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Once a resource-constrained country, Singapore invests in sustainable and efficient technology to cater for its energy needs

Solar panels used to power walkway lights

Singapore has faced many challenges in the last two decades, most notably in the energy sector. With limited renewable energy options, the island still relies heavily on imports. Typically, according to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCA), the average wind speed is not powerful enough to activate wind turbines, while calm seas limit tidal power generation. Not to mention that the country doesn’t have a river system with fast flowing water which makes hydroelectric power a rather impossible investment option, and nuclear plants are not safe due to the limited land area and population density.

Nevertheless, Singapore has committed to becoming a benchmark in green energy and to profit from one resource the island has abundantly: solar energy. Earlier this year, the NCCA announced that the country aims to increase solar deployment from 47MWp to 350 MWp by 2020. The goal is that renewable energy would represent 8% of all the power demand. In order to do so, the country is investing heavily in research and development, as well as in creating an attractive ecosystem for cleantechs.

One of the projects developed by the government is to install solar panels on rooftops of high-rise public buildings, as well as on water surfaces. The latter, pointed as a bold and innovative pilot program, has reached so many good results that it was recently extended to the ocean. Popularly known as ‘energy islands’, the structure will supply energy to industrial and residential areas. Yet, as the geographical limitation makes it harder for the country to expand indefinitely its solar power plants, the government has decided to invest in efficiency.

The University of Singapore is thus working on solar cells that convert more sunlight into energy, and is, to that end, is making them cheaper to be integrated into buildings. The cost of solar energy has also been reduced in the last decade, making it more competitive.

Last year, the government announced that six clean energy investments across the fields of solar, wind, microgrids and energy management will help position the country as Asia’s leading cleantech hub. Currently, more 100 than clean energy companies are part of this ecosystem and helping to attract research funds, as well as an elite team of researchers. The university has already 110 PhD students, half of whom have graduated and are working in the solar energy industry.

As the authorities have secured the funding and support for these projects, the future for clean energy in Singapore seems bright!

Singapore is the host city for the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF), organized by Horyou, the social network for social good. The event will be held in September 2018.

Wind and solar power generation in rural Japan

Eight years ago, the Fukushima nuclear disaster left an unimaginable trail of destruction in Japan and with a raging controversy over its nuclear energy on which it is highly dependent. Owing to the closure of many plants, the country significantly increased its energy imports and started to face the uncomfortable situation of being too dependent on fossil fuels coming from overseas. As the prices of energy soared and investments in renewable energy took a slow pace, the government started to set up a strategy for sustainable energy.

If there is ever a positive outcome from disasters, the Fukushima case which has resulted in the development of a plan to attract new, clean and secure alternative sources to Japan, stands as a good example. A year ago, still suffering from the consequences of the nuclear accident, the Japanese government announced a Strategic Energy Plan which set the goal to increase self-sufficient energy rate from 8% in 2016 to 24% in 2030.

With this plan, renewable energy will be pivotal. Knowing that the Paris Agreement commitments made by Japan limit the consumption of fossil fuels, the government will support other renewable sources, along with energy-saving programs, including solar and wind power. Large scale solar is still costly and unstable and the government is pushing for more technological innovation to turn it into a feasible alternative. Wind power is less expensive, but is not ideal in some regions of Japan, as the windiest regions are far away from the most energy-consuming territories, which would require the building of transmission lines and storage batteries.

While Japan invests in more sustainable options, fossil fuels and nuclear plants will still be part of the country’s energy mix. However, the plan stated that the government will promote efficiency and new generation power plants to minimize the environmental load in the long-run. The energy market was liberalized in 2016, when the government wanted to implement reforms that would not only enable better integration of renewable power generation but also an effective supply and demand ratio.

The next phase of the plan will take place in 2020 – power sector reforms and regulation will be implemented to make the energy market more open, competitive and supportive of renewable energy companies.

Want to know more about Japan, the host country of SIGEF 2019? Follow our posts on Horyou blog.

SIGEF 2019 will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal number 7 aims to provide clean, affordable and reliable energy for all, to further inclusion, opportunity and empowerment.

Photo: UNDP India

Almost 200 years after the invention of the first electric motor, there still are 1 billion people with no access to electricity. Half of them are in sub-Saharan countries, most in urban areas. It’s ironic that Africa, a region so rich in natural resources, always mentioned as the future test site for clean energy, still has a considerable part of its population in the dark.

