Smart City Solutions for Businesses and Singapore

Jason Goh, Vice President, Energy Business Unit, Schneider Electric Singapore

How would smart city solutions affect energy demand and supply for businesses? What are the key challenges and opportunities in implementing smart city solutions in Singapore?

To find out the answers, Green Business Singapore recently interviewed Mr Jason Goh, Vice President, Energy Business Unit, Schneider Electric Singapore, to hear his thoughts and insights.

1) What are the smart city solutions that could help businesses reduce energy demand or diversify their energy supply?

Based on Schneider Electric’s model of smart cities, there are five key pillars that make up a smart city, each having specific solutions which can help businesses leverage on the benefits of going smart:

Smart Buildings – As the population continues on its growth trajectory, so will the demand for housing and buildings. Making residential buildings smart will improve the quality of life, while for commercial office buildings it can also increase employee productivity, generate energy savings of up to 30%, reduce carbon emissions and meet assessment criteria from certification schemes like the BCA Green Mark. Our solutions such as building management systems as well as energy and carbon dashboards can help building owners monitor consumption by the minute, for better management of energy usage, costs, and carbon footprint.

Smart Water – Demand for clean, affordable water is growing along with urban populations as water is needed not only for drinking, but also for commercial and industrial purposes. Even Singapore, which has a very high quality water supply, has to continue maintaining this while catering to a growing populace. Hence, cities need to optimize water operations, management and planning to meet the growing demand for this critical resource. They can do so with smart water solutions, provided by companies like Schneider Electric, that can help manage and optimise the water network, identify and reduce water wastage in real time, as well as respond to urban floods that could take out the city’s transportation network. For industrial companies which depend a lot on water to play functions like cooling and so on, smart water makes their supply more efficient and reduces the percentage of wasted water, creating operational savings in the process.

Smart Energy Grid – The smart grid is all about creating the capability for electricity demand and supply to interact intelligently, and integrate intermittent renewable generation. With the smart grid, companies will be able to generate energy savings as consumption can be optimised to meet spikes and troughs in demand, as well as reduce related emissions.

Smart Mobility – As urban population increases, the entire transportation network – be it public or private – will be affected by increasing congestion, safety and breakdown issues which can delay commuters, burn up valuable fuel, and harm the environment. Even in countries like Singapore with one of the region’s most effective public transport networks, population growth is affecting the capacity of the transport system. Companies such as Schneider Electric are already taking proactive steps to work with city planners, implementing traffic and mobility management solutions which reduce congestion and improve traffic flow as well as ensure the efficient operation of the transportation network. For companies which rely heavily on logistics and supply chain efficiencies, this comes as a boon as an efficient transport system saves them time and money.

Smart Public Services – Services such as video monitoring and emergency coordination ensure citizen well-being and safety, while digital services improve the management of education, healthcare, government administration, and tourism. The quality of public services in a city plays an important role in making the city a desirable place to live and work, determines how attractive it is as a destination for talent to migrate to, and subsequently affects its competitiveness in the global economy. For all companies, this also affects the quality of the talent pool they can recruit from, and a smart city would offer them better opportunities to recruit the best talent from around the world.

2) Singapore’s new Energy Conservation Act requires affected companies to monitor and manage their energy consumption. Do you see more companies adopting smart energy meters and management system?

Singapore’s new Energy Conservation Act (ECA) requires large energy consuming companies to register with the National Environment Agency (NEA). Companies are required to implement mandatory energy management practices, including:

  • Appointing an energy manager
  • Monitoring and reporting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Submitting annual energy efficiency improvement plans

The ECA and other energy management standards such as BCA-IDA Green Mark, will definitely give companies more incentive to opt for greener practices in their operations. However, the driving force in adopting these smart energy meters and management systems are not solely because of regulations, but also the benefits that energy efficiency brings.

Schneider Electric’s projects around the world can back this claim: improving system efficiency brings tangible benefits, with up to 30% energy savings.

In the light of this, we definitely see a growing number of companies in Singapore adopting measures to manage their energy consumption. As more and more companies realise the impact that their energy consumption has – both on the bottom-line and environment – they begin to see the benefits energy management can bring. It provides a means to reduce energy usage in operations and provide substantial savings on the energy bill as well as reduce the carbon footprint in general.

In fact, we believe that energy efficiency trickles from the authorities to businesses all the way down to the household level, and the smarter use of energy will in the long run ensure enough energy for the needs of all.

3) What are the key challenges in implementing smart city solutions in Singapore?

Firstly, technology, which is one of the key enablers of the smart city, doesn’t exactly come cheap, and would require huge capital expenditure. In the current economic climate, all parties are more cautious about spending, and this will further reduce available funds for investing in developing the necessary infrastructure.

