Energy-intensive firms could see returns from sustainability efforts in under 3 years: NEA

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) says some heavy users of energy may not have to wait long to see the returns from their efforts to save energy.

This follows the agency's initial assessment of energy reports submitted by 167 companies, which operate 211 energy-intensive industrial facilities. About 60 per cent of the energy-saving projects planned by these companies could see returns in less than three years, NEA said.

This year marks the first time heavy energy users have had to submit energy reports to NEA by the end of June, as required under the Energy Conservation Act that came into effect in 2013. These reports include information such as the fuels these facilities use, which machines use a lot of energy and the companies' energy-saving plans over the next few years.

NEA said information in these reports could be used to identify major energy-consuming systems across companies and help the agency design its policies. For example, a best practices guide could be developed for certain systems..

Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) was one of the 167 companies that submitted energy reports to the NEA. Producing beers like Heineken and Tiger is a long and energy-intensive process for the company, and includes boiling a mixture of malt and water to produce an extract called wort, fermenting and then pasteurising the beer.

APB has been generating energy reports internally for 18 years, and this has allowed it to make improvements throughout its operations. Mr Andre van Schuijlenburg, head of supply chain at Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore, explained: “For example, in our wort boiling, we generate a lot of heat. The heat goes to the atmosphere so the heat is lost and we could see it was lost, so we implemented the heat recovery system. We collect the heat, we heat up the water with this heat, and we can use that heated water for cleaning purposes."

While NEA is still reviewing the reports, initial findings show there are many easy-to-achieve outcomes identified by companies. This may be timely news for an industry that has been accused of being reluctant to move to greener technology or retrofit older equipment with more energy-efficient parts.

Professor Low Teck Seng, CEO of the National Research Foundation, said: "Everyone in the industry realises we need to move towards better sustainability in everything we do, but it is a question of balancing the cost that needs to be incurred and a pragmatic approach towards a long-term installation plan that will work for both the companies and the public."

NEA said current incentive schemes may also be refined, a move welcomed by companies like APB. With several schemes available, APB said that companies may need help when trying to decide which one would fit them best.

Mr Andre van Schuijlenburg said: "There are many (sources of help) available, but it is not always so clear which one to go to. So if there could be a one-stop shop where you could go with your projects and they could help you in which grants to apply for, that could make it even easier.”

- CNA/ms