Best of our wild blogs: 24 Oct 17



What’s in the Lab?
Mei Lin NEO

The leopard cat is now 2!
Through the Eyes of the Leopard Cat

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) @ Neo Tiew Crescent
Monday Morgue


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Singapore bags 6 clean energy investments, creating 400 professional jobs

Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: A wave of clean energy investments in Singapore is set to create 400 professional jobs and generate S$500 million in business spending over the next five years, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said on Tuesday (Oct 24).

Six clean energy investments across the fields of solar, wind, microgrids and energy management in Singapore were secured by EDB in recent months, helping Singapore in its bid to be positioned as Asia’s leading clean technology (cleantech) hub, EDB said.

The investments were announced at the Asia Clean Energy Summit (ACES), which will be held in Singapore from Oct 24 to Oct 26.

Into its fourth edition this year, the summit is expected to receive more than 2,500 delegates and visitors.

Speaking on the growth potential of Singapore’s clean energy sector, Mr Goh Chee Kiong, EDB’s executive director of cleantech, said: “The future is bright for clean energy and we want to develop this as a national opportunity for Singapore. This recent wave of clean energy investments augur well for Singapore’s role as the springboard for companies to serve the fast-growing markets in Asia. The government will continue its commitment to invest in research and technology, train specialised talent, promote new financing and business models.”

Among the six investments include shanghai-headquartered Envision Energy, which will be setting up its global digital energy hub in Singapore, comprising a global digital R&D centre and global headquarters for energy Internet of Things and smart cities. The company plans to hire more than 200 professional involved in big data and analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, security, project engineering as well as regional management in Singapore.

VDE, a leading quality assurance provider headquartered in Germany, is investing S$20 million to set up a major energy storage testing and certification lab here to serve the Asian region. The lab in Singapore will also be the first in the world to provide bankability and insurability services for energy storage solutions at the system level, plugging a critical gap in the existing global energy landscape.

Other investors include GCL (solar), Hover Energy (wind) and Jiangsu Linyang (smart meters, solar), who will be establishing their respective regional headquarters in Singapore for sales, operations, finance, treasury, and other various management functions for Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, Narada will set up its regional energy storage solution centre of excellence in Singapore, which will develop co-innovation opportunities with locally-based companies.
Source: CNA/aj


Clean energy investments to create 400 jobs, S$500m in business spending
SIAU MING EN Today Online 24 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Six new clean energy investments secured by the Economic Development Board (EDB) are expected to create some 400 professional jobs and S$500 million in cumulative business spending in the next five years.

These investments are in the fields of solar, wind, microgrids and energy management in Singapore, the board told the press on Tuesday (Oct 24).

Clean energy is gaining significant momentum as an economically viable energy source. As the global energy sector undergoes extensive transformation, Singapore wants to keep abreast with changes, to “partner companies to innovate and commercialise novel clean energy solutions, and to spearhead new business models”, the EDB said.

Among the latest group of investors is Chinese wind turbine maker and energy management group Envision Energy, which will be setting up its Global Digital Energy Hub here. This will comprise its Global Digital Research and Development Centre, and its Global Headquarters for Energy Internet of Things and Smart Cities. The firm intends to hire more than 200 professionals involved in big data and analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, among other things.

Likewise, technical and scientific association VDE, which is based in Germany, will be investing S$20 million to set up a major energy storage testing and certification lab in Singapore to serve the Asian region. This lab would provide provide “bankability and insurability services” for energy storage solutions at the system level, and plug a critical gap in the existing global energy landscape, the EDB said.

Other firms will be setting up their respective regional headquarters in Singapore for sales, operations, finance, and other management functions for Asia-Pacific.

Chinese lead-carbon energy storage system provider Narada will have its regional Energy Storage Solution Centre of Excellence here, and it seeks to work with Singapore-based companies on projects.

The EDB said that the new ventures are “part of a continued wave of clean energy investments” here, strengthening Singapore’s position as Asia’s leading clean technology hub.

Mr Goh Chee Kiong, executive director of Cleantech in EDB, said that the recent investments “augur well for Singapore’s role as the springboard for companies to serve the fast-growing markets in Asia”. “The government will continue its commitment to invest in research and technology, train specialised talent, promote new financing and business models,” he added.


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Slew of measures to support uptake of solar energy announced at SIEW

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Singapore will boost its ability to forecast solar energy output through a S$6.2 million research grant awarded to a consortium led by the National University of Singapore, one of a slew of solar-related initiatives announced on Monday (Oct 23).

The consortium will work with the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the Meteorological Service Singapore to develop a forecasting model. The model would help to improve management of the fluctuations in solar output to ensure grid reliability, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week.

