) said in a statement.

Such debt instruments supplement green bonds, and are part of China’s sustainable financing, said NAFMII, which is supervised by China’s central bank.

China, the world’s biggest producer of climate warming greenhouse gas, has pledged to bring its emissions to a peak before 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2060.

Proceeds from the transition bonds will be used to fund green efforts including cleaner coal production, the application of green technologies and the use of natural gas and clean energy, NAFMII said.

Companies including China Huaneng Group Co, Hualu Holdings and Baosteel have already issued China’s first low carbon transition bonds, the Shanghai Securities News reported on Monday.

Singapore and Indonesia enjoy strong ties, can do more together in green and digital economy: Lawrence Wong

Mr Lawrence Wong was speaking in an interview with Singapore media at the end of his four-day visit to Indonesia. Image: MCI

From The Straits Times

JAKARTA – Singapore and Indonesia enjoy strong relations underpinned by mutual confidence and trust, and as both countries recover from the pandemic, there is much more they and their people can do together, Singapore’s Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday (May 20).

On the economic front, businesses can look beyond Batam, Bintan and Karimun, the main islands closest to Singapore collectively known as BBK, and venture to other regions, including Central Java, as well as beyond traditional sectors such as manufacturing and infrastructure to the digital economy and the green economy, he said.

Both sides can also do more to encourage exchanges between their people, especially among students and youth, now that borders are open and flights have resumed, he said, adding that both sides would like to resume greater air connectivity.

Mr Wong was speaking in an interview with Singapore media at the end of his four-day visit to Indonesia, his first since helming the finance portfolio in May 2021.

Mr Wong was also announced as leader of the People’s Action Party’s fourth-generation, or 4G, team last month, putting him in line to be Singapore’s next prime minister – a point noted in Indonesian media reports on his visit this week.

He said his interactions with his counterpart, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, have been very good, and that the visit was a good opportunity for him to meet a broader range of Indonesian leaders, interact with them and get to know them better.

“Overall, on the bilateral front, our relations are certainly in good order. We have had very close cooperation with Indonesia across many fields for many years. In the last two years, we have continued to strengthen our cooperation, especially working together to tackle the pandemic,” he said.

“We have also in recent years resolved certain longstanding bilateral issues, namely the agreements we have on extradition, defence and the Flight Information Region. We are now waiting for these agreements to be ratified,” he added.

“On the whole, it is a relationship that is underpinned by mutual confidence and trust. On that basis, we can certainly do much more together.”

Mr Wong met Dr Sri Mulyani as well as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan on Friday (May 20).

Earlier in the week, he met several key ministers, including Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan, Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno.

He also met Bank Indonesia governor Perry Warjiyo, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, Kendal Regent Dico Ganinduto and Semarang Mayor Hendrar Prihadi.

Their discussions touched on potential cooperation in new areas, among others.

“On the whole, it has been a very fruitful visit. And I look forward to doing my part to build on the strong foundations we have and take our bilateral relations to even greater heights,” he said.

In green finance and the green economy, he noted that both Singapore and Indonesia are determined to achieve net-zero emissions and accelerate the green transition.

“Indonesia has many more opportunities to do so, because it has got the ability to embark on more renewable energy projects, and more scale to do so than Singapore,” he said.

It also has the opportunity to do nature-based carbon mitigation projects, which Singapore will not be able to do on a similar scale, he added.

Thus, there are opportunities for both sides to work together to finance these projects or collaborate on them. “There are companies, businesses and investors who are interested in this space, and who will be keen to collaborate with Indonesian partners on such projects.”

There are similar opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges in the digital economy, he said, noting that the Indonesian start-up space has become a lot more vibrant in recent years because of the size of the economy and the strong entrepreneurial culture.

He cited Indonesian start-up eFishery, which is part of a growing aquaculture sector.

He noted that Singapore does have research and development on how barramundi and other fish can become more resilient, and on achieving higher productivity on fish farms. “We have limited space, but we can certainly tie up with Indonesian companies to use the technology and expand and do more in Indonesia,” he added.

“Indeed, such partnerships are happening in the digital space, in foodtech, in fintech, in a whole range of the digital economy,” he said. “The opportunities for collaboration are truly immense.”

He also noted similarities in the food culture on both sides, and one businessman hoped there could be more restaurants selling Singapore food in Indonesia.

“That is certainly one area that can help to strengthen cultural and social ties, and perhaps there might even be economic possibilities,” Mr Wong said.

And with borders reopening, he hopes direct flights can resume from Singapore to Indonesian destinations such as Semarang.

He said: “The airlines would need some time to catch up with demand. There are constraints with supply and crew, manpower… but they are ramping up, and I hope before too long, we will be able to get the capacity increased and we will be able to resume more direct flights. And hopefully, that will also help to bring down air fares.”

Author: Arlina Arshad