Best of our wild blogs: 21 Aug 14

Greater Banded Hornet nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Is there a Singapore Scops Owl?
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

Mating Woodpeckers attacking its image
from Singapore Bird Group

Indonesia's forests so damaged they burn whether or not there's drought
from news by Rhett Butler

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Singapore's food security dependent on diversifying sources: Maliki

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 21 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: The Republic is reliant on other countries in terms of food support, but diversifying food sources minimises the impact of a crisis on any single food source, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman on Thursday (Aug 21).

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food supply from about 160 countries, but it is aware of the challenges associated with food security in Asia, such as the shift towards urbanisation, decreasing food production and the loss of farming land, Dr Maliki said in his keynote speech at the International Conference on Asian Food Security.

“In February this year, Singapore experienced its worst dry spell in history since 1869. The high temperatures reduced the level of dissolved oxygen in our seawater, resulting in massive fish deaths at our coastal fish farms. Such episodes can occur anywhere,” said Dr Maliki.

He highlighted the role of research and development (R&D) as a solution to the food security problem. “We should seize the opportunities to invest in technology now so as to be better prepared to tackle the effects of climate change on farming.”

"The United Nations estimates that even today, about 20 per cent of our total world food comes from our cities," he said. "So as an urban society, what can we do? Try breeding plants that grow in much better in limited spaces, with limited water and limited sunlight.

"We can do more and all this requires technology. Technology in terms of water compensation, water utilisation, space limitations, the ability to use sunlight - all this requires R&D."

Another conference speaker told Channel NewsAsia that Singapore can use its strengths in R&D to help neighbouring countries, and find new ways of producing food in an urban landscape.

Professor Paul Teng, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, said: “Whatever discoveries made here can be applied in neighbouring countries. It doesn’t take long for new discoveries to be translated into products. As an urban society, we can try breeding plants that grow much better in a limited space, with limited water and sunlight.

“Singapore also has several hundreds of rooftop surfaces. Can we develop new technologies that allow us to better utilise this rooftop space?" he added.

The International Conference on Asian Food Security, organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, aims to identify initiatives in policy and technology to mitigate challenges associated with food security in Asia. The opening of the two-day conference was attended by about 150 participants from 19 countries.

Even as experts pointed out the role of technological advances in securing food supply, some said that in the future this could mean consuming food that is completely different to what we're used to today, such as synthetic meat produced from cells.

- CNA/kk/ek

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Increase in fires due to dry spell: SCDF

Amanda Lee and Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: More fire calls were made in the first half of this year despite a drop in fires at residential premises, according to the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) mid-year report released on Wednesday (Aug 20).

The SCDF said it responded to 2,532 fires between January and June this year – an increase of 407 cases, or 19.2 per cent, from 2,125 fires during the same period last year. A total of 42 incidents resulted in casualties, with 21 smoke inhalation cases and 35 fire injuries. There were two fatalities from a fire that broke out at the Marina Bay Suites on Jan 13.

The increase was largely due to a rise in vegetation fires as a result of a dry spell from January to March, the SCDF said. There was a “significant” rise in the number of vegetation fires during the first six months of the year to 529 cases, compared with the 104 cases in the first half of 2013.


Another concern was the increase of vehicular fires which went up from 95 in the first six months of last year, to 114 cases in the same period this year - a 20 per cent jump.

SCDF says most of the fires occurred while the vehicles were on the road, due to electrical faults or overheating of the engine compartment.

"Most vehicle fires start small but can develop rapidly due to the presence of flammables such as petrol or diesel in vehicles," said an SCDF spokesperson. "To prevent vehicle fires, we urge vehicle owners to conduct regular servicing on their vehicles and, as much as possible, equip their vehicles with fire extinguishers."


However, the number of fires in residential premises fell to 1,493 cases, down 3.1 per cent compared with the 1,541 fires in the same period last year. Fires in rubbish chutes and bins formed the bulk of these fires, at 54.9 per cent or 819 cases. This was an increase of 20.4 per cent from last year.