Local weather conditions are marked by humidity and intense cloud cover on rainy days, which can cause significant drops in the amount of solar energy generated.

Fluctuations, “if not properly accounted for… may lead to imbalances between electricity demand and supply, especially when solar energy becomes a larger part of the fuel mix,” said an EMA spokesperson.

Singapore’s deployment of solar energy could reach 350 megawatt-peak (MWp) by 2020, and more than one gigawatt-peak after that, which would represent about 15 per cent of electrical power demand at peak during the day, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had said in June.

Between 2014 and this year, installed solar capacity has quadrupled to about 140 MWp.

The researchers will look at improving the accuracy of solar photovoltaic output forecasts and grid management by using techniques in weather prediction and remote sensing, among other things.

They will also use data from sensors installed on rooftops and those installed by the Met Service.

The EMA also announced on Monday parties that produce less than 10 MW of solar energy will be able to sell excess electricity back to the main grid – up from the previous cap of below 1 MW under the Central Intermediary Scheme.

From April next year, they will not need to register as a market participant and can directly approach SP Group to receive payment for the excess electricity.

The enhancement to the scheme will make it easier for solar adopters, such as Nanyang Technological University, to sell excess solar energy into the power grid.

As of the third quarter of this year, there are more than 2,000 grid-connected solar installations, said an EMA spokesperson. Most of installations are below 1MW and about five contestable consumers have sold excess electricity back to the grid. There are around 10 installations that have inverter capacity of between 1 and 10 MW.

And by 2023, Singapore will test its first urban micro-grid at the Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) future campus in Punggol. The university and SP Group signed an agreement to build the experimental grid, which will integrate gas, electricity and thermal energy into one network. Solar energy and energy storage technolgoies will also be part of the micro-grid, which is able to unplug and operate independently of the national grid, such as during emergencies.

The microgrid at SIT is expected to have a capacity of 8 to 10MWp and SIT president Tan Thiam Soon said microgrids are key to building the country’s energy resilience. “We can create energy to supply back to the grid. Or when we need, the grid can supply energy… In critical moments, we can seal ourselves and be self-sufficient or help just the Punggol digital district,” he said.

The two existing microgrids on Pulau Ubin and Semakau Landfill are not connected to the main grid.

The EMA and SP Group also announced two Singapore-led consortiums – CW Group and Red Dot Power – will be testing the Republic’s first utility-scale energy storage systems, a crucial component in the ramp-up of solar energy adoption.

Both consortiums will receive about S$17.8 million in grants to build the two systems, which are expected to be in operation for three years.

Energy storage supports the use of intermittent power sources like solar, by reducing peak demand and providing regulation reserves, said EMA and SP Group in a joint press release.

The CW Group-led consortium will test-bed lithium-ion batteries for high-power applications, while Red Dot Power will test-bed the chemical-based redox flow batteries for “peak shaving” – where stored energy in the batteries will be used to meet part of the peak-hour demand.

Both systems, which are expected to be ready in 12 to 18 months, will be tested to see how they perform in Singapore’s hot, humid and highly urbanised environment.

They will be located at two substations in north and north-eastern Singapore and have a total capacity of 4.4 MWh, which is enough to power more than 330 four-room flats for a day.

Ms Sim said insights gained from the test-bed would help develop standards and policies for the deployment of large-scale energy storage solutions in Singapore.



S$6.2m research grant awarded to develop Singapore's solar forecasting capabilities
Calvin Hui Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: A S$6.2 million research grant from the Energy Market Authority (EMA) has been awarded to help develop Singapore's capability to accurately forecast solar energy output, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann announced on Monday (Oct 23).

The grant was awarded to a consortium led by the National University of Singapore (NUS) during the Singapore International Energy Week 2017.

The consortium will look into improving the accuracy of solar photovoltaic output forecasts and grid management using techniques in weather prediction, remote sensing, machine learning and grid modelling, said the EMA in a press release.

Photovoltaic cells aim to convert energy from the sun directly into electricity.

Currently, forecasting solar power output in Singapore is challenging due to the "complexities of our local weather systems", especially over the long term, EMA said.

Solar photovoltaic power output fluctuates depending on environmental and weather conditions such as cloud cover and humidity.

For example, extensive cloud cover on rainy days can cause significant drops in solar power output, said EMA.

"If not properly accounted for, this may lead to imbalances between electricity demand and supply, especially when solar energy becomes a larger part of the fuel mix," it added.

The consortium's work will make use of the growing pool of solar irradiance data generated as more sensors are installed on the rooftops of buildings as well as weather data from the dense network of sensors installed by the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) islandwide, said EMA.

Singapore has been working to facilitate a greater adoption of solar photovoltaic power, said Ms Sim, with efforts contributing to a "sharp growth" in solar power adoption from 0.4MWp in 2008 to around 140MWp in the third quarter of 2017.

