NUS @ SIEW 2023: A beacon of innovation for a net-zero emissions future

Singapore’s ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is contingent on technological advances, such as the availability of low-carbon technologies, for instance, hydrogen as an alternative energy source as well as carbon capture, utilisation and storage. Collective action at all levels from research to policymaking is needed for such technologies to become viable strategies for Singapore to achieve its decarbonisation goals.

Themed “Energy Transition Towards a Net Zero World”, the 16th edition of the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) provides a platform for conversations between researchers, industry experts, policymakers and commentators on the best practices and solutions within the global energy space. SIEW 2023, which is currently ongoing, is held at Marina Bay Sands from 23 to 27 October 2023.

NUS has been playing a vital role in shaping the energy landscape in Singapore through innovations in research and development. This year, the University is showcasing its cutting-edge research projects and initiatives at SIEW 2023 to highlight its commitment to harness multidisciplinary research in order to pioneer transformative technologies that will facilitate Singapore’s transition to a net-zero emissions world by delivering sustainable energy solutions.

Innovations for a carbon-neutral future

In line with Singapore’s journey towards net-zero emissions by 2050, NUS is focusing its research to support the “4 switches” in the Singapore Energy Story – natural gas, solar, regional power grids, and emerging low-carbon alternatives – coupled with efforts to boost energy efficiency and reduce energy demand.

Examples of these research projects are on display at the NUS exhibition pavilion at SIEW 2023, offering attendees a glimpse into the future of sustainable energy solutions, from breakthroughs in renewable energy technologies to innovative methods to improve energy efficiencies.

In the area of carbon capture technologies, NUS researchers are devising ways to enable natural gas – which produces carbon dioxide during combustion to produce electricity – to be a sustainable energy source, as Singapore continues to rely heavily on natural gas as its main fuel to meet energy demands. Some innovative approaches currently under development in NUS’ labs include uncovering the potential of Covalent Organic Frameworks to capture and retain more carbon dioxide, as well as developing catalytic materials for carbon adsorption.

The University’s leadership in solar energy technologies is also highlighted at SIEW 2023. From improving the efficiencies of solar cells to successfully deploying new floating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that suit Singapore’s infrastructure, these projects stand as beacons of hope, enhancing Singapore’s potential to harness solar energy as a low-carbon alternative. Visitors to the NUS pavilion at SIEW 2023 are also enthralled by solar PV panels designed with Peranakan-inspired motifs. These pretty and functional solar PV panels provide a way for designers to harmonise solar panels into the architectural concept of a building to enable greater incorporation of these panels to tap into solar energy as an alternative energy source.

The shift towards renewable energy systems in Singapore’s power transmission and distribution networks will require changes in the design of electrical components as well as the control and storage of energy. One of the novel NUS solutions showcased at SIEW 2023 is the Smart Electrical Outlet/Socket (SEOS) system for monitoring and controlling household sockets that can potentially reduce energy consumption by 30 to 60 per cent. Another innovation on display is a low-cost battery system for stable and resilient storage of grid energy.

Pioneering practical solutions to climate challenges

Aside from these ground-breaking discoveries, NUS serves as a hub for sustainability-related research while it actively grows Singapore’s talent pool in sustainable energy technologies. Some of these initiatives are showcased at SIEW 2023.

The Campus as A Living Lab at NUS (CALL@NUS), for example, is an innovative platform that utilises the physical systems and infrastructure of the NUS campus, together with the innovative capabilities of the NUS Digital Twin, for researchers and industry partners to co-create and validate impactful and scalable sustainability solutions in a living and operational environment, for possible future implementation in Singapore and globally. These collaborative