It is both a wonderful opportunity and a threat – without clean and affordable energy, our future is at risk. How many innovators are losing the opportunity to put their ideas into practice? For how many more years are we to keep burning fossil fuels to provide our populations with energy? For how long will we continue to consume power without even thinking about its sources or effects on the environment?

According to the last UNDP account and despite all international agreements, the renewable share in final energy consumption has grown modestly from 2012 to 2014 from 17,9% to 18,3%, most of it from water, solar and wind-generated power. In the most developed and largest energy-consuming countries, however, an effort has been made – especially by reducing power consumption through greater efficiency in industry. The challenge is to increase this share even more, especially in sectors like heat and transport which account for 80% of global energy consumption.

Progress still falls short, but there are many remarkable initiatives in large and small scale that give hope and inspiration. One of the active organizations on our Horyou platform, Geres, Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity, is a French NGO that works with innovative and sustainable development projects around Europe-Mediterranean, West Africa, South-East Asia and Central Asia. From building electrified zones in Mali through to developing bioclimatic solutions in houses and farms in the Indian Himalayas, Geres has empowered communities for more than 40 years.

Other initiatives were presented during SIGEF 2016 in Marrakesh – one of the SIGEF Awards runner-ups was Pocket Rocket, a company focused on energy saving. Its products and services help to reduce the percentage of CO2 released in the air. Another one is Can Heat, a project which facilitates the manufacturing of solar water heater panels through the reuse of waste materials.

If you wish to support this SDG, you can do so through Horyou. Go to Horyou platform and choose an NGO or project that helps promote clean and affordable energy in your region or anywhere in the world. Your support can be made easier and more effective with Spotlight, our digital currency for impact. Check it out and start using it to engage in any cause you feel concerned about. Be the change, be Horyou!

Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg
Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg
The conversation on climate change has changed dramatically in the recent months as more and more evidence mounts that it is a present rather than future threat. The governments of the world converged at COP21 last December and reached an agreement to move towards a more sustainable mode of behavior in everything that we do. The negotiations then and there made politicians realize that fighting climate change is smart economic policy. They sent an important signal to businesses that hadn’t yet priced in the consequences of avoiding climate change, that no matter what industry they’re in, it will effect them.

Bloomberg The Future of Energy conference
Bloomberg The Future of Energy conference

The Bloomberg Future of Energy Summit held last week in New York City was different to any other year. It’s theme was ‘The Age Of Plenty’, alluding to the fact that we are in an era of abundant supply resulting in intense competition.

As the human and economic cost of fossil fuels become more apparent, the price of coal and oil are plummeting. And as technologies develop and more investment is funnelled into clean energies, renewables companies race for market share. Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies opened the conference of executives from both sides of the energy industry with a startling fact.

“Climate risks effects every industry and virtually the entire US equity market”. This statement, in front of a historically capitalist industry, brings climate change from an outlier position of ‘what we should do’ to an interested party’s position of ‘what we must do’ in order to survive. He alluded to education as a key agent of change. “The more businesses know, the better they’ll be able to mitigate against and the more we learn from each other, the faster progress will be”.

More than 5000 peer reviewed studies on climate change have been conducted in the last thirty years and each year has been warmer than the last. That’s thirty years of evidence that unless we change our behavior, we will inflict irreversible harm to infrastructure, health and life as we know it.

John Kerry, US Secretary of State and a vocal advocate on climate issues took his place on stage and cited a recent study that found if sea levels keep rising at the current rate, Manhattan could be under water by the year 2100. This may seem scary but irrelevant to you or I, as it will not be in our life time but these steady changes have massive short term implications that are already being felt across the world – food shortages, stronger storms, disease outbreaks and collapsing ecosystems.

These are the risks of inaction, but we must also focus on what has been done. Kerry highlighted that “There are already huge changes in the energy industry, $33 billion has been invested in renewables to date”. The realization that a transition to clean energy is good business sense has resulted in economies of scale for businesses, not to mention the thousands of jobs that have been and will continue to be created in this entirely new industry.

US Secretary of State John Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry

Another source of hope from Kerry’s perspective was that “Last year, for the first time, more of the world’s money was spent fostering renewable energy technologies than fossil fuel plants”, demonstrating a clear acceleration of the movement. There has also been a surge in renewables investment in emerging markets, otherwise known as “global growth markets”. This is significant, as the actions of emerging powerhouses like China make an impact across the world.

