Top Down Impetus: States can Drive Sustainable Change

Despite the majority of climate change mitigation efforts currently coming from consumers, some governments are waking up to the merits of encouraging sustainable policies. China, Singapore and the state of Victoria in Australia are all pushing back against carbon heavy traditions. By Jeremy Torr.

Singapore, March 28 2018. Singapore, one of the most densely built up and energy dependent nations on the planet, is to offer a new solar energy option to householders in its Jurong region.

 Sunseap's rooftop solar installations will power Singapore homes in Jurong. Courtesy Sunseap.

Sunseap's rooftop solar installations will power Singapore homes in Jurong. Courtesy Sunseap.

Starting in April 2018, residents in the township of Jurong can opt to run appliances like televisions, laptops and washing machines with clean solar energy. The initiative, a first in Singapore, will use the existing power supply network. This is the rational solution as most of Jurong’s residents live in high-density housing development board (HDB) blocks which would be very difficult to rewire for local solar installations.

The companies that will supply the power, telco StarHub and PV startup Sunseap,   will offer householders the option to switch off their existing (mostly gas or oil powered) electricity supply and go solar without the hassle of owning or installing solar panels. The new JV will see StarHub’s network skills allied to rooftop solar company Sunseap’s existing generation capability.

 Australian state initiatives on housing construction will save both energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Courtesy Domain. 

Australian state initiatives on housing construction will save both energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Courtesy Domain. 

“We are excited to offer households a … lower carbon footprint [option]’” said Howie Lau, StarHub Marketing Officer. “We will bundle essential services like mobile, pay TV, broadband and electricity in attractive environmentally-aware packages for customers,” he added.

And in Australia, the Victorian government is to inject more than AUD$2 million into a pilot project that will push homebuilders to build zero net carbon homes. The new Zero Net Carbon Homes initiative will see Sustainability Victoria partner with land developers and builders to promote solar energy and low-loss housing developments, instead of the notorious “build it quick and wait for the aircon bills” approach that is the norm on many existing poorly designed and insulated developments.

Through the program volume builders will have access to consultants at both design and construction stages, and also marketing help to promote sell the benefits of net zero homes through lower heating and cooling bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and increased comfort, health and wellbeing.

 "This pilot will help provide affordable, year-round comfort” - Stan Krpan, Sustainability Victoria. 

"This pilot will help provide affordable, year-round comfort” - Stan Krpan, Sustainability Victoria. 

“By participating in the Zero Net Carbon Homes Pilot, builders can offer their customers homes that are affordable to heat and cool and provide year-round comfort,” said Stan Krpan, Sustainability Victoria CEO. “Offering more zero net carbon homes will diversify our building stock, stimulate the economy and reduce bills for homeowners.”

Sustainability Victoria described the new housing market as “one of the biggest, most readily available and untapped opportunities for emission reductions, cost savings, improved health and wellbeing,” in the state. And with around two million dwellings due to be between over the next 30 years, the scheme should see significant impact on both consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, both immediately and in ongoing scenarios. 

And in China, often the recipient of brickbats for its greenhouse gas emissions, the central government is promoting what it calls an “‘ecological red line’ program. This will clamp down on what it sees as ‘irrational development’ in areas near rivers, forests, and national parks across all provinces and regions. Better still, the government has also committed to restoring some of its ravaged timber resources. It aims to help revegetate damaged forests and wetlands, as well as plant new ones. It is aiming to plant some 6 million hectares of trees in 2018 alone, an area the size of Ireland, and is pressing over 60,000 soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army to help out with shovels on the ground.

 China's Army is being used to help plant millions of new trees. Courtesy China Daily.

China's Army is being used to help plant millions of new trees. Courtesy China Daily.

The ultimate objective of this re-timbering push is to see almost 25% of the country’s landmass planted with thriving timber stands by 2020 compared to just over 20% at the moment. And it’s not just a flash in the forest; China has already spent some US$82 billion on planting trees over the last five years, which has seen more than 33million hectares of forest reinstated.

As well as hardware and supply initiatives, many of these new state-driven projects are backing up the adoption of sustainable policy with incentives. In Singapore, the new solar supply JV will channel 5% of its initial profits into a Clean Energy Fund. This will help drive more environmental conservation initiatives across clean energy and efficiency sectors. “Clean energy has been gaining ground in Singapore and we hope to further energise this green movement,” added Lau.