The cost of green energy like wind and solar has been falling for decades. Image: Philip Silverman
LONDON, Sep 13 (BBC) – Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could save the world as much as $12tn (£10.2tn) by 2050, an Oxford University study says.
The report said it was wrong and pessimistic to claim that moving quickly towards cleaner energy sources was expensive.
Gas prices have soared on mounting concerns over energy supplies.
But the researchers say that going green now makes economic sense because of the falling cost of renewables.
“Even if you’re a climate denier, you should be on board with what we’re advocating,” Prof Doyne Farmer from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School told BBC News.
“Our central conclusion is that we should go full speed ahead with the green energy transition because it’s going to save us money,” he said.
The report’s findings are based on looking at historic price data for renewables and fossil fuels and then modelling how they’re likely to change in the future.
The data for fossil fuels goes from 2020 back more than 100 years and shows that after accounting for inflation, and market volatility, the price hasn’t changed much.
Renewables have only been around for a few decades, so there’s less data. But in that time continual improvements in technology have meant the cost of solar and wind power have fallen rapidly, at a rate approaching 10% a year.
The report’s expectation that the price of renewables will continue to fall is based on “probabilistic” modelling, using data on how massive investment and economies of scale have made other similar technologies cheaper.
“Our latest research shows scaling-up key green technologies will continue to drive their costs down, and the faster we go, the more we will save,” says Dr Rupert Way, the report’s lead author from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.
Wind and solar are already the cheapest option for new power projects, but questions remain over how to best store power and balance the grid when the changes in the weather leads to fall in renewable output.
Cost of net zero
Back in 2019 Philip Hammond, then Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote to the prime minister to say that the cost of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in the UK would be more than £1tn. This report says the likely costs have been over-estimated and have deterred investment.
It also says predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the cost of keeping global temperatures rises under 2 degrees would correspond to a loss of GDP by 2050 were too pessimistic. The transition to renewables was, it says, likely to turn out to be a “net economic benefit”.
The research has been published in the journal Joule and is a collaboration between the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, the Oxford Martin Programme on the Post-Carbon Transition, the Smith School of Enterprise & Environment at the University of Oxford, and SoDa Labs at Monash University.
Birds fly over a closed steel factory where chimneys of another working factory are seen in the background, in Tangshan, Hebei province, China, February 27, 2016. Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Global efforts to reduce emissions and curb rising temperatures are threatened by a lack of collaboration between countries in sharing and developing new technology, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on Tuesday.
Major economies around the world such as the United States, and European countries are seeking to reach net zero emissions by 2050 to try to limit a rise in global temperatures well below 2 deg C, requiring huge changes in energy production, transportation and food production.
“Through international collaboration, we can make the transition quicker, cheaper and easier for everyone,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement with the first Breakthrough Agenda report, released on Tuesday with the International Renewable Energy Agency and the United Nations (UN) Climate Change High Level Champions.
“Without this collaboration, the transition to net zero emissions will be much more challenging and could be delayed by decades,” he said.
The report said collaboration needed to ramp up and made 25 recommendations including increasing cross-border power super grids to support cross country trading in low-carbon power such as wind and solar.
It also said countries should agree a common date by which all new vehicles should be zero emission, such as electric vehicles, suggesting 2035 for cars and vans and 2040 for heavy duty vehicles.
“This will send a clear signal to industry and unlock larger economies of scale and faster cost reductions, making the transition more affordable for all countries,” the report said.
Countries should also work to increase the production of low-carbon steel to over 100 million tonnes by 2030 from less than 1 million tonnes today, it said.
The report was requested by world leaders at last year’s COP climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to help align actions and scale up investment in technology in five major sectors – power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture – that account for around 60 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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.
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.
LONDON, Sept 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The energy crisis fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put renewed focus on how countries generate and use their power, with several European nations rushing to wean themselves off Russian gas amid a global shift to cleaner energy sources.
As the world seeks to decarbonise by switching from fossil fuels such as coal and oil to renewables like solar and wind, many energy workers now find themselves in the same position.
The rise of clean energy is raising questions about who has access to these new jobs, what skills they require, how much they pay, and what can be done to help communities that rely on traditional extractive industries make the green transition.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke to climate experts to find out more about what the changing energy mix means for jobs.
How many green energy jobs are there?
About 65 million people work in the energy industry worldwide, and clean energy workers now account for more than half of them, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
These clean energy jobs include workers in bioenergy supply, low-carbon power generation including nuclear and renewables, power grids and storage, manufacturing of electric vehicles, and energy efficiency, according to the IEA’s definition.