Project management is hugely complex, and involves managing a complicated value chain comprised of several departments, as well as global and local players who have differing sets of understanding and expertise. Navigating this chain effectively requires not only strong public leadership, but also committed stakeholder buy-in, and involvement from all levels of the community.

Schneider Electric’s view of smart cities is one of collaboration, and this is where challenges could arise in getting private sector institutions to partake in making Singapore a smart city. Another key stakeholder in this equation is the public, and incremental steps to individual systems are one of the best ways to increase public confidence in the improvements required to create a smart city. As this gradual approach alleviates immediate pain points, there is a stronger chance of getting public buy-in in the long run.

In terms of mobility, the government also needs to start promoting alternative transport models and make them more safe and convenient, as this will help reduce the strain on the current transportation network. However, there can be resistance from commuters who are so used to the air-conditioned comfort of taxis or their own cars.

4) In what ways can the Singapore government or the private sector help to address those challenges?

We would recommend a bottom-up, system-oriented approach to Smart Cities which can help Singapore realize a host of benefits from energy savings, reduced water loss, improved safety, and reduced travel network congestion:

Set a vision and roadmap for a smart city

  • Highlight goals and create a step-by-step strategic plan that outlines a timeframe of achievements and goals
  • Initiatives should be integrated and not exist in silos
  • The planning process needs to be collaborative and not come from the top-down as it will create resistance

Combine best in class hardware and software to improve operating systems

  • Start with solving the most immediate pain points to build confidence in the new technology
  • Leverage these results and apply them to other areas

Integrate various city sub systems for wider operational and informational efficiency

  • Sensor deployment is needed to collect data, which will then be used for automating the management of city infrastructure, increasing efficiency
  • Integration of isolated systems and sharing of data yields further performance benefits as collaborative action can be taken
  • By measuring performance of city infrastructure systems, the government can identify problem areas and track the effectiveness of solutions

Continue innovating for a holistic and sustainable future

  • The most progressive smart city players are tapping innovative financial and business models to make efficient infrastructure a reality despite limited capital
  • Energy saving performance contracts (ESPCs) generate savings and these savings can be used to fund more projects for the smart city

Drive collaboration between global and local players as well as across the entire smart city value chain

  • Effective development and execution of a smart city roadmap requires collaboration from all stakeholders
  • Silos need to be broken down, success will come from combining public governance, people ownership and business collaboration, driving communication between these groups by giving each of them a true stake in the smart city built out of their community

To cope with these challenges, Singapore needs to evolve to become a smart city. The evolution will give Singapore the capabilities to manage this targeted growth in a controlled way, and we will start to see the city-state realise threefold benefits.

  1. We will see a more efficient city, and improved resiliency of the city’s systems – such as public transport, electricity and public services – to any disruption.
  2. We will have a more sustainable city, leading to lower operational costs as a result of optimized energy consumption, and a decreased need for massive infrastructure investments.
  3. Additionally, the first two benefits will also translate into a higher quality of life for residents, increasing competitiveness and the ability to attract and retain a new generation of talent.

However, what makes a city really smart is how it can go beyond just optimising the performance of individual systems as described above, but also integrate all these systems in order to share information amongst the various city departments as well as with city residents. This then requires a new model based on collaboration between the government, private investors, industry suppliers, utilities, planners and developers, with people and communities at the center of discussion. Engaging all stakeholders and helping them understand the benefits will be crucial in enabling Singapore to become a smarter city.

5) Where do you see Singapore in terms of being a smart city in the next 10 years?

Singapore is one of the most forward thinking cities in Asia in terms of smart cities and the concept will certainly be realised in Singapore sooner than most. The increasing partnerships between governments and citizens, institutions and corporates, as well as initiatives like the 2-day Hackathon organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) in partnership with UP Singapore certainly displays a growing and strong momentum in encouraging involvement from the citizenry in the creation of a smart city model for Singapore. While all these initiatives and projects take time, we are confident that Singapore will eventually achieve her aim to become a more livable, competitive and sustainable city in the next 10 years.

About Jason Goh

Jason Goh Sia Tian is the Vice President of Schneider Electric Singapore’s Energy Business Unit. Aside from heading the energy business in Singapore and Brunei, Jason is also responsible for the business development and profitability in utilities as well as the oil and gas segments.

Jason has been with Schneider Electric for more than 20 years and holds several high profile appointments including Service and Projects Director, Marketing Director and Marine Activity Manager. Jason specialises in medium voltage (MV) and low voltage (LV) electrical distribution solutions as well as marine applications. Jason’s comprehensive technical expertise in this field has helped him meet and exceed clients’ rigorous requirements as well as open new business opportunities in this industry.

Source and image credit: Schneider Electric Singapore

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