It is clear that the the future of energy will be the largest undertaking of public private partnership the world has ever seen. It’s the role of governments to facilitate the transition. They can provide the cap ex and put the incentives and frameworks in place to simplify the move towards clean energy but the stakeholders of industry themselves also have a responsibility. They must innovate, appropriately allocate their resources and commit to being part of this crucial change.

As the world warms with each year, the question remains will we get there fast enough. Secretary of State John Kerry closed the conference with John Eddison’s three essentials to achieving: Hard work, stick with it and common sense. Add Horyou’s values of positivity and solidarity and, collectively, we can move towards a cleaner, greener society.

Written by Dearbhla Gavin

How a technology initially designed to entertain is now changing urban landscapes

Block by Block is a collaboration between UN Habitat and Mojang

A popular game for kids and teens has turned out to be the inspiration behind smart city policies around the world. Thanks to a UN collaboration with a computer software company, citizens of all ages and backgrounds in places like Mexico, Haiti, Kenya and Gaza are literally playing an important role in redesigning public space.

Block by Block started as an initiative to get citizens more involved in the planning of public spaces through Mojang’s Minecraft computer game. Directly supporting the SDG11 (inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities), it gave tools to community members so they would develop plans that architects and governments could turn into reality. Since then, it has spread to a range of countries, from Vietnam to Haiti, Mexico and Somalia.

Known as a “digital Lego”, Minecraft was adapted to real-life cities, where people can suggest improvements and start building models for their communities.

In Kenya, the program started in 2017 as a way to bring refugees and locals closer together. The idea was to develop their design skills using the game and organize visits to physical sites that needed improvement. Even people with poor computer skills could learn quickly, due to the recreational nature of the project. Then, they would discuss the project and come up with ideas, many of them economically feasible and environmentally friendly. Some of the participants suggested tree-planting in order to provide more comfort and shade to the community and solar lights for clean energy – both projects duly implemented.

In Vietnam, the project has taken a strong gender approach. Girls were the main affected group, as they commute several miles every day to go to school, facing many safety challenges. Dark corners and dangerous passages were some of the problems they faced, and the solution came in the form of improved signage, lighted walkways and safe spaces like women-only coffee shops and shelters.

In addition to fostering collaboration, the Block by Block initiative also serves an important social function: that of developing computer skills in endangered communities and empowering minorities like women and refugees. Regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, digital technology is inclusive and for all; it leaves no one behind.

Finding inspiration in worldwide social and environmental actions

Our platform has always aimed to share social good and get inspiration from all the amazing projects we discover around the world. Horyou blog team puts the spotlight on some engaging stories about environmental and social actions worldwide:

Ivory Coast is using plastic waste to build schools

A beautiful initiative that helps to tackle at once plastic pollution and the lack of schools. UNICEF was partners with this cost-effective project that should inspire other communities.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-51213133/ivory-coast-is-using-plastic-waste-to-build-schools

Tilos, the first energy efficient island in Greece

Through its wind farms and solar panels, this small community has become self-sufficient as well as able to start new clean energy projects, such as promoting electric vehicles and charging stations.

https://www.themayor.eu/en/tilos-the-first-energy-efficient-island-in-greece

Housing first” policy addresses homelessness in Finland

Finland is the only country in Europe where homelessness in on the decline, thanks to this project that empowers dispossessed people by giving them social support and the chance to make a fresh start.

https://www.equaltimes.org/finland-s-housing-first-policy#.XkFZTjhKiUk

Innovation helps fight hunger in Jordan

Refugees at Za’atari camp in Jordan and a team of scientists from Sheffield in the UK are working together on finding a way to grow fresh food in old mattress foam.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-51466978/how-mattresses-could-solve-hunger

Brazilian scientists reduce coronavirus diagnosis from 48h to 3h

University researchers discovered a new method to identify the presence of coronavirus in human bodies, thus helping to tackle the current global health emergency. (News in Portuguese)

https://saude.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,pesquisadores-brasileiros-reduzem-espera-por-diagnostico-de-coronavirus-de-48-para-3-horas,70003190651

Do you have any good news and social actions to share? The Horyou Community is waiting to hear from you!

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