Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ubin, the clean-energy island

Nov 8, 2008

Island to become model 'green island' powered by clean and renewable energy

By Tania Tan & Amresh Gunasingham

ONE of Singapore's last rural enclaves could soon be transformed into a high-tech test site for renewable energies.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) yesterday announced plans to embark on a project to turn Pulau Ubin into a model 'green island' powered entirely by clean and renewable energy.

'We want to use technologies that will best integrate into the island's natural environment,' said Mr David Tan, deputy chief executive of EMA's energy policy and planning division.

Aside from solar panels and using waste as fuel for energy generation, electricity could also be produced from a hydrogen fuel cell plant, biofuels or turbines powered by wind or waves.

'The key is finding the right fit,' said Mr Tan.

A tender for a consultancy study has been called, and the project will be awarded later this month.

The six-month study, slated for completion in May, will look at how much energy is needed by residents on the 10 sq km island, and the most cost-effective combination of renewable energy technologies that can be used.

Apart from the fact that the project will be situated near the Ubin jetty, details are still sketchy, said Mr Tan.

Pulau Ubin, situated to the north-east of Singapore, does not draw electricity from the country's main power grid, because it has been too expensive to lay transmission cables for such low demand.

Instead, about 100 villagers use diesel generators, which are not environmentally friendly.

The Nature Society of Singapore welcomed the project on principle but said it had to be done right, from the start.

'Given the number of stakeholders involved, it would be wise to accommodate the concerns of the island's inhabitants as early as possible in the decision-making process, not so much to seek their permission, but to foster community involvement,' said Dr Shawn Lum, its president.

The non-profit organisation conducts regular visits to nature park Chek Jawa, located on the eastern coast of the island.

But islanders are open to the prospect of reliable, non-polluting power.

A shopkeeper in Ubin, who wanted to be known as Ms Tan, said that because the island was run on generators which were prone to breakdowns, any help to boost power supply would be welcome.

The Ubin project is the latest in a slew of programmes to transform Singapore into a global centre for clean R&D.

In September, the National Environment Agency announced plans to convert the Semakau landfill into a renewable energy test site cum eco-park.

The Government has also pumped some $170 million into boosting the clean technology sector, with plans to build a business park devoted to companies specialising in clean technologies and products. The first building on the 55ha site at Jalan Bahar is expected to be completed in 2010.

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