EMA's chief executive Ng Wai Choong said solar energy is the "most viable renewable energy source for Singapore" when it comes to electricity generation.

"The ability to forecast solar photovoltaic power output accurately will help our power system operator better manage the impact of solar intermittency as we integrate more solar energy into the grid," he said.

MSS, in partnership with EMA, will work with the consortium on the four-year project.

The consortium is made up of NUS, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS, the Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing at NUS, A*STAR’s Experimental Power Grid Centre and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology’s Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling.

REMOTE METERING, NEW MICRO-GRID IN THE PIPELINE

EMA is also partnering with SP Group to award two Singapore-led consortiums S$17.8 million in grants to build Singapore's first utility scale Energy Storage System, Ms Sim announced.

This test bed will be built by CW Group and Red Dot Power, and is expected to be operational for three years at two substations and have an aggregated capacity equivalent to powering more than 330 four-room HDB flats for a day.

The Government is also working towards enabling "remote metering" for utilities, said Ms Sim.

Four companies - Diehl Metering GbmH, Mirai Electronics, TCSM Technology and ZH Technologies International - have been selected to develop and test-bed technical solutions to remotely read smart meters over the next six months.

SP Group and the Singapore Institute of Technology also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday to build Singapore's first "experimental urban micro-grid", announced Ms Sim.

To be housed at the Singapore Institute of Technology's new campus in Punggol - expected to be completed around 2023 - the grid will integrate gas, electricity and thermal energy into a single energy network.

The micro-grid can be connected and disconnected from the grid as required and will allow new technologies to be tested in a controlled environment, added Ms Sim.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT KEY: TEO CHEE HEAN

Against a backdrop of transitions in the energy landscape, Singapore must also step up its efforts to improve energy efficiency, harness renewable energy in more innovative and efficient ways and invest in research and development, Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said while delivering the Singapore Energy Lecture on Monday.

He gave examples of various Government initiatives to improve the economic competitiveness, security and environmental sustainability of Singapore's energy supply.

One key announcement is the setting up of the National Energy Transformation Office (NETO) within the Energy Market Authority, said Mr Teo.

The office will adopt a "whole-of-Government perspective" in planning and coordinating research and development as well as enabling energy solution policies.

Pointing out that the public sector alone would need 250 more power engineers, Mr Teo said that EMA would also lead the development of manpower needs and capabilities for the industry.
Source: CNA/nc


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Why Singapore needs to make nuclear power work

Other sources of energy such as natural gas, petrol and solar all have drawbacks here
Lim Soon Heng For The Straits Times 24 Oct 17;

As a pioneer generation Singaporean, two subjects keep my neurons firing in overdrive: floating structures for space creation, and nuclear power to boost the country's energy resilience.

Following on my article in The Straits Times ("Time for S'pore to say 'Yes' to nuclear"; March 15), here is a breakdown on why nuclear power - in the form of floating power plants - is a viable option for Singapore.

In March this year, Singapore debated passionately in Parliament and on social media about the need to be self-sufficient in water. But what seemed to be forgotten is that energy is even more crucial for our survival.

If we have access to energy, we will have access to potable water; the reverse is not true. We can desalinate water with energy but we cannot make energy out of imported water. Every joule of energy has to be imported - but what if water agreements fall through? However, a resilient energy supply chain will enable us to manufacture potable water.

Unlike other countries, Singapore is woefully short of renewable energy resources. We have no hydro, wave, tidal or geothermal potential. Strong wind occurs only in the monsoon months. Wind turbines require large land areas. Even solar energy cannot be counted on.

NATURAL GAS VULNERABILITY

Few countries depend on imported energy products as exclusively as Singapore does on natural gas.

Up until 2014, Singapore's economy was kept alive by two pipelines - in effect umbilical cords - supplying energy to gas-fired power plants.

Realising this, the Government has added another supply chain: the import of liquefied gas by ships. However, with the world economy expanding at an exponential pace and fossil fuels a finite resource, importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a short-term solution.

The scramble for the remaining reserves of fossil energy such as natural gas and petroleum has already begun. The United States and Russia are fighting proxy wars in the Middle East. China has claimed the lion's share of the South China Sea.

Natural gas, unlike coal and oil, is a hazardous energy to store on a mega scale, especially for a small city-state. It is also risky to transmit in pipelines. Apart from these being an attractive terrorist target, human error can result in massive loss of life and property. Reminders of this include a 97,000-tonne methane leak in California; a gas explosion at a utility resulting in a US$1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) fine; an explosion in an unfinished plant in Connecticut; and the Taiwan gas explosion in 2014.