The SCDF said it observed a spike in the number of rubbish fires during the festive season. A total of 389 cases, or 47.5 per cent, of the rubbish fires occurred in January and February, due to the “indiscriminate disposal of lighted materials such as sparklers, charcoal and incense materials”, it said.

Fires involving discarded items fell 55.5 per cent, while fires involving unattended cooking fires fell 24 per cent and those involving household contents fell by 17 per cent. However, electrical fires for the first six months of 2014 rose by 16.8 per cent, mainly caused by the poor condition or maintenance of electrical wirings and cables, loose or improper connections, or electrical appliances that short-circuited, the SCDF said.

The number of enforcement checks for fire safety standards in the first half of 2014 also increased compared to the same period in 2013. SCDF says they issued 530 more notices to building owners and management for fire hazard violations between January and June in 2014 - an increase from 1,093 in the previous year.


Between January and June, the SCDF’s Emergency Medical Services responded to more ambulance calls. A total of 76,063 ambulance calls were made during the period, a marginal increase of 39 calls (or 0.1 per cent), as compared to last year with 76,024 ambulance calls.

Emergency calls made up 96 per cent of the calls; 1.9 per cent were non-emergency calls and 2.1 per cent were false alarms.

The number of false alarms remains a drain to ambulance resources, and can deprive those who are in genuine need of emergency medical assistance, said the SCDF.

The number of emergency calls dipped slightly by 0.2 per cent from 73,146 to 73,023. The SCDF attributed this to the drop of 3.6 per cent in the number of road traffic accident related injuries that it responded to, from 5,476 cases to 5,280 cases.

Of the 73,023 emergency calls, 74.6 per cent were medical cases, 7.2 per cent were road traffic accident related cases and 18.2 per cent were related to other trauma cases such as industrial accidents, falls and assaults.


The SCDF also officially announced an Emergency Short Messaging Service (SMS) feature specially catered to people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or those with a speech impairment (DHS). The SMS feature was initially piloted in July. Members of the DHS community can use their mobile phone to send an SMS to 70995 to inform the SCDF of emergencies, such as a fire or a medical emergency that requires a fire engine or an SCDF emergency ambulance.

To use the service, a member of the DHS community must register with one of three organisations: The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), TOUCH Community Services (Silent Club) or SG Enable.


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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

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Pulau Ubin micro-grid to be platform for energy-related technologies

Channel NewsAsia 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: The development of energy-related technologies is the focus for the next phase of the Pulau Ubin Micro-grid Test-bed. The Energy Market Authority (EMA) announced on Wednesday (Aug 20) the launch of a Request for Proposals (RFP), calling on companies and research organisations to leverage on the Micro-grid Test-bed to pilot innovative technologies.

This phase will be a chance to “extract useful learning points to prepare our power grid for a larger scale deployment of solar energy in Singapore”, said EMA Chief Executive Chee Hong Tat. “This includes the development of technology solutions to overcome challenges associated with the intermittent nature of solar energy.”

Phase 1 saw the construction of micro-grid infrastructure at Pulau Ubin’s jetty area by a local consortium comprising Daily Life Renewable Energy Pte Ltd and OKH Holdings Pte Ltd. This involved the integration of technologies such as solar photovoltaic, energy storage and control systems, and the system was completed in 2013.

As a result, more than 30 business-owners and residents in this area now pay relatively more competitive prices for the electricity supply from the micro-grid, compared to what they were paying when using their own diesel generators, said EMA.

Under Phase 2, this existing infrastructure will serve as a platform for trying out innovative technologies in areas such as energy analytics, energy storage and grid asset management. Propsals are to be submitted by noon on Oct 10. The RFP can be downloaded here.

- CNA/xy

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Python caught at Braddell Road

Channel NewsAsia 21 Aug 14;

ACRES was alerted at 9.10am, and the python was caught 50 minutes later.

