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LEDs to save town councils $5m a year

It’s a bright idea - install LED lights in the common areas of 2,000 Housing Board blocks islandwide and help town councils save $5 million a year.

Better still, the switch to this energy-efficient option may also yield about $250,000 worth of carbon credits a year for the next 10 years.

This is what 10 town councils here will be doing this year - registering their energy-efficient efforts with the United Nations (UN), in what will be Singapore’s first public-sector carbon-credit project.

Under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, certain countries, including Singapore, are allowed to register for carbon credits, which they can sell for money in the carbon market.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, coordinating chairman of the 14 People’s Action Party-run town councils, told The Straits Times that the town councils had been actively looking for ways to increase energy efficiency for many years.

‘We started with a pilot project in Jurong earlier this year and received good feedback. Now that the cost of LED technology has come down, we felt it was a good time to do this,’ said Dr Teo, who is also the MP for Bukit Panjang.

He added that the 10 town councils involved in the project have identified some 340,000 fluorescent lights in corridors and staircases to be replaced.

The estates that will benefit include Bukit Panjang, Sembawang, Ang Mo Kio, Yio Chu Kang, Bishan and Toa Payoh.

There are about 9,000 HDB blocks in Singapore.

LED, or light-emitting diode, lights use 60 per cent less energy, are just as bright, and generate far less heat than their less efficient counterparts.

It costs about $60 to $80 to install an LED light, compared with $20 to $25 for a fluorescent one. However, an LED light lasts for 12 years, while a fluorescent light lasts for two years.

Dr Teo said the energy savings will help lower maintenance costs, which have been rising at 3 per cent to 4 per cent a year due to higher manpower and equipment expenses.

The savings will also help keep a lid on service and conservancy charges.

HDB residents currently pay $10 to $100 a month in service and conservancy charges, depending on the type of flat and estate.

The firm that wins the tender - launched in December last year and closed early last month - will bear the $22 million project cost.

In return, the firm and the town councils will share the energy savings of $5 million a year for the first five years.

Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council general manager Albert Teng, who is helping to manage the project, said the tender drew bids from 21 firms, both foreign and local.

The HDB Building Research Institute, a partner of the project, is helping to evaluate the bids, and the town councils will make a decision soon.

HDB said it will help the town councils ‘assess the firms’ quality of work, and whether they have performed according to the requirements’ set out.

The town councils have also engaged United Premas, an energy services company, to work out the details of registering this project with the UN to claim carbon credits.

‘It’s a bonus for the town councils to be able to reap the economies of scale and register this project. It also sends a message to our citizens and the international community that Singapore is taking steps to address energy efficiency seriously,’ said Dr Teo.

Details of when the project will be officially registered will be disclosed later.

Madam Karen Eiw, 48, a resident at Fajar Road, said she is looking forward to the LED switchover as the new lights look better aesthetically while saving energy.

HDB said it is studying the feasibility of introducing LED lighting for new flats under its build-to-order scheme.

What are carbon credits?

Each carbon credit allows the holder to emit the equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide.

Under the existing international climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries have to meet certain greenhouse gas emission targets.

An excess of these gases in the atmosphere is believed to be the main cause of climate change.

Each developed country under the treaty is permitted to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gas.

If they exceed that, they have to buy carbon credits to meet their targets.

The credits create a market for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by putting a monetary value on the cost of pollution.

Under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism, non-industrialised countries are allowed to register projects, for example in wind or solar energy production or in energy efficiency, which allow them to generate carbon credits.

They can then sell the credits for money on the global carbon market. A certified carbon credit fetches around €11 to €14 (S$19 to S$24).

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