Project to use food waste to boost energy production faces setback

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 2 May 16;

SINGAPORE — A project to use food waste to generate more electricity has hit a snag, with delays caused and sub-contractors left in the lurch by a former partner of national water agency PUB.

The project, announced last June, was to build Singapore’s first co-digestion plant at PUB’s Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant. The plant was to validate the efficacy of co-digestion technology — adding food waste to used water sludge to generate more electricity.

It was to have been completed last September but is now about 60 per cent done, and slated for completion by year end, said the PUB.

The project’s troubles run deeper, however. Two sub-contractors of PUB’s ex-partner, Anaergia Pte Ltd, say they have not been paid over S$1.2 million and are crying foul at Anaergia Pte Ltd’s change of ownership.

The sub-contractors, local small and medium enterprises Structura Construction and Brilliant Engineering, had contracts with Anaergia Pte Ltd worth about S$1.4 million and S$1 million respectively. They have completed 90 per cent of construction work and 70 per cent of mechanical and electrical work, but have only been paid about S$638,000 in total.

Structura director Andrew Lee said his company is owed about S$960,000, while Brilliant’s project director Philip Sheng said his firm is owed about S$300,000.

This is despite the PUB having already paid S$3.3 million to Anaergia Pte Ltd. No outstanding payments are due to Anaergia Pte Ltd, said a PUB spokesman, stressing that the agency does not have any contract with Structura or Brilliant.

PUB said it paid Anaergia Pte Ltd upon the completion of each project milestone, and was informed by the sub-contractors only at a later date that Anaergia Pte Ltd had not paid them. “As PUB has no contracts with these sub-contractors, PUB then advised them to seek legal advice on the actions they could take to recover payment,” said the spokesperson.

Mr Sheng questioned what the company — which was part of the Canada-headquartered Anaergia group of companies until it was sold to a third party last December — has done with the money paid by PUB.

He said efforts to engage Anaergia Pte Ltd in recent months have hit a dead end, as all its employees have left and have said they had nothing more to do with the company.

“You don’t expect to get stiffed for a project like that,” added Structura director Amy Yeo, referring to PUB’s involvement. Both sub-contractors are seeking legal advice.

PUB said it has been in close contact with Anaergia Inc, which owns the technology to be used for the co-digestion plant. “Anaergia Inc sees the importance of this project, and has therefore resolved to dedicate its Singapore subsidiary, Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd, to complete the project,” said PUB. “PUB and Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd will continue to work closely to complete the project.”

Asked why PUB was continuing to work with Anaergia Inc when its former affiliate had failed to pay the sub-contractors, PUB said the team at Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd it is hoping to work with will not include anyone it previously worked with from Anaergia Pte Ltd.

According to Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) records, however, both companies shared at least one director.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament and clean energy advocate Edwin Khew was a director at Anaergia Pte Ltd until December, and is a director at Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd. He told TODAY he was involved only in marketing and project development, and not the project.

In reply to an email from TODAY, Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd managing director Luca Belli maintained that Brilliant’s and Structura’s contracts are with Anaergia Pte Ltd, which was “sold back in December 2015 to a third party which bears no relation to the Anaergia group of companies”.

Anaergia Pte Ltd is no longer part of the Anaergia group of companies, and is to be renamed as part of its sale conditions, he added. Asked about non-payment for work done by the sub-contractors prior to December, Mr Belli said to contact Anaergia Pte Ltd. TODAY was unable to reach the directors of Anaergia Pte Ltd, as stated in ACRA records, by press time.

Mr Sheng and Ms Yeo also questioned why PUB worked with Anaergia Pte Ltd, a company with only S$100 in paid-up capital. In response, PUB said research projects are to demonstrate the innovativeness and effectiveness of the technology in question. These projects are generally short-term and lower in value, compared with construction and development projects, in which a minimum paid-up capital of up to millions of dollars applies.

“Subjecting these technology providers to requirements similar to construction/development projects may stifle innovation and make it more onerous and difficult for such companies to test their ideas and technologies for acceptance and adoption,” said the PUB spokesperson.

The co-digestion project is co-funded by the TechPioneer scheme, administered by the Economic Development Board on behalf of the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office.

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