More Government incentives should be put in place to encourage broad engagement in environmental problem-solving that involves all stakeholders, said Member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied GRC Gerald Giam earlier this week.

Mr Giam, a Workers’ Party MP, was speaking in Parliament during a debate on a motion to accelerate and deepen efforts against climate change on Monday (1 February).

Citing Yale environmental studies professor Daniel Etsy’s article, he noted that an over-reliance on the Government as the “central actor” could lead to the high cost of inefficiencies and “disincentives for innovation”.

Mr Giam said that the Government does most of the work of spotting problems, analysing causes of various harms, setting out standards and requiring specific technologies to be adopted by particular industries.

“Instead, more government incentives should be put in place to encourage broad engagement in environmental problem-solving that draws on all stakeholders, including companies, entrepreneurs, academics, civil society activists and ordinary citizens in the pursuit of a sustainable future.

“These practical incentives will induce innovation and help embed a ‘green mindset’ in all firms and households,” he added.

Despite the global economy being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Giam believes that Singapore can rebuild its economy to be “greener” by providing grants, loans and tax relief for green transport, a circular economy and green energy research.

He also suggested providing financial support to households and businesses for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy installations, as well as new funding and programmes to create jobs and stimulate economic activity in green industries.

Noting that the Government has set a goal for transport to be fully electric by 2040, Mr Giam asked if it can be “more ambitious” and bring forward the timeline to 2030 instead, comparing to Norway which aimed to do so by 2025, while the UK and Germany targeted by 2030.

“Our 10-year COE system makes it easier than in most countries to have a fully electric automobile fleet sooner,” he added.

Mr Giam also proposed extending the Special Employment Credit scheme to provide time-limited wage support to all Singaporean workers who are taking up their first job in the Green economy.

“This will incentivise companies to expand their ventures in the Green Economy and hire and train workers in this growing industry,” he noted.

Govt to take lead in promoting more sustainable practices

Mr Giam urged the Government to take the lead in promoting more sustainable practices through Green Public Purchasing (GPP) by making sustainability a requirement in more public sector procurements.

By doing so, the industry will be incentivized to develop environmentally-friendly works, products and services, he added.

“It could also lead to savings in public expenditure, especially if full life-cycle costs of contracts, and not just the purchase price, are considered during the procurement process,” said the member of Workers’ Party (WP).

Citing the UN Development Program’s People’s Climate Vote –- which found that more than 60 per cent of the 1.2 million respondents aged between 18 to 59 see the climate situation as urgent –- Mr Giam highlighted that there is increased demand for corporate performance metrics on a range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

He noted that the Singapore Exchange has introduced sustainability reporting in 2016 for listed companies but such requirement was not placed on private companies.

Mr Giam urged the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) to consider requiring simplified environmental sustainability reporting for private limited companies with a revenue of over S$100 million and with more than 200 employees.

Additionally, he noted that the Government should provide grants to incentivise SMEs to also submit sustainability reports.

“This will aid our local firms in their ventures overseas, where they may face increasingly stringent demands for sustainable business conduct, and help them to be more globally competitive.

“We should equip our local firms before they are affected by such de facto barriers to trade,” said Mr Giam.

Addressing energy efficiency in S’pore

Mr Giam noted that Singapore’s total registered power generation capacity was 12,582 MW last year, while the highest peak system demand since 2005 has been 7,404 MW.

He noted that this currently leaves a spare capacity of some 5,178 MW in the system.

Moreover, the combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) operate at lower thermal efficiency when partially loaded.

“For example, the Alstom GT26 Gas Turbine CCGT, of which there are several in Singapore plants, has a thermal efficiency of 59 per cent at full load but suffers a 14 per cent points drop in efficiency at a 30 per cent part load,” he noted.

Mr Giam went on to say that based on the Energy Market Authority’s (EMA) data, the average thermal efficiency of power plants in Singapore in 2019 was about 50 per cent. Thus, he asked whether thermal efficiency can be increased by operating gas turbines at a higher average part load.

“For example, a 4 per cent points improvement in thermal efficiency of power plants will reduce CO2 emissions by 1.65 million tons of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e), or about 5 per cent of Singapore’s 2050 CO2 reduction target. It will also save almost S$100 million a year in natural gas costs at current prices,” he explained.

On this, Mr Giam asked if the EMA has identified the impact of the power generation sector’s overcapacity on the energy efficiency of power generation in Singapore, and ways to increase average part loads.

“Given the completely deregulated market mechanisms that are currently in place, I acknowledge that this will be a challenging task. However given the potential benefits to be gained, surely we can find a way towards a win-win situation.

“For example, is it possible to maintain the present deregulated system but revert to some form of efficiency-driven central load dispatching?” he noted.

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