The power of intelligent, long-term, strategic planningA worldwide race to decarbonize is on, and each country’s performance relies on policy, ingenuity, and smart infrastructure. What does the race look like in Singapore?
Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 website proudly states that the city-state started its “green journey way before ‘Climate Change’ became a catchphrase”.
Indeed, efforts to create a sustainable Singapore began (in an official sense) over thirty years ago, with the release of the nation’s first Green Plan in 1992. That was the same year of the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro – often seen as the start of decades of United Nations summits and global accords on climate change, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
Singapore’s early awareness of the importance of sustainability is perhaps born out if its unique set of challenges. “Singapore has no hydro-electric resources, and limited access to other clean energy options such as solar, geothermal, wind or tidal power,” says Sunil Kumar Yadav, Head of Building Performance and Sustainability (ASEAN) at Siemens in Singapore. “The small size and high population density also make it unsuitable for biomass or nuclear energy production. As a result, the nation imports most of its energy resources, and this is a key reason behind Singapore’s long-established focus on efficiency and sustainability.”
Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 is comprehensive and ambitious. By 2030 the country aims to reduce the amount of waste to landfill per capita per day by 30%; green 80% of buildings (by Gross Floor Area); triple the cycle path network; and plant one million trees to support the nation’s “city in nature” vision. These are just a few of dozens of other specific goals, many with nearer, mid-decade targets.
What is the New Space Race?
A New Space Race is a Siemens Smart Infrastructure thought leadership study about how infrastructure stakeholders view the immediate and longer-term future of our built environment and energy systems.
It is based on a survey of 501 senior infrastructure stakeholders from 10 countries as well as in-depth interviews and desk research. The research covered mainly commercial real estate (e.g. office towers, campuses, hospitals, data centers, or factories), public sector assets (e.g. community centers, transport hubs, education assets, or healthcare infrastructure), and energy assets (e.g. electricity grids, gas networks, wind farms, etc). Respondents were involved in infrastructure as owners, developers, or operators.
Singapore has no hydro-electric resources, and limited access to other clean energy options.Sunil Kumar Yadav, Head of Building Performance and Sustainability (ASEAN) at Siemens in Singapore
Singapore has turned its challenges into advantages, harnessing the benefits of its small size and high density, which allow for strong governance and natural efficiencies. The nation is often held up as an example of best practice in areas like healthcare, transport and sustainability.
Careful, consistent, long-term planning has been vital, particularly in such a compact nation. Indeed, in our survey, Singapore respondents led all other countries in prioritizing the integration of future infrastructure with surrounding assets. Most other countries have more room – literally and figuratively – to make mistakes, change course, or implement upgrades.
Singapore respondents were, however, less confident – some might say, more realistic – about their organization’s net zero ambitions. Only half (50%) are of the opinion that their organization will be a net zero contributor to global carbon emissions in, or before, 2025 – well below the average for all countries in the survey (66%).
There are other signs that Singapore respondents appreciate the full complexity of decarbonization and the energy transition. Less than half (47%) believe that the world can transition to net zero without carbon taxes, compared to an all-country average of 63%.
There is a sense of confidence in Singapore’s strategy to take on the challenge of a low carbon or net zero economy.Sunil Kumar Yadav
Alongside fiscal and regulatory levers, technological innovation is also going to be key to Singapore’s future infrastructure. Respondents from the city-state have the highest expected impact for AI-driven prediction and automation on infrastructure assets, projects, or investments over the next five years.
However, a large proportion of Singapore respondents (77%) believe that the digitalization of buildings and power networks is lagging the digitalization of most other industries – higher than the average of 63%.
Like all of Singapore’s challenges, there is a strategic plan in place to address this. Among other measures, the Green Plan 2030 will see the nation actively “seek new investments to be among the best-in-class in energy and carbon efficiency” and 80% of new buildings (by Gross Floor Area) will be SLE (Super Low Energy) certified from 2030.
“There is a sense of confidence in Singapore’s strategy to take on the challenge of a low carbon or net zero economy,” says Sunil Kumar Yadav. “A major reason for this is that the country has an abundance of talent and skills in key technologies and sciences, as well as a strong deep tech startup ecosystem that is harnessing things like AI and blockchain to create new opportunities and new possibilities for Singapore’s future infrastructure.”
Top 5 factors influencing future infrastructure development in SingaporeInfrastructure stakeholders in Singapore say these are the most important factors influencing future building and energy infrastructure projects.
Decarbonization perspectives from infrastructure stakeholders in India
Biggest impact technologies over the next five yearsSingapore's energy and building industry leaders rated these areas the most impactful on infrastructure development over the next five years.
We would like to extend a special thank you to the diverse set of industry leaders and experts who shared their ideas and insights with us as part of this study.
- Ali Alsuwaidi, vice-president of the Middle East Facilities Management Association
- Wayne Butcher, director at Grant Thornton UK LLP
- Ewan Jones, Partner at Grimshaw
- Jeremy Kelly, Research Director at JLL
- Kerstin Sailer, Co-Founder of Brainybirdz and Professor in the Sociology of Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
- Maia Small, Manager, policies and strategies at San Francisco Planning
- Steven Velegrinis, Head of Masterplanning at AECOM
- Christian Waglechner, senior development manager at CA Immobilien Anlagen AG (CA Immo)
- Michael Webber, Josey Centennial Professor in energy resources, mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and former chief science and technology officer at ENGIE
- Xiaohu Tao, Vice President, Business Innovation and Digital, in Energy Networks at E.ON
This thought leadership study is based on a survey, in-depth interviews and desk research. It is not an academic or scientific research paper. Our goal is not to provide any final answers, but rather to start conversations, stimulate thought, and encourage infrastructure stakeholders to reflect on what today’s megatrends mean for the future of our energy system and built environment.
The survey included 501 respondents from 10 countries. The countries involved include those large-scale and/or highly advanced infrastructure assets and ambitions. It was fielded in June and July 2021.