“It’s clear that the clean energy economy isn’t around the corner, it’s here today,” said Joel Jaeger, a research associate at the World Resources Institute, a think tank.
He said these jobs have been more resilient to the economic impacts of the pandemic compared to fossil fuel sectors, with oil and gas having not recovered their employment levels since 2020 despite the subsequent high prices of the two commodities.
If current international climate pledges are met, the IEA predicts that an additional 13 million workers will be employed in clean energy and related sectors by 2030, outnumbering the expected decline in traditional fossil fuel industries.
But if countries accelerate decarbonisation to get on a path to net zero by 2050, that number of expected jobs would double, the IEA says.
This transition could also change the gender imbalance of the energy industry: according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), women hold 32 per cent of jobs in renewable energy, on average, compared to 22 per cent of those in oil and gas.
Where are the green jobs located?
Jobs in clean and renewable energy are located around the world, but the biggest and fastest growing workforce is in Asia.
China, home to almost 30 per cent of the global energy workforce, dominates the manufacturing of solar panels – also known as photovoltaics (PV) – and employs nearly half of those working in the field, according to the IEA.
“Different regions are further along than others,” said Jaeger, pointing out that the Middle East and Russia are still dominated by traditional fossil fuel jobs.
“Emerging market and developing economies are going to have more jobs no matter what, because those economies are generally a lot more labour intensive,” he said, citing the example of India where clean energy jobs now outnumber fossil fuel roles.
China’s domination of solar PV manufacturing was partly made possible because the equipment is easier to export than other technologies, said Aurélien Saussay, an economist at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.
Wind turbines, by comparison, have strong regional hubs in northern Europe and the United States which are less threatened by competition from Asia, he said.
Are they high-quality jobs?
Energy jobs in both new and traditional sectors tend to be higher-skilled and better-paid compared to the rest of the economy.
About 45 per cent of energy roles are high-skilled compared to a quarter of general jobs, according to the IEA.
However, workers in coal, oil and gas tend to enjoy higher wages than those in renewable industries like wind and solar.
In the United States, for example, workers in natural gas and coal have a wage premium of 59 per cent and 50 per cent respectively compared to national median hourly pay, far higher than the 36 per cent for wind and 28 per cent for solar, according to the US Energy and Employment Report.
This may be because traditional energy jobs tend to be more unionised and have benefitted from decades of labour representation, while clean energy sectors have a larger share of part-time or contract work, according to the IEA’s report.
This is especially true in emerging markets and developing economies, the IEA said, including in India where coal workers are paid around three to four times the national average.
Analysts also say that more lower-skilled jobs are becoming available as new clean energy sectors move from the research and development phase towards installation and construction of the new infrastructure.
This shift could mean new clean jobs offer less in terms of wages and security, yet are more accessible to those with lower levels of education.
Can fossil fuel workers transition to green jobs?
The good news for fossil fuel energy workers is that many of their skills are transferable in a greener economy.
Those working on offshore oil rigs, for example, have many skills that would be useful to offshore wind farms, while project managers for traditional energy infrastructure will likely be well-equipped for similar positions in new industries.
The biggest issue, however, according to the economist Saussay, is that clean energy roles will not necessarily be created in the same places as traditional jobs which were tied to fossil fuel resources in relatively remote areas.
“They tended to be creating highly-paid jobs in areas that had high unemployment and low wages,” Saussay added, highlighting traditional industrial regions around the world.
By comparison, clean energy jobs are more spread out and not concentrated in economically deprived areas.
He said this underlines the need to retrain and reskill traditional energy workers, while creating new employment prospects where they live to avoid social dislocation.
“If you don’t put in place accompanying policies, what you end up with is a community that is bereft of economic opportunity,” Saussay said.
Demand is pushing solar growth across the world to new heights, as Bloomberg senior analyst Rob Barnett forecasts deployment to increase by 30% this year. Total global solar deployment is closing in on 1 TW installed – an impressive milestone for the energy transition.
“The global solar picture is just staggering at this point,” Barnett told Yahoo Finance. “We are on track to install something like 250 GW of solar capacity this year.”
China is contributing the largest share to capacity growth this year, with about 108 GW of new operational PV. This is a near-doubling of the roughly 55 GW installed by China last year. The country has the world’s largest exposure to renewable energy, with 323 GW of solar and 338 GW of wind energy. President Xi Jinping aims for 1,200 GW combined by 2030, and the nation is currently ahead of schedule on that goal, said Bloomberg.