The python was sighted on the fence outside of the old Braddell-Westlake Secondary School. (Photo: Shaliha Rasid)

SINGAPORE: A reticulated python was spotted at a bus stop along Braddell Road, outside the old Braddell-Westlake Secondary School on Thursday (Aug 21) morning.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said it was alerted by the police and a member of public at 9.10am. Its rescue team arrived at the scene at 10am and caught the python.

“Reticulated pythons are native to Singapore, and the majority of their diet constitutes of rats,” said ACRES Group Director Anbarasi Boopal. “They play an important ecological role in controlling rat population in Singapore. They are non-venomous and like most other wild animals, they tend to avoid humans.”

Members of public are advised to keep their distance if they see wildlife animals in public spaces. They can call the 24-hour wildlife rescue hotline 9783 7782 for assistance or advice. Wildlife animals should not be hurt or captured by the public. If they are sighted in canals or green reserves and the animal does not appear to be injured or stuck, it is best to leave them alone, said ACRES' wildlife rescue team.

- CNA/xk

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Malaysia: Sunda pangolin heading for extinction

The Star 21 Aug 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists here fear that a shy nocturnal creature is heading for extinction due to demand for its meat.

They say the Sunda pangolin is under threat due to a combination of factors, including illegal trade with organised syndicates linked to international networks.

Pangolins are captured for their meat and other uses, and yet not much is discussed about the fate of the species unlike that of the Bornean pygmy elephant or orang utan.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) masters student Elisa Panjang (pic), who has been studying pangolin ecology, said besides poaching, habitat degradation was also affecting the creature’s survival.

“Pangolins are quite easy to capture because they roll up into a ball when threatened.

“A study by the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, which fights illegal wildlife crime, showed that hunters in Sabah come from a variety of social backgrounds and usually hunt the animal to supplement their income,” she said.

She said an estimated 22,000 pangolins have been captured in Sabah over a period of about 14 months based on a 2010 Traffic report.

Elisa, who will undertake a PhD course on pangolins with the Danau Girang Field Centre and Cardiff University, said there was a pressing need to better understand the plight of the species, apart from educating poachers and potential hunters.

A workshop to discuss steps in creating awareness about pangolins locally will be held today at the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dr Benoit Goossens, who is the centre’s director and also co-organiser of the workshop, hoped this would be the first step towards better protection of the Sunda pangolin in Sabah.

“It will bring researchers, wildlife officers, environmental educators and NGOs to share current trade data and conservation activities on pangolins, identify the gaps in resources and knowledge, design an awareness campaign and decide on important actions to avoid potential extinction of the species,” she said.

Due to rampant poaching, the International Union of Conservation for Nature last month upgraded the Sunda pangolin to “critically endangered” status, the worst listing on the Red List before a species is declared extinct.

In Sabah, the Sunda pangolin is currently listed as a protected animal, in Part One of Schedule Two of the state’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, which means a hunting licence is required to hunt them.

However, no hunting licence has ever been issued.

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UK: Sky lanterns and launchers steered by new safety code of practice

Chinese or paper lantern dangers prompt government guidance, ranging from lamp design to advice on where and how to set free
James Meikle The Guardian 20 Aug 14;

Chinese and other paper lanterns should not be released by people under the influence of alcohol and air-traffic control should be notified if lanterns are to be set free within 10 miles of an airfield, according to new government guidance.

The guidance also says that instructions for use of sky lanterns, under a industry-written code of practice and endorsed by ministers and trading standards officials, should include prosecution warnings.

The change follows growing concern about the risk from lanterns to people, wildlife and the environment, farm animals, aviation, property, including campsites and waste sites, and coastal rescue services.

The guidance, which also gives requirements over lantern design, size, shape, manufacture and safety checks, says the floating lights must always be launched by two people, one holding the item, the other igniting the fuel cell, and that launchers should not be under the influence of alcohol nor set free the lights near crops, haystacks or power lines.