To serve east Singapore, as well as to strategically diversify gas terminals, plans are being considered to build more gas terminals there. This is close to flight paths of one of the world's busiest airports, as well as to an air defence base, not to mention the high population density.

All told, it would become a high-value terrorist target. To minimise risks, subsea storage and floating regasification units should be considered.

IS SOLAR ENERGY A VIABLE SOLUTION?

Solar is hyped as Singapore's renewable solution, but the maths proves otherwise.

A study by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore shows that it would take all the roof spaces, facades of buildings, inland water bodies, islets and MRT tracks in Singapore to generate about 4TWh of electricity - less than 10 per cent of current demand.

It proposes boosting capacity by installing floating systems out at sea. In a busy port that would be impractical. A 40MW floating solar farm in Huainan, China, has a footprint larger than 160 American football fields - 85.6ha - which is 10 times the footprint of a conventional power plant.

Germany, the showpiece for solar energy proponents, produces only 7 per cent of its energy needs with solar in spite of its enormous land mass.

STRATEGIC PETROL RESERVES

Forecasts of world oil and gas reserves vary wildly, from infinite to total depletion in less than 50 years, based on current rates of extraction.

Singapore has rock caverns with a storage capacity of 1.47 million cubic m in the first phase. This is not large enough for strategic reserves either in the form of gas or oil.

Our limited land makes both solar energy and stockpiling oil meagre solutions for the country's energy security. The last remaining option is to stockpile fissile materials.

ADVANTAGES OF URANIUM

Uranium is incredibly energy-dense.

One tonne of 3.5 per cent-enriched uranium has the same energy content as 71,000 tonnes of natural gas.

Singapore imported 19.3 million cubic m of LNG last year. The uranium with the same energy is 104 tonnes in mass and 5.5 cubic m in volume.

Several years' reserves may be packed into a small, sand-shielded bunker underground.

Low-enriched uranium (LEU) may be stored indefinitely and safely with minimal risk of endangering life.

The cost of such a storage facility is insignificant.

LEU is traded around the world. The LEU Bank of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort, and will be a physical reserve available for eligible IAEA member states.

With energy assured, generations of Singaporeans could sleep easy. Electricity would desalinate water for consumption and produce hydrogen for transportation.

Uranium will never be exhausted. There are an estimated 4 billiontonnes of it in the ocean and research is ongoing to mine it economically.

NUCLEAR IS SAFE

There are more than 450 nuclear power plants (NPPs) in operation and 60 under development. France produces 72 per cent of its energy with nuclear material - and is quietly selling it to Germany. Eleven other European countries produce 29 to 54 per cent of their power with nuclear.

South Korea leads Asia with a figure of 30 per cent. The US leads the world with an NPP capacity of 100GW. Former US president Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump have been reviving NPP initiatives. China leads the world in researching and developing new nuclear technologies. India is not far behind.

Fears about radioactive waste and reactor meltdowns are founded on ignorance. Sadly, little is done to correct the misconceptions.
Fears about radioactive waste and reactor meltdowns are founded on ignorance. Sadly, little is done to correct the misconceptions. Schools and universities need to introduce modules on carbon emission and climate change, dispel misconceived notions of radiation and inculcate awareness that fossil fuels could be depleted before the end of this century.

Contrary to popular belief, nuclear is the safest of all energy. NPPs cause 90 deaths per trillion-kWh (including Fukushima and Chernobyl). The corresponding figures for oil, natural gas and solar plants are 36,000, 4,000 and 440 deaths respectively. The low rate of death is all the more remarkable considering half the reactors surveyed are older than the average hydrocarbon power plant.

DEPLOYABLE NPP

Unless vast empty land is available, floating NPPs are the solution of choice.

It is faster and less costly to move an NPP than to evacuate thousands of people around it. Besides, tsunamis, earthquakes and rising sea levels make land-based NPPs vulnerable. NPPs mounted on floating structures are feasible.

An NPP submerged in water has no possibility of incurring a runaway heat escalation in its reactor core since it is easy to include redundant passive cooling systems that activate naturally by laws of physics. There are also robust solutions to address issues of terrorism, spent fuel disposal, proliferation, tsunamis, and objections from neighbouring countries, radiation poisoning and danger to port activities.

Floating NPPs are on drawing boards, production lines and launching berths in China, Russia, the US, France and South Korea. The myths about the oceans being radioactively poisoned are just that: myths. The reality is that conventional power plants are wreaking havoc in our biosphere.

Can Singapore build these?

Singapore has the necessary expertise and facilities to collaborate with an organisation in the US, France or China to develop, construct, manage and deliver such assets globally. The Economic Development Board could play an important role to forge links between these potential partners and our shipyards, which badly need a second wind.

