SINGAPORE: Singapore's public housing estates could well be powered by sunlight in future, if a pilot project currently underway proves successful.
Already, the Energy Save Programme - spearheaded by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National Environment Agency and the Energy Market Authority - has shown positive results.
The aim of the programme is to bring down energy consumption in all HDB estates by 10 per cent in five years.
Futuristic-looking solar PV panels were spread across 14 HDB blocks in two precincts located in Serangoon and Sembawang.
At Block 552 Serangoon Avenue 3, about 70 panels were used to capture the sun's rays, generating enough energy to power common services like lights, lifts and water pumps.
Seven such blocks generate about 220 kilowatts per hour of energy every day.
However, cost is still a factor as the technology is relatively new. Some S$600,000 was spent on buying and installing the panels for just one precinct, which covers seven blocks of flats.
Investment also went into installing the energy-efficient lights and sensors at stairwells that trigger off the lights at full capacity when someone passes through.
As this was a trial project, the money came from the Economic Development Board's Clean Energy Research and Test-Bedding Fund.
But the investment has reaped benefits - all precincts involved in the trial achieved some 40 per cent energy savings.
A 30 per cent reduction in energy translates to savings of some S$36 million a year. Common areas account for 10 per cent of total energy usage in HDB estates.
But whether the savings would translate to lower service and conservancy charges for households remain to be seen.
Deputy director, Sustainability and Building Research, HDB, Johnny Wong, said: "In terms of renewable energy, because PV panels are quite costly, we need more data to see how we can lower this cost.
And in the long run when the cost of solar power is reduced, we can see the benefits we get from this."
The Energy Save Programme also involved households.
Two four-room units which took part in the trials replaced home appliances like the fridge and washing machine with energy efficient models and adopted simple energy saving habits.
Each household saved up to S$80 a month in utility bills.
Currently, households account for 90 per cent of total energy usage in HDB estates. More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB estates and the households consume energy at a rate of some S$1.2 billion a year.Source: Channel News Asia - 24 Feb 2009