Renewable energy is hitting all-time highs in the United States, too. Renewable generation from solar and wind installations reached 28% in April – a new record for the category. And Barnett said the solar boom has just begun.
“There really is this big, top-line growth scenario that we see unfolding for all of the companies that are participating in the solar supply chain,” said Barnett.
Climate goals are one driver of the red-hot demand for solar, but Barnett said there is another force that is accelerating demand in the near-term.
“I would actually argue that the bigger driver for clean energy demand, particularly here in Europe, is elevated energy costs,” he said.
Costs continue to fall for PV, making it increasingly cost-competitive with oil, which has spiked in price since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Shipments of solar modules have fallen precipitously over 20 years, from $4.88/W in 2000 to $0.34/W in 2021, based on a recent report by the Energy Information Administration.
Barnett said he expects solar demand to retain its momentum, even if oil and natural gas prices cool off.
“It’s certainly possible that if you had some easing in the traditional fuel markets, that it might take the accelerator off, but I don’t really see that as being a material risk on the demand side of the equation for clean energy,” he said.
This demand-side momentum is likely to continue as prices improve and the global economy targets decarbonization.
“I do think that the economics are already quite good. And so you’d have to see such a sea change in terms of gas prices or coal prices, if you’re thinking about the power grid, to really reverse some of the trends. And I just don’t think there’s any appetite for it either,” said Barnett.
German football club SC Freiburg has announced that German system integrator Badenova has completed construction on a 2.4 MW rooftop solar array on the roof of its Europa-Park stadium.
The solar facility is the world’s second-largest photovoltaic system on a football stadium after the 2.5 MW array deployed on the roof cover of the National Stadium Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, Brazil.
The rooftop PV system in Freiburg is expected to be grid-connected in September, after the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE) and testing and certification institute VDE will have certified the installation.
Around 6,000 heterojunction solar modules from Switzerland-based Meyer Burger were installed on a 15,000 m2 roof area. Badenova invested around €2.3 million ($2.3 million) in the system, which it will operate over a 20-year period.
“We want to set an example for sustainability and innovation not only for similar projects, but also with the quality and origin of the modules,” said Klaus Preiser, managing director of Badenova subsidiary Badenovawärmeplus.
“The project is a real milestone for our new Europa-Park stadium and it shows how important sustainability and environmental protection are to us at SC Freiburg,” explained SC Freiburg board member Oliver Leki.
GlobalData has predicted that the global electrolyzer market will hit 8.52 GW by 2026. BP and Thyssenkrupp have agreed to cooperate on the use of hydrogen in the steel sector, while electrolyzer supplier Nel Hydrogen has secured orders in Australia and Denmark.
GlobalData has predicted that growing public support and rapidly expanding low-carbon hydrogen capacity will drive the global electrolyzer market to 8.52 GW by 2026. In a new report, it noted that electrolyzer capacity has doubled over the past five years, to around 0.3 GW by the middle of 2021. Global hydrogen production from electrolyzers could exceed 8 million metric tons by 2030, it said, adding that the Asia-Pacific region has thus far dominated demand for electrolyzer capacity.
BP and Thyssenkrupp have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop long-term supplies of low-carbon hydrogen and renewable power for steel production. The companies will explore supply options for blue and green hydrogen, as well as power from wind and solar generation through power purchase agreements. Thyssenkrupp Steel aims to replace coal-fired blast furnaces with direct reduction plants where iron ore is reduced with low-carbon hydrogen, in order to make steel production climate-neutral over the long term, said the German industrial group.
Nel Hydrogen has secured a purchase order from Viva Energy for a MC500 containerized PEM water electrolyzer. “The electrolyzer will be the biggest in Australia and provide green hydrogen to a fleet of heavy fuel cell vehicles,” said the Norwegian company. Earlier this month, Nel Hydrogen won a purchase order for an alkaline electrolyzer system from Skovgaard Energy Aps in Lemvig, Denmark. The electrolyzer system will be used to produce green ammonia with wind and solar.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said that international trade via pipelines and ships could support about one-quarter of global hydrogen demand. “With falling costs of renewables and the hydrogen potential exceeding global energy demand by 20-fold, three-quarters of global hydrogen would still be produced and used locally in 2050. This is a significant change from today’s oil market, where the bulk is internationally traded,” said IRENA. It sees about half of all hydrogen being traded through repurposed gas pipelines, while shipped green ammonia would account for most of the other half.