•The writer is the managing director of Emas Consultants, a shipyard planning company.


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New National Energy Transformation Office to coordinate energy efforts

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — A new National Energy Transformation Office has been set up to plan and coordinate energy research and development, as well as policies for the adoption of game-changing energy solutions.

The office will look at ways to improve industrial energy efficiency and deployment of solar energy, for instance. It will work with the National Environment Agency, Singapore Economic Development Board, Land Transport Authority and Building and Construction Authority, among other agencies.

Heading the office is Mr Toh Wee Khiang, who was the programme director for a low-carbon district project at the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University (ERI@N). He was previously in the public service for 20 years.

Announcing the new office at the opening of the Singapore International Energy Week on Monday (Oct 23), Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean noted major changes in the energy landscape, including the falling cost of solar energy, batteries as well as energy storage systems. Singapore is in the process of developing strategies to achieve long-term clean energy deployment and energy efficiency.

For instance, JTC Corporation called a tender last month for the installation of movable solar panels on Jurong Island.

While companies here improved their energy efficiency by 0.6 per cent in 2015, the target is a rate of 1 or 2 per cent, as seen in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, said Mr Teo.

The public sector is also looking to hire 250 more power engineers as power systems form the backbone of critical infrastructure such as transportation, utilities and buildings.

During a question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr Teo was asked about the carbon tax to be imposed on power stations and other large direct emitters from 2019.

He said the carbon tax would correctly price the environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Teo said he was glad to see many companies, including BP and Shell, viewing the tax as “positive measure”.

The carbon tax is not intended to be a “revenue-generating measure” and the authorities have been actively talking to the industry, added Mr Teo.

Singapore setting up energy transformation office; public sector to hire more engineers
RACHEL MUI and ANDREA SOH Business Times 23 Oct 17;

WITH disruptive changes happening in the energy landscape, the Singapore government is setting up a National Energy Transformation Office (Neto) and will hire more engineers to pursue innovative energy solutions, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Singapore International Energy Week.

The office, which will be within the Energy Market Authority (EMA), will synergise efforts across different government agencies and coordinate research, development and demonstration (RD&D) funding, enabling the adoption of transformational energy solutions.

Toh Wee Khiang will head Neto as its director. Prior to this, Mr Toh was the programme director for a low carbon district project at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N). He has spent 20 years in the Singapore public service with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

Among others, Neto will work closely with agencies such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the Housing Development Board (HDB) and PUB.

Additionally, the public sector will need 250 more power engineers, said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security. Power systems form the backbone of critical infrastructure such as transportation, utilities and buildings, and the EMA will lead the development of manpower capabilities for this sector.

To further ensure environmental sustainability and energy security, international cooperation is needed. Therefore, Singapore will work closely with Asean members, dialogue partners and international organisations to deepen energy collaboration in clean energy, natural gas and LNG (liquefied natural gas), as well as the financing of energy investments when it takes up the Asean chairmanship in 2018.


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In this heat, Southeast Asia's economies may take a hit

Apart from generating personal complaints about the weather, rising temperatures could have serious impact for national labour productivity, says Verisk Maplecroft’s Richard Hewston.
Richard Hewston Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: If you think it’s hot out there today, spare a thought for the thousands of workers who struggle through their workday without the sanctuary of air conditioning.

As many as 500 million people in Southeast Asia are regularly exposed to a combination of temperature and humidity that can produce severe heat-related health issues.

Workers in agriculture, construction and shipping are particularly vulnerable, but garment workers may also find themselves at risk in sweltering factories with poor or no climate-control.

With heat stress impeding the ability of workers to do their jobs effectively, and costing the global economy an estimated US$300 billion every year, the threat of even warmer conditions in the future with global warming could have serious implications for Southeast Asia’s economies.

FEELING THE HEAT

Heatwaves have claimed tens of thousands of lives in recent years.

In Asia, during the record-breaking heatwave in India and Pakistan in 2015, thousands of people, mainly construction workers and farmers, died as temperatures reached a blistering 50°C.

Spikes in electricity demand for air conditioning led to power failures that disrupted businesses and critical services, while construction work was suspended, taxi drivers stopped driving and farmers watched as their crops wilted.

Exposure to a combination of high temperature and humidity can result in heat stress in humans and animals, with symptoms ranging from confusion and dizziness to fatigue and nausea, and in extreme cases, death.

People most at risk include the elderly, young children and the unwell.

But it is workers in labour-intensive industries who bear the brunt and the impact goes beyond those at the personal level.

Excessive heat and humidity causes workers to slow down. They are prone to making more mistakes and the risk of injuries increases. Ultimately, this can and does reduce the work capacity and labour productivity of countries in hotter regions like Southeast Asia.