Air traffic control at any airfield within 10 miles must be notified before lanterns are launched, as must local coastguards if the location is near the sea.

Event organisers are also advised to ask local authorities for risk assessments and not to release lanterns in wind speeds of 5mph or higher. The new code also says lanterns should be biodegradable, not harmful to animals, and not coloured red or orange to ensure they are not mistaken for distress flares.

Age checks on buyers should also be made to help ensure lanterns, which are also commonly used at private celebrations, are sold to, and used by, adults.

The industry code was published a year after chief fire officers appealed for the public and event organisers not to use lanterns of this kind. At an industrial fire in Smethwick, west Midlands, last summer, 10 firefighters were injured in a blaze said to have been caused by a Chinese lantern.

The government rejected calls from farming groups and animal charities for a lantern ban. Meanwhile the National Outdoor Events Association asked its members not to use them, citing their "danger", and Tesco and Poundland were among retailers who stopped selling lanterns.

The industry code followed talks with the government and was approved and published by the Trading Standards Institute.

George Eustice, the minister for farming, said the rules would help ensure sky lanterns were safe, biodegradable and sold responsibly. "People are becoming more aware of the dangers of sky lanterns and how to reduce the risk of causing damage. Over the last year Defra has highlighted these risks, and a number of retailers have decided to stop selling them while some local authorities and event organisers have banned sky lanterns altogether."

The Chief Fire Officers' Association, which had wanted a government review of lantern safety, called the guidance a step forward towards minimising the potential risks and encouraging best practice.

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First local loris study slow-going

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

FOR 200 years, this "ninja" of the forest has eluded explorers.

The Sunda slow loris, a nocturnal primate with panda-like dark circles around its large eyes, is so painfully shy it could barely be found in our forests.

Famed British naturalists in the colonial days tried and failed.

And it is still giving local scientists the slip.

The first-ever local study of the native cat-sized animal has reinforced how notoriously elusive it is, throwing up the need for many more longer-term surveys in order to study it properly.

In 108 night-time hours spent surveying seven forested sites in 2007 and 2008, just one Sunda slow loris, which is very sensitive to light and sound, was seen.

It was spotted in the Nee Soon swamp forest, a permanently flooded freshwater swamp located near Upper Seletar reservoir.

Fewer than 250 of the poorly studied, critically endangered creatures remain here on the mainland and on Pulau Tekong. Its exact population is unknown.

It is a similarly vague picture elsewhere in the region, where it is so rarely encountered that data is limited.

Lead researcher Fam Shun Deng, president of the South-east Asian Biodiversity Society, noted that even expert British naturalists in the 19th century, who collected thousands of animal specimens from the region, did not have better luck.

"For all their prolific collecting, there is not a single wild collected loris specimen in any museum in the world that is from Singapore," he said.

The Sunda slow loris is usually solitary, and spends almost all its time in treetops.

Unlike humans, it has excellent night vision. It feeds on tree gum and insects.

In Indonesia, it is known as malu malu or "shy one" because it freezes and covers its face when spotted.

The one-year study done in collaboration with the National Parks Board did however turn up encouraging data showing that loris sightings have increased sharply in recent decades.

From just a handful of sightings reported in the four decades prior to 2000, 32 have been reported in the decade and a half since.

However, Mr Fam cautioned that the increase in sightings may be simply because more field work is being done in Singapore's forests.

To further complicate the picture, the study found that the numbers are possibly inflated by an illegally smuggled exotic species, the Pygmy slow loris.

The loris' popularity in the illegal pet trade means owners could be releasing them once they tire of them, it concluded.

There have been at least six cases since 1999 of lorises being confiscated by the authorities, the most recent of which was last June.

A Pygmy slow loris was also spotted in the survey.

Findings from the study were published last month in the international journal Endangered Species Research.

