By Dennis Yap
James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist recently argued that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rises of at least 3 metres in as little as 50 years.
We also see that ASEAN’s major cities such as Jakarta and Bangkok face rising flooding problems. Apart from the effects of global warming and the El Nino, the maximum and average temperature of Singapore has also risen faster due to increasing amounts of built-up land and air-conditioners.
According to local climate scientist, Matthias Roth, urban areas such as Singapore can adopt building and construction practices that cool the island and moderate the “urban heat island effect”. Given the existential threat Singapore and ASEAN faces from climate change, I believe that we can and should adopt a feed-in tariff system at cost if we are to fortify our green city.
Currently, Singapore only has feed-in rebates on utility bills for solar panel power generation by private property owners. Even so, there is already a guaranteed return of 14-18% per annum on residential solar installations by companies such as Rezeca. There have already been pioneering home owner installations.
This is even though they have to sell their excess solar electricity for 5 cents less than the buying price from the grid (compared to the Europeans who can sell solar electricity at higher prices) and can only claim as much in rebates as their total utility bills, constraining their ability to realize economies of scale and reap profits from generating clean energy. Should not the price for clean energy be at least the same for carbon energy unless the Energy Market Authority is effectively subsidizing carbon power?
Given low-interest rates, many asset-rich and cash flow poor retirees would welcome these systems that would help them cool their homes, reduce the need for air-conditioning and generate income. In many cases, they might even be able to extend roof-top patio space by using systems such as the one on top of the National Design Center. As Kishore Mahbubani has argued the Singapore Cathedral needs more stained glass panels and I would argue that Singapore the Green City needs more solar panels to ensure that it remains comfortable and progressive.
In light of HDB’s solar leasing tender, private property owners must also be given the incentives to participate in this nation-building project.