Research shows that a combination of temperatures higher than 25°C and humidity in excess of 55 per cent can produce heat stress conditions.

This type of weather prevails about 90 per cent of the time in Singapore.

But the risks to labour capacity in the air-conditioned nation are mitigated by widespread climate-control and a workforce that predominantly resides in office settings.

WILL RISING TEMPERATURES COOL GROWING ECONOMIES?

Although climate change is increasingly viewed through an economic lens, the potential impact of a warmer climate on labour capital has been largely overlooked.

With average temperatures in Southeast Asia set to rise by up to 2°C by mid-century, the impact of heat stress on future productivity levels could be significant.

According to our climate projections and corresponding impact of heat stress on national labour productivity, Southeast Asia is set to experience the greatest loss in labour capacity due to heat stress compared to other regions worldwide, with a projected 16 per cent decrease by 2045.

Singapore faces the greatest potential decline with a projected 25 per cent decrease, followed by Malaysia (24 per cent), Indonesia (21 per cent) and the Philippines (16 per cent).

However, Singapore’s economy is somewhat insulated from these impacts. With the cushion of a wealthy, developed economy and predominantly white collar workforce, it’s estimated that annual heat-related losses in 2030 could be limited to US$0.2 billion, less than 0.02 per cent of Singapore's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Not an insignificant amount, but other markets in the region are set to be hit harder.

With around a third of the population employed in agriculture in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, reduced worker productivity is projected to take a serious bite of the economy: US$85 billion (10.7 per cent of GDP) in the Philippines, US$150 billion (7.2 per cent of GDP) in Thailand and US$250 billion (4.3 per cent of GDP) in Indonesia.

While air-conditioning could be Singapore’s saviour, our data suggests its annual number of cooling days, which reflects the amount of energy required each year to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, is set to increase by 17 per cent over the next three decades.

As one of the world’s biggest per capita energy consumers and a country largely reliant on imported energy, this figure suggests a potential risk posed by global warming to the nation’s continued economic growth.

BEATING THE HEAT

More prevalent heat stress conditions will lead to a drop in productivity, with the associated financial losses felt by the worker, at the corporate level and by the wider economy.

The International Labour Organisation recommends a range of measures to combat heat stress in workers, including access to drinking water, frequent rests and seasonal adjustment of output targets.

But ultimately, as global temperatures increase, there will be no way to win back the lost labour capacity. By 2030, it is estimated that reduced productivity could cost the global economy more than US$2 trillion.

With much of this loss expected to occur in Southeast Asia, there’s an urgent need for new, radical but sustainable techniques to counter heat stress in the future, especially in countries where a sizable portion of the workforce operate outdoors.

Sowing rice at 2am under flood lights? High-rises going up under giant sun-shades and misting machines? Possibly.

But in the meantime, perhaps pause for thought the next time you complain the air conditioning is on too high and the office is too cold.

Dr Richard Hewston is Principal Environmental Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.


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Malaysia: MNS questions Penang's seriousness in imposing stricter conditions on projects

SOO WERN JUN New Straits Times 22 Oct 17;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar has alleged that many projects approved by Penang state government do not follow the guidelines provided in the existing structure plan.

He claimed that the discovery was made after several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and MNS had engaged with experts to inspect and conduct surveys on the development sites in the state.

“The structure plan allows for developments of certain sizes but not to the density level of this 49-story-building. The area cannot support such a dense structure.

“Prior to the approval of these projects, it was stated in the guidelines that the state government should impose stringent conditions to prevent landslides from happening in these sensitive areas.

“But sadly, it does not look like there have been stringent conditions imposed on the projects prior to approval,” he said when contacted.

Responding to the Tanjung Bungah landslide that happened on Saturday morning, Kanda said the attention drawn to whether the landslide happened due to a quarry located near the construction site was irrelevant.

“It did not matter which came first. Whether the quarry or the structure came first is not the question. Either way, both cannot exist together.

“If the state government knew the quarry existed, it should not have approved the project at Tanjung Bungah.

“Similarly, if the structure had existed, the quarry should not have been approved. They are both too near to each other and hence causing disruption to the environment,” he explained.

On reports that the quarry was approved by the previous state government, Kanda said: “Whether or not these projects were approved by the previous state government, the current state government has the power and authority to impose stricter conditions prior to project approvals.

“These projects only had their plans approved, but had not received building approval. The current state government could have done something to prevent damage to the environment,” said Kanda.

He said many years back, MNS together with environmental NGOs in Penang had repeatedly called for the state government to halt all hillslope developments.

These calls grew stronger following the last landslide incident that happened at Taman Lau Geok Swee in Paya Terubong.

“There were several previous landslides such as the landslip that happened on the road from Relau heading to Balik Pulau and the road heading towards Teluk Bahang.