The paper calls for more action to halt the illegal trade.

It also urges forest gaps to be bridged by planting trees or building rope bridges, to expand the lorises' habitat.

In addition, it recommends more "sustained, focused and regular surveys" to establish the precise Sunda slow loris population.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said: "Without having the facts, it is very difficult to create policies to protect these animals in the long term."

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Walk on the wild & wet side

Yvonne Privitha The New Paper 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - Her alarm was set for midnight, and she had three computers turned on, ready to register for tickets.

Finance executive Sonu Chhina, who declined to reveal her age, was not hoping to attend a football match or concert.

Slideshow of these photos
She was trying to get a spot on a guided walk at Sisters' Islands organised by the National Parks Board (NParks).

In its latest marine biodiversity conservation initiative, NParks has started organising introductory guided walks at Singapore's first-ever Marine Park on Sisters' Islands.

Within an hour of online registration beginning, all spots for the first such walk for the public last Thursday were snapped up.

Said Ms Chhina: "I was so excited. I waited until the day they released the spots online."

She went with her parents, both of whom flew to Singapore from India for a holiday.

They were thrilled at the chance to view more of Singapore's natural environment.

Her father, Mr D.S. Chhina, 75, is a retired agricultural scientist. It was the first time he got to see wild marine life in Singapore.

Ms Chhina's mother, housewife Narinder Chhina, 67, said she was so excited about the walk, she woke up five hours earlier than her family thinking that it was already time to set off.

Also in the group of close to 40 people on Thursday were Shin Rei, seven, and her sister Sze Shuen, four.

The girls have already had more outdoor adventures than most children their age.

Their dad, Mr Chung Swee Yit, 38, has taken them to the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Denali National Park in the US.

In Singapore, they have trekked through reservoir parks at Macritchie and Seletar.

The girls, like others in the group, were mesmerised by the diversity of marine life at Sisters' Islands.


This included moon snails, sea anemone, giant clams and a collection of starfish nestled in the sand.

Volunteer guide Ria Tan, 53, said a guide would be able to spot small creatures and plants an untrained eye would likely miss.

Besides the starfish, she was able to identify a tiny jelly-like mass of cuttlefish eggs which no one noticed beneath a large patch of seagrass.

Not too hard to spot was the giant clam, a huge crusty creature with green and yellow patterns curling across its mouth.

"It's best not to touch anything that you're not familiar with, especially with marine life - the most dangerous things can look innocent," explained Ms Tan.

Deputy director of the Coastal and Marine National Biodiversity Centre, Ms Karenne Tun, 44, said seeing and experiencing marine life was the best way Singaporeans could understand the importance of conserving it.

"We have a rich natural heritage in Singapore and it's important that we don't lose this diversity so that future generations can access it too," she said.

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Mediation helped reduce cat cullings

Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - Like Ms Angela Ling, most of the mediators in the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) started out as volunteers.

The team has two full-time staff members, one part-time staff member, six board members and more than 35 volunteers.

The CWS, which was formed in 1998, has been working closely with the 16 town councils for the past six years.

Ms Joanne Ng, its chief executive, believes that its efforts in mediation have been crucial in reducing the number of cat cullings.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority euthanised about 1,000 strays last year, a huge drop from 3,300 in 2008 and 13,000 in 2001.

Ms Ng said: "Mediation will lead to a possible solution that both sides can tolerate.

"It also educates people of the other options available. Often, the first thought is to remove the cat, which means culling or moving the cat to another location. This just makes it another person's problem."

Catching a cat culprit
Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - She had waited at the void deck for more than an hour, hoping to catch sight of the elusive feline.

Finally, a small black adult cat appeared and scurried up the stairs.

It was the cat that had been defecating and urinating at a block at Hougang.

For the past year, Ms Angela Ling has been trying to catch the culprit in action.

She was also counselling a resident on the 11th storey to stop feeding the cat at the corridor, but to no avail.

