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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

While many companies are still pursuing blind profits, these businesses are following the path of circular economy, transparency and technology for good

Doing Good, Doing Well is Horyou’s Media Partner

Do you know what your clothes are made of? Maybe of cotton obtained from monoculture fields, full of pesticides, or of organic hemp or cotton more environmentally friendly? You would probably know if it’s the latter – companies that walk the ‘green’ walk are making an effort to communicate to customers about their sustainable practices.

Companies like Patagonia, the apparel industry that, for decades, has invested in fair trade, sustainable supply chain and recycling projects, are examples of a growing business trend where transparency and commitment to the planet are the rules, while good revenues are a natural consequence. Ryan Gellert, general manager of Patagonia for Europe, was one of the executives invited to share his experience during the Doing Good, Doing Well (DGDW) conference, Europe’s biggest event on responsible businesses. Organized by MBA students of IESE Business School, the event took place in Barcelona, Spain, on 4-5 March.

Gellert’s keynote about Climate Crisis and the Role of Businesses went about the importance of being socially responsible not only as a business but about providing good quality jobs for employees and vendors, promoting thoughtful consumption among clients and pursuing carbon neutrality. It also went as a committed promoter of change. Besides the main apparel business, Patagonia has invested in documentaries about nature, has set a venture capital to support green businesses and has a project for grassroots environmental activists, among other social good actions. Gellert stressed the importance of consumers, employees and civil society to make changes through decisions like purchasing a product or applying for a job. “Individuals need to act and not only be someone who just falls into a path that was designed for them”, he said.

Another company that has shown its commitment to the future was Schneider Electric, represented by its Chief Strategy Officer, Emmanuel Lagarrigue. The company has developed many clean energy projects throughout the years, providing green, affordable solutions to big cities big or small communities in rural Africa or the Amazon rainforest. In his presentation “Better Businesses for a Better Planet”, he stated that the world has no space for greenwashing, or companies faking sustainable practices. “There are many recent examples of businesses lying about their commitment to the planet. At the age of digitization and transparency, it’s not allowed anymore. People are becoming more conscious and companies with these fake practices will be short-lived”, said Mr. Lagarrigue.

Isabel Garro, Special Adviser for the Agenda 2030, Spanish High Commission, gave an inspirational talk about how businesses should keep reinventing the future of our planet. “Every entrepreneur is a superhero because they work with purpose and passion. We have no right to be pessimistic”, she said.

The DGDW, a Horyou media partner, covers a range of topics like Future of Work. Feeding a 10 Billion World, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Follow DGDW and keep informed about their activities, and about Horyou’s coverage of the conference on Twitter.

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) and its side event 4YFN, have some successful experiences to share with the social good sector

The Mobile World Congress took place from 25-28 February, 2019

Until a few years ago, the social good world was considered as a unique entity, completely separated from the regular businesses. Although it had common goals with the public sector, it was then clear that the ‘charitables’ or ‘non-profits’ shared few traits with the for-profit industries. The good news is, these times are over. Last week, as I dug in two most disruptive conferences, the MWC and 4YFN, I learned not only that social businesses have never been more interesting to the tech industries, but that they have many lessons to learn about them. Here are some the tech industry takeaways for social entrepreneurs:

They want to invest in social businesses – Regardless of industry, many big corporations have substantial open innovation budgets to invest in startups that bring positive change in their businesses. Clean energy, sustainable mobility, simplified and accessible payment projects, affordable healthcare, all of these are examples of areas that are in the radar of big companies. There was never a better time for social businesses to be funded and supported by for-profit businesses.

Accountability and Traceability are the future – As we’ve been seeing with the many Blockchain projects that have been developed in the last few years – going from cryptocurrencies like HoryouToken with its Proof of Impact to Smart Contracts that bring transparency to documents – traceability is key and, luckily, more accessible than ever. The future lies in trustworthy information, as consumers want to know more about the supply chain of their food, clothes, medicines…

Don’t be afraid of Artificial Intelligence – One of the most awaited events of the MWC was a live medical procedure – a live surgery performed by a surgeon on the stage of MWC, while the patient was at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. The new technologies will allow exchanges that were almost impossible in the past, due to geographic barriers, distances and broadband limitations.

Internet of Bodies and Biohacking – I witnessed, shocked, a volunteer had a chip implanted in his own hand, live on stage. It now allows him to make payments or open doors with his ‘intra-device’, but the possibilities of the biohacking technology go far beyond that. It can help disabled people to be less dependent on carers, for example, and has a huge potential in developing solutions for dementia patients.

The Industry of Care – As populations are becoming long-lived in many countries, the industry of care has brought promising technological solutions. From apps that connect healthcare workers with families, providing traceable and monitored care to non-invasive procedures for chronic patients that use wearable devices to prevent hospitalizations, there is a range of affordable MedTech solutions that were developed by successful, social-good-oriented startups.

Do you want to share your social innovation solution with the world? Horyou, the social network for social good, is the perfect platform to do so. Be the change, be Horyou.

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Eight years ago, the Fukushima nuclear disaster left an unimaginable trail of destruction in Japan and with a raging controversy over its nuclear energy...