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EDB to reveal blueprint for clean energy industry next week

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia
20 March 2007

SINGAPORE: The government is set to announce the clean energy industry blueprint early next week.

This follows the announcement by a council chaired by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that Singapore will go big on clean energy to boost its economy.

Engineering experts said it is a step in the right direction.

In fact, tertiary institutions are already planning to groom the manpower needed for this new growth sector.

Environmentalists said clean energy helps to lower the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses.

And there are tangible benefits for the economy as well.

Singapore, blessed with many sunny days, is poised to gain, especially in growing the solar energy sector.

Experts also believe that Singapore is ready for this, given the technologies available here.

Professor Seeram Ramakrishna, Environmental and Water Technologies EXCO, National Research Foundation, said: "We have a very strong microelectronics industry which is based on silicon technology, and solar cell technology is really based on the silicon material. So we have strong accumulated engineering capabilities and that gives an extra edge in focusing on solar energy as one of the important areas.

"Solar energy research is going on across the campus in a couple of departments. For example, our material science and engineering, and our chemical engineering departments are primarily focusing on new material systems that absorb the light energy and convert into electricity."

Experts added that Singapore has much to gain by collaborating closely with countries which are leaders in the use of solar energy such as Japan, Germany and the United States.

By working closely with them, Singapore can harness certain technology areas which have yet to make their way here.

These disciplines include engaging those with expertise in electrical and materials engineering.

According to the government, close to 7,000 jobs could be created by 2015 in this new growth sector.

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Manpower Minister, said: "I think Singaporeans are very adaptable and once you put the training structures and right message, they will respond accordingly. I am quite optimistic about the next five years. We have made the right decisions and I think as we continue doing what we have done, we will reap the fruits of our investments."

Academics are confident that the government can work with the industry to prepare Singapore for the clean energy market.

"More talented Singaporean students will come in, and these students as well as a critical mass of faculty members working closely with the funding agencies, can participate in the process of bringing in this particular growth area into fruition," said Professor Seeram Ramakrishna.

A spokesman for the Economic Development Board (EDB) said it is definitely in talks with a number of major clean energy companies, both foreign and local.

EDB also hopes to announce some of these projects by the end of this year.

The Board believes that clean energy companies will benefit if they locate their operations in Singapore since Singapore can provide complex manufacturing expertise, an extensive supplier base and intellectual property protection.

Meanwhile, EDB also added that the clean energy sector currently falls under the New Businesses group in the organisation of the economic agency.

The New Businesses group in EDB focuses on two main strategic thrusts.

First, establishing new economic wealth generators for Singapore and second, to establish a first mover industry presence for Singapore in emerging or new industries, businesses and markets that Singapore is well-positioned to take advantage of and which also create the type of high-end jobs that would appeal to Singaporeans.

- CNA/so

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