This is an ongoing case that Ms Ling has been handling for the past year.

When The New Paper visited the block with Ms Ling one evening, the cat was loitering at the 11th storey.

It ran away as soon as it was spotted.

The resident who has been feeding the cat did not open the door when Ms Ling knocked.
A neighbour on the 12th storey, Mr Chan Hua Heng, 52, has been dealing with cat urine at his doorstep in the morning for the past year.


He said: "We didn't want to complain because we are all neighbours, after all. The cat urinates on our slippers so we just make sure that we keep our slippers and shoes in the shelf every night."

But someone in the neighbourhood complained to the town council, which got the Cat Welfare Society in to mediate.

Ms Ling assured the Chans that the society will be working with the resident to solve the problem. They hope to catch the cat, neuter it and hopefully re-home it.

She also gave the family some tips to get rid of the smell of cat urine - by placing lemon or vinegar on their doorstep. It will also keep the cat away.

"This is not a cat problem, it's a human problem and we'll try our best to solve it so give us some more time," she told Mr Chan in Mandarin.

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Singapore can tap more solar power by 2050

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - The sun could supply almost a third of Singapore's electricity, up from less than two per cent now, by 2050.

If predictions made by researchers from the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) come to pass, it may mean lower electricity bills and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

It could also increase the island's energy supply security and reduce uncertainties about cost.

Singapore has no energy resources and depends on imports to support its energy needs.

Currently, the Republic gets more than 80 per cent of its electricity from natural gas and about 18 per cent from fuel oil.

The rest comes from other sources, including waste incineration.

The potential of solar energy and photovoltaic technology - which enables the conversion of sunlight into electricity - was detailed in a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Roadmap for Singapore, which was unveiled last month.

Experts said the 30 per cent target is possible but added that it depends on whether certain conditions are met.

For one thing, Singapore must control its electricity demand. In 2012, the country consumed 42.6 terawatt-hours (TWh). By 2050, this cannot exceed 50 TWh, based on the assumption of the road map.

This is not easy. Singapore's population is predicted to grow, meaning electricity usage would surge as well.

In June last year, Singapore's population stood at 5.4 million but this has been projected to reach 6.9 million by 2030.

Maintaining electricity demand will be challenging but possible, said Seris deputy chief executive Thomas Reindl. He cited how Germany's energy efficiency measures have resulted in falling electricity consumption.

Said Dr Reindl: "It would be a great opportunity for Singapore to try to achieve future population and economic growth in an energy-neutral and carbon-neutral way."

Experts said this could be achieved through policy or pricing, such as by imposing higher electricity tariffs or giving incentives for energy savings.

Air-conditioning is one area where consumption can be slashed substantially, they said.

On the supply side, the road map also listed three conditions that would help achieve its target.

These are: ensure that areas available for PV installations - such as rooftops - are fully tapped; achieve greater efficiency and yield of PV systems; and make PV electricity cheaper.
But there could be obstacles, such as competing uses. Some rooftop spaces, for instance, are shared with chillers or gardens, said Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute executive director Subodh Mhaisalkar.

The Building and Construction Authority told The Straits Times that rooftop greenery and solar panels can be located in the same place, although care must be taken to ensure plants do not cast shadows over the solar panels.

"It is possible to have greenery underneath, alongside or running parallel to the solar panels," said a BCA spokesman.

Another obstacle cited was the intermittency of solar energy due to cloud cover or storms.
A smart grid, which supplies electricity from different sources, could help, said the Institution of Engineers vice-president Edwin Khew.

But the already declining cost of PV is an encouraging sign that Singapore is on track to meeting the 2050 projection.

Pointing to cheaper solar panels and the prospect of further reductions, Mr Khew said: "With these projections being realised earlier than predicted, and with my knowledge of the pace of research at Seris, I am confident that... solar PV (can) contribute up to 30 per cent of the electricity demand in Singapore by 2050."

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