Energy efficiency a critical concern for Singapore: Vivian Balakrishnan

Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 18 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said that energy efficiency has overtaken sustainable water supply as a critical concern for Singapore.

He said there is a need to "focus extensively and deeply" on the issue of energy efficiency.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “What has really happened globally is the substitution of one critical vulnerability - water - with another critical vulnerability - energy, simply because the process of reverse osmosis is energy intensive.

“So yes, we may not be so vulnerable now to water shortages because you can always produce NEWater or desalinate water, but it means energy is now the main game in town.”

Speaking at the Water Utilities Leaders Forum at the Singapore International Water Week, Dr Balakrishnan said that it currently takes 3.5 kilowatt-hours to produce one cubic metre of water in Singapore, and there is a need to bring this down by "several orders of magnitude".

3.5 kilowatt-hours can power a fridge for a day.

Dr Balakrishnan said that new technologies could hold the key to increasing energy efficiency.

He said used water by definition contains organic material, which has caloric value. This means it has energy that can be harnessed.

He said: "What is the most efficient way of harnessing that energy, and then recycling that energy to produce recycled water to produce reverse osmosis?

“So there is a whole rich bed of research and development, which will enable us, I believe and I hope, to make a breakthrough in energy efficiency and ultimately, in enabling us to improve the catchment and the yields of water through reverse osmosis at much lower energy costs."

But even as energy efficiency becomes a key priority, Singapore remains focused on ensuring a secure and sustainable water supply.

It is planning to expand its water catchment area from two-thirds to 90 per cent of the island's land area.

It is also ramping up capacity for NEWater production and desalination. In 50 years, NEWater and desalination together are expected to meet up to 80 per cent of Singapore's overall water demand.

- CNA/ms