Legislation that requires large waste producers to report and segregate the waste they generate and the introduction of acceptable standards for biomass power plants to maximise energy extraction are among key recommendations by the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS) in its inaugural White Paper which seeks to tackle regulatory, technical and commercial barriers to the adoption of renewable energy sources.
Even as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are expected to generate more than half of Singapore's renewable energy demand by 2025, the government is looking at accelerating renewable energy adoption through segregation of organic waste and promotion of energy-efficient co-generation and tri-generation technologies in biomass and biogas plants, industrial facilities and green data centres.
Biomass plants with co-generation systems, which extract heat for industrial applications during the generation of electricity, typically produce 65-70 per cent of electrical and heating power, while those using tri-generation systems produce 70-80 per cent of cooling, heating and electrical power.
This compares with just 30-35 per cent of electricity produced by conventional biomass plants.
The proposed changes to Singapore's waste management model and other measures come as it moves to get renewable energy sources to generate 7.3 per cent of its electricity needs by 2025, up from less than one per cent now.
This in turn will support efforts to reduce carbon emissions, help build a sustainable green economy and create more green jobs here.
According to the White Paper released yesterday which outlines the business case for solar power, and biomass and biogas as fuels and sets out recommendations to encourage their adoption, an estimated 6.3 million people in Singapore are expected to consume 50 TWh of electricity a year by 2025. Of the projected 7.3 per cent demand, solar PV systems are expected to generate 4.8 per cent, or 2,400 GWh annually; biomass, 1.6 per cent, or 785 GWh annually; biogas, 0.7 per cent, or 350 GWh annually; wind, 0.2 per cent or 80 GWh annually; and tidal power, 20 GWh annually.
One way to fully harness the potential of biomass and biogas is to legislate waste as a "designated commodity", where waste collection companies are required to report the waste they generate.
Other recommendations include the introduction of acceptable standards for biomass power plants to maximise energy extraction from limited biomass fuel.
To maximise energy recovery from biomass waste, SEAS proposed that the National Environment Agency (NEA) should only grant licences for future biomass projects that adopt at least a co-generation system.
In August 2012, NEA imposed restrictions to prohibit the incineration of recyclable wood and horticulture waste, which should lead to more of such waste being recycled as biomass fuel.
But sufficient amounts of pure food waste, by far the largest amount of digestible organic waste in Singapore, are still difficult to obtain, SEAS said. That's because there currently are no laws mandating the segregation of organic waste at the site it is generated, for instance, within HDB households. There is also insufficient space for the segregation of organic waste at current waste segregation facilities.
Other barriers to renewable energy (RE) adoption include restrictions on feeding RE generation directly into the power grid.
The Energy Market Company, which operates and administers Singapore's wholesale electricity market, currently has no energy trading tool that allows for the ready sale of renewable energy. In addition, contestable customers are not able to sell excess RE to the grid. But the Energy Market Authority, in a consultation paper released on Oct 28, 2013, is addressing both these issues.
An increased uptake of PV is expected to create clean tech clusters in Singapore that will help build a sustainable green economy and create more green jobs. Case in point, as annual PV deployment in Singapore is projected to grow to 200 megawatt peak (MWp) in 2017 from 10 MWp in 2013, the number of full-time jobs in the solar energy production sector could jump to 6,000 from 2017 onwards from just 30 at the end of 2012, SEAS said, citing estimates from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.