“But the landslide that occurred in Tanjung Bungah yesterday that buried 14 people alive is one of Penang’s most deadly landslide tragedy.

“How many more of these landslides that has to happen for the state government to take things seriously?” said Kanda when contacted.

DAP state assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu had also said earlier that there are still 10 other development projects pending, but his plea to save the hills has been constantly ignored.

According to Teh, some of the projects will be located near hillsides and more planned along the coastline where a few are projected to be 50 to 60 storeys-high.

Tanjung Bungah is one of the few residential areas on the island with a low population density.


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Malaysia: Encroaching foreign fishermen unfazed by fines or prison

The Star 23 Oct 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The burning of vessels, hefty fines and threat of imprisonment have not deterred foreign fishing boats from encroaching on Malaysian waters, especially in the peninsula, the minister in charge of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim said foreign vessels were getting more aggressive by impro­ving their tactics, all because of the promise of an abundant catch.

“They are becoming more daring and are coming in larger numbers. They now operate with motherships, each leading a group of smaller boats,” he said.

Dr Shahidan, when visiting the patrol vessel KM Arau at the Sepanggar Naval Base yesterday, said foreign vessels ignored warnings from Malaysian authorities.

Dr Shahidan said the navy would work with other security agencies to tackle the issue.

Among the approaches that would be taken were adding more assets and increasing patrols and security presence, most probably in waters off Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan, he added.

As for Sabah, he said the incidence of foreign vessels encroaching on Malaysian waters was considered under control.

He also said that foreign vessels also preferred Malaysian waters because it was safer here than other countries, like the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Dr Shahidan said that cases of Malaysian fishing companies hiring Vietnamese vessels and foreign workers were also a cause for concern.

Local companies found operating with expired licences would be penalised between RM500 and RM1,500 when caught for the first three times, while foreign captains arrested would be fined up to RM1mil, and crew, RM100,000.

“The foreigners arrested will al­ways choose to go to jail, while local companies always pay the fine since the amount is so low,” he said.


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Thailand: Dept backs stand on dugong hunt

Bangkok Post 24 Oct 17;

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) yesterday insisted it did not fabricate evidence of dugong hunting in Trang, as claimed by wildlife advocacy groups.

Department director-general Thanya Nethithammakul yesterday said the agency had nothing to gain from framing villagers for dugong hunting, as its duty was to preserve the seacow-like mammal.

Mr Thanya also asked wildlife activists not to point the finger at anybody for the drop in dugong numbers, but instead cooperate with officials to conserve the species and improve the fertility of seagrass habitats.

The DNP chief's comment came after a Trang artisanal fishery network disputed a report released by Mr Thanya last week on the drop in the mammal's population in the province.

The report claimed dugong populations are being threatened by a loss of fertility in the seagrass habitat and disturbance due to fishing gear and hunting.

Currently, less than 200 dugongs live in Thai waters, of which around 130-150 are found along the coastline of Koh Libong in Trang's Kantang district.

A department source also said the island was a black market where the sale of dugong fangs and bones could fetch up to 10,000 baht per kilogramme while the mammal's meat could fetch 150 baht per kilogramme.

The source claimed to have posed as a customer to buy meat believed to belong to dugong. The meat was sent to a Phuket-based marine biological centre which later confirmed it was real dugong meat.

Following these claims, fishery network chief Aren Prakong criticised the report, insisting villagers on Koh Libong have been taking part in the preservation of dugong for the past three decades.

He said they were disheartened by Mr Thanya's accusation.

Mr Thanya said he or his deputy Pinsak Suraswadi would visit Trang to discuss the issue with residents and wildlife networks tomorrow to build understanding among villagers.

He also asked villagers who have information about dugong hunting to cooperate with the agency.


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Indonesia, Australia develop strategy to eradicate illegal fishing

Antara 24 Oct 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Republic of Indonesia and Australia are collaborating to develop a strategy to eradicate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in a number of areas.

Aryo Hanggono, Expert Staff of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister for Ecology and Marine Resources Field, stated in a press release received on Monday that the strategy development was carried out, among others, by conducting a joint seminar.

The seminar was organized by Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) of Australia at the ministry office on Oct 20.

The seminar entitled "Enabling Law Enforcement at Sea Through Improved Use of Monitoring and Surveillance Datasets" was a form of cooperation between the Indonesian and Australian governments to detect the loading and unloading of fish in the sea and to monitor the movements of ships involved in illegal fishing.

According to Hanggono, Indonesia is the third largest fish catcher in the world, with major export to Asian countries and United States of America.

However, he stated that in 2006, Indonesia was estimated to suffer a loss of US$2 billion, of which the amount of illegally caught fish reached 1.5 times the legal capture.

