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By Woo Sian Boon, Today, 15 Jun 2012.
As the Government spells out its comprehensive measures to bring down energy consumption across all sectors, households evidently have a vital role to play in what Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean described as a “collective national effort”.
Yesterday, as Mr Teo, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, launched a 136-page national climate change strategy document, the National Climate Change Secretariat announced that it will also distribute 10,000 brochures providing eco-friendly tips to schools, public libraries and community centres.
The brochure details the savings that a person can accrue in a year if he adopts energy-efficient habits at home or in the workplace. For example, using a fan at night instead of the air-conditioner will save S$790 a year, while switching off a printer when not in use will save S$134.
Said Mr Teo: “In our daily lives, we can all make choices that help to reduce carbon emissions. This could be through buying more energy-efficient appliances, taking public transport, using less air-conditioning or simply switching off lights when we leave our homes, classrooms or offices.”
Currently, households contribute to about 17 per cent of total electricity usage in Singapore. But even as the authorities roll out various initiatives – including the mandatory energy labelling scheme for electrical appliances – households here are consuming more electricity.
A study published in 2010 by the National University of Singapore Energy Studies Institute showed that between 1999 and 2009, total residential electricity consumption increased significantly, by one third, partly because of the growing number of households. Electricity usage per household increased by a compounded annual growth rate of 1 per cent.
While tariffs have risen, the study also showed that households’ demand for electricity is highly inelastic to prices, given that electricity bills make up only about 1.3 per cent of household incomes.
It also found that electricity consumption is “highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations”: When temperature increases by 1 per cent, electricity usage increases by between 2 per cent and 14 per cent in the long run.
“This suggests that temperature aspects of electricity usage – for instance incorporating ventilation considerations in home designs – could be an effective focus for conservation efforts,” the study added.
Time to bring back scheduled blackouts?
In line with the Government’s plans to reduce carbon emissions by between 7 per cent and 11 per cent below the country’s 2020 business-as-usual levels, households have to contribute between 10 per cent and 16 per cent of the reduction.
Experts TODAY spoke to felt that the target is feasible but they reiterated that consumer habits might be difficult to change.
A concerted public education campaign is needed to make energy conservation a regular topic of discussion, they said.
SIM University’s Dr Luke Peh suggested: “Communication can be personalised to household types and allow the public to discover for themselves how easy it could be to save on utility/electricity bills with simple actions.”
Nanyang Technological University Energy Research Institute Programme Manager Nilesh Jadhav added: “Consumers need to be more engaged by other means such as social networking, food-court and shopping mall advertising as most of us spend time here. Other ways would be to create a helpline or help desk to call and seek advice on saving electricity.”
Mr Jadhav also suggested that domestic helpers should be educated on conserving electricity, while Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore Chairman Edwin Khew reiterated the need to instil environmental awareness from young, starting in schools.
Singapore Environment Council Executive Director Jose Raymond told TODAY that his council had suggested to the authorities to bring back electricity and water rationing exercises. “Due to the relatively shocking nature of such measures, they would be successful in getting a wider dialogue going on energy and resource conservation,” he said.
But Mr Jadhav felt that scheduled blackouts “are absolutely not acceptable”. “We are a rather developed economy, and quality of life is associated to access to energy when required,” he said.
Agreeing, Mr Khew felt such a method is “too draconian”. Instead, he suggested that warnings be given to households that are consuming a lot of electricity. “Perhaps audits can be done in such households to show them the areas of high electricity and what can they do to reduce consumption,” he added.
Government still studying carbon tax possibility
The Government is still mulling over a possible carbon tax – about 19 months after it had first floated the possibility if a global deal on climate change is reached.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told reporters: “We are still studying if (a carbon tax) is appropriate, what is the best way of doing so, looking at the experiences of other countries as well.”
To encourage the industry sector to improve energy efficiency, the Government is also considering a contracting model where a third-party energy services company (ESCO) bears the upfront cost of energy efficiency investments.
The ESCO will then take a fixed proportion of the money saved over time by the client.
Alternatively, the client pays for a project proposed by the ESCO, which guarantees a specified level of cost savings.
If the guaranteed level is not achieved, the ESCO makes up the difference to the client.
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