Peugeothas allowed journalists to test its e-EXPERT Hydrogen van for the first time in trials in Rüsselsheim, Germany, where its production line is located. The van is based on a system featuring a battery that can be recharged from the mains, with a fuel cell-powered by hydrogen in the canisters under the vehicle floor.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, has agreed to collaborate with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the hydrogen sector. “A 100% renewable system would not be entirely made up of wind and solar, but include other renewables such as hydropower, biomass, and green hydrogen,” said CSIRO, noting that electrolyzer costs are falling rapidly.
Researchers from the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) claim to have achieved a power conversion efficiency exceeding 30% for a 1 cm2 tandem perovskite-silicon solar cell, which they said represents a world record for a PV device of this kind.
In particular, they achieved an efficiency of 30.93% for a 1 cm2 solar cell based on high-quality perovskite layers from solution on a planarized silicon surface and an efficiency of 31.25% on a cell of the same size and fabricated with a hybrid vapor/solution processing technique compatible with a textured silicon surface.
“These results constitute two new world records: one for the planar and one for the textured device architecture,” they specified, noting that both efficiencies were certified by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “The latter approach provides a higher current and is compatible with the structure of current industrial silicon solar cells.”
The research team did not disclose technical details on how they improved the efficiency of both devices.
“These high-efficiency results will now require further R&D to allow their scaling up onto larger surface areas and to ensure that these new cells can maintain a stable power output on our rooftops and elsewhere over a standard lifetime,” said CSEM researcher Quentin Jeangros. “Our results are the first to show that the 30% barrier can be overcome using low-cost materials and processes, which should open new perspectives for the future of PV,” the researchers added.
The previous world record — of 29.8% — had been achieved by scientists from the Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB) in Germany in November 2021. This result improved upon the previous world record achieved by perovskite developer Oxford PV in December 2020, when the UK-based company announced a power conversion efficiency of 29.52% for its perovskite/silicon tandem device.
EPFL researchers achieved 29.2% efficiency for a tandem solar cell with fully textured silicon measuring 1 cm2 in April. This result was confirmed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. “A big challenge will be developing solar cells that can remain stable on our rooftops for more than 25 years. But the higher efficiency we demonstrated without changing the front texture will be very attractive for the photovoltaics industry,” said EPFL scientist Christophe Baliff at the time.
Cracked and dry earth is seen in the wide riverbed of the Loire River near the Anjou-Bretagne bridge as a heatwave hits Europe, in Ancenis-Saint-Gereon, France, Jun 13, 2022. Image: Reuters/Stephane Mahe
LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) – Extreme weather events – from scorching heatwaves to unusually heavy downpours – have caused widespread upheaval across the globe this year, with thousands of people killed and millions more displaced.
In the last three months, monsoon rains unleashed disastrous flooding in Bangladesh, and brutal heatwaves seared parts of South Asia and Europe. Meanwhile, prolonged drought has left millions on the brink of famine in East Africa.
Much of this, scientists say, is what’s expected from climate change.
On Tuesday, a team of climate scientists published a study in the journal Environmental Research: Climate. The researchers scrutinized the role climate change has played in individual weather events over the past two decades.
The findings confirm warnings of how global warming will change our world – and also make clear what information is missing.
For heatwaves and extreme rainfall, “we find we have a much better understanding of how the intensity of these events is changing due to climate change,” said study co-author Luke Harrington, a climate scientist at Victoria University of Wellington.
Less understood, however, is how climate change influences wildfires and drought.
For their review paper, scientists drew upon hundreds of “attribution” studies, or research that aims to calculate how climate change affected an extreme event using computer simulations and weather observations.
There are also large data gaps in many low- and middle-income countries, making it harder to understand what’s happening in those regions, said co-author Friederike Otto, one of the climatologists leading the international research collaboration World Weather Attribution (WWA).
With heatwaves, it’s highly probable that climate change is making things worse.
“Pretty much all heatwaves across the world have been made more intense and more likely by climate change,” said study co-author Ben Clarke, an environmental scientist at the University of Oxford.
In general, a heatwave that previously had a 1 in 10 chance of occurring is now nearly three times as likely — and peaking at temperatures around 1 degree Celsius higher – than it would have been without climate change.
An April heatwave that saw the mercury climb above 50C (122 Fahrenheit) in India and Pakistan, for example, was made 30 times more likely by climate change, according to WWA.
Heatwaves across the Northern Hemisphere in June – from Europe to the United States – highlight “exactly what our review paper shows … the frequency of heatwaves has gone up so much,” Otto said.
