Renewable energy firms see spike in demand

VALERIE KOH Today Online 19 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — Over the past year, firms in the sustainable energy business have been seeing growing interest from home owners and corporates looking to go green.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) matchmaking firm SolarPVExchange told TODAY it has seen enquiries increasing up to two-fold, with some three to five business queries and five to 10 residential queries each week. “Everyone is now putting solar energy as a top priority. Previously, it was further down on the priority list. These days, we get people asking for quotations and cheaper prices,” said managing director Rob Khoo, whose company connects potential solar PV buyers with vendors.

Agreeing, Mr Frank Phuan, director of sustainable energy firm Sunseap, said customers used to turn to renewables whenever oil and gas prices soared, citing cost savings. These days, their mindsets have changed. “Lots of companies call us today because they realise they have a choice, and they want to make an impact,” he said, adding that enquiries have spiked by two to three times in a year.

Both of them expect business to grow further, as Singapore strives to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, as pledged in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). But they felt that Government incentives are a must, as the Republic moves towards this “aggressive” target. Noting the pragmatism of Singaporeans, Mr Khoo suggested offering tax rebates to businesses that have adopted sustainable energy sources. “People don’t want to make the change (to renewable energy) because they’re afraid of the cost,” said Mr Phuan. “But it’s a matter of perspective. Singaporeans tend to think more short term.”

He pointed out that sustainable energy sources are more economical in the long haul. “Solar energy doesn’t require fuels to burn. The cost is locked in from day one,” he said.

Besides baiting consumers with tax incentives, policy changes can also be instilled to promote sustainability, said Mr Phuan. Currently, the Energy Market Authority requires commercial or industrial consumers with an average monthly electricity consumption of less than 2,000 kWh to buy electricity from SP Services. Only consumers with a larger consumption are eligible to buy from other electricity retailers or from the wholesale electricity market. This, Mr Phuan suggested, could be removed to allow Small and Medium Enterprises with low electricity usage to tap on other sources of renewable energy.

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