He also believed that one of the territorial waters in Indonesia that became an area of IUU Fishing was the Arafura Sea.

"Two locations that are prone to illegal fishing are the Arafura Sea and Indian Ocean. As we know, the Arafura Sea is a golden fishing zone in Indonesia. We can catch fish throughout the year here, irrespective of the season," he explained.

Meanwhile, he called for the joint monitoring of the Indian Ocean region by Indonesia and Australia, because the sea was very wide.

According to a number of studies, the global current total value of losses due to IUU Fishing was estimated to be from $10 billion to $23.5 billion every year.

Meanwhile, Indonesias national economic losses reached 26 million tons of fish per year from 11 million tons, or more than 20 percent of the global total capture fishery production. (*)


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Best of our wild blogs: 23 Oct 17



28 Oct (Sat): Mangrove fun at Pasir Ris for the Parks Festival
wild shores of singapore


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Two studies launched to monitor marine trash in Singapore

KELLY NG Today Online 22 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE — Efforts to track the growing problem of marine trash are gathering pace, with local researchers to conduct two studies that will help uncover the state of microplastic pollution here.

The International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore, is partnering the National Parks Board to monitor debris and microplastics at nine coastal sites such as East Coast Park, Coney Island and Sisters’ Island Marine Park.

The two-year study will involve monthly sampling of larger microplastic particles, measuring between 1mm and 5mm, with the help of the community. It aims to uncover seasonal trends of marine pollution through a more representative database.

Currently, data on marine waste here is only tabulated during the annual cleanup event held in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup in September. Items picked up from other coastal clean-up events held during the rest of the year are not monitored.

According to figures from the last five years, foam pieces, plastic beverage bottles and cigarette butts are the top three items found.

Last year, the 10 most-collected items of marine trash all contained some form of plastic. Various animals, such as horseshoe crabs and seahorses, were also found entangled in fishing nets, according to last year’s data.

While existing data offers a snapshot of the marine waste situation in Singapore, the upcoming study will provide “higher resolution data” that can help stakeholders trace the source of waste, said Mr N Sivasothi, who leads the cleanup effort in Singapore.

Microplastics, which generally range from 10 nanometres to 5mm in size, have generated growing concern among scientists due to their sheer pervasiveness and effects that are not yet fully known. The Guardian reported in September that researchers found 83 per cent of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations contaminated with plastic fibres.

Microplastics may originate from weathered remnants of larger plastic waste and other products — such as microbeads in cosmetic products, microfibers from synthetic fabrics during the laundry process and rubber debris from vehicle tyres.

In a separate study, Singapore has joined forces with nine other countries in the Western Pacific to develop a standard protocol for monitoring plastic particles that have accumulated on stretches of beaches.

The result of a workshop on marine microplastics organised by the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific in September, the initiative will include detailed procedures for handling and categorising the plastic particles picked up, the tools to use, and sampling sites in each partner country.

The sampling sites in Singapore include the beaches at Changi and East Coast, Pulau Semakau, Pulau Hantu and Lazarus Island.

The other countries involved are Bangladesh, South Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The latter five countries are the source of 55 to 60 per cent of plastic polluting the oceans, according to a recent study by advocacy group, the Ocean Conservancy.

Among the participating countries, only China and South Korea have existing laws to combat plastic pollution. China bans marine dumping while South Korea bans the use of microbeads in cosmetics. They are also the only two countries that have published data on plastic waste.

The 10 countries will reconvene next September to report the status of microplastic pollution and discuss ways to enhance monitoring efforts, such as by expanding the scope of sampling to include surface waters and plastics consumed by animals.

National University of Singapore Chemistry professor Dr Suresh Valiyaveettil, who specialises in plastics research, said a concerted effort to monitor marine trash will help to improve design solutions and regulations to minimise local sources of such waste.

“It would be nice to introduce plastic-free days in a week throughout Singapore, provide alternate paper products or (encourage consumers to) carry (their) own containers…Like the European Union, we could set up machines in supermarkets (for consumers to) return the empty cans and bottles,” said Dr Valiyaveettil, who spoke at a public workshop on plastic pollution last Thursday (Oct 19).

Dr Serena Teo, deputy director of research at the Tropical Marine Science Institute said beyond monitoring, the Republic should do more to develop “sustainable solutions to replace and reduce use of plastic and other poorly degradable materials”.

“Monitoring and clean-up is all fine and good, but the time has come to take a big step further as we produce plastic faster than we can ever hope to clear up. So on the technology and industry end, we seriously need to ramp up efforts,” she said. “Otherwise, the efforts of the many (members of the) public who are trying to clean up is futile… We have to also ask ourselves what useful things can we do with all the plastic waste after it is collected.”


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