RAINFALL AND FLOODING
Last week, China saw extensive flooding, following heavy rains. At the same time, Bangladesh was hit with a flood-triggering deluge.
Overall, episodes of heavy rainfall are becoming more common and more intense. That’s because warmer air holds more moisture, so storm clouds are “heavier” before they eventually break.
Still, the impact varies by region, with some areas not receiving enough rain, the study said.
Scientists have a harder time figuring out how climate change affects drought.
Some regions have suffered ongoing dryness. Warmer temperatures in the U.S. West, for example, are melting the snowpack faster and driving evaporation, the study said.
And while East African droughts have yet to be linked directly to climate change, scientists say the decline in the spring rainy season is tied to warmer waters in the Indian Ocean. This causes rains to fall rapidly over the ocean before reaching the Horn.
Heatwaves and drought conditions are also worsening wildfires, particularly megafires – those that burn more than 100,000 acres.
Fire raged across the U.S. state of New Mexico in April, after a controlled burn set under “much drier conditions than recognized” got out of control, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fires burned 341,000 acres.
On a global scale, the frequency of storms hasn’t increased. However, cyclones are now more common in the central Pacific and North Atlantic, and less so in the Bay of Bengal, western North Pacific and southern Indian Ocean, the study said.
There is also evidence that tropical storms are becoming more intense and even stalling overland, where they can deliver more rain on a single area.
So while climate change might not have made Cyclone Batsirai any more likely to have formed in February, it probably made it more intense, capable of destroying more than 120,000 homes when it hit Madagascar.
Wateroam’s portable water filter technology has been exported to 38 countries, including Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia. Image: Wateroam
SINGAPORE – Water tech innovations and infrastructure that have helped water-scarce Singapore meet its daily water demands are now making waves worldwide, bringing clean water and sanitation to communities around the globe.
The Republic is a leading global hydrohub with an ecosystem of more than 200 water companies and 25 water research centres spanning the entire water value chain, including water supply, used water management and stormwater management, such as flood protection measures, said national water agency PUB.
Some local companies have also been commercialising their solutions in other parts of the world.
Wateroam, a company founded in 2014, has developed portable water filters to deliver clean water to countries as part of emergency response and humanitarian relief for disaster-hit areas.
The technology, which is designed to be as simple as possible, has been exported to 38 countries, including Nepal, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Non-profit organisation Lien Foundation launched the Lien Environmental Fellowship in 2010 to equip Asian scientists and researchers from selected regional countries with the skills and resources needed to tackle challenges related to water and sanitation, as well as renewable energy projects in their home countries.
Successful applicants receive mentorship from the Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (Newri), where they receive technical and financial support to transform their ideas into viable solutions.
A total of 18 projects have been administered in nine countries as at May this year.
Lien Foundation chief executive Lee Poh Wah told The Straits Times that each project has to be tailored to the unique challenges of each community and the solutions have to be long-term, sustainable ones that have garnered local support and engagement.
Recently, the Lien Environmental Fellowship programme embarked on a new project to sample the water quality of Kathmandu’s heavily polluted Bagmati River to determine the source and extent of the pollution.
There has been continuous dumping of solid waste, domestic sewage and industrial waste in the river.
Noting that plastic pollution in the water was immense, Newri executive director Shane Snyder said that a possible solution could involve a plastic upcycling technology, with plastic waste converted to diesel fuel to alleviate the high fuel costs that Nepal is currently experiencing.
He added that plastic waste – when left in water – can cause toxic chemicals to leach, which can be harmful for the human body.
Freelance climate change and senior watershed expert Madhukar Upadhya from Nepal, who was not involved in the project, said the idea was great, as it could provide jobs to those collecting plastic waste and incentivise households to save their plastic waste to sell it.
The Fellowship programme also saw some of Singapore’s best innovations – such as its membrane technology – benefit less-privileged communities.
For instance, Myanmar’s Mandalay city had extremely hard water – full of calcium content, as well as E. coli bacteria and other pathogens.
“We knew that the nanofiltration method (which is typically used to soften and disinfect water) would be the way to go – but there was no such system available,” said Professor Snyder.
However, local water tech company Century Water, picked up the intellectual property rights from NTU and the National University of Singapore – which also does water tech research – and installed a membrane nanofiltration system there at a low cost.
“The operations are still going strong, despite the coup there and even amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
Mr Lee said that having clean water is the very foundation for health and human development.
“Without clean water, no country could ever escape poverty… and just as Singapore has become a global water hub, we have also benefited from foreign investment during the early days. So this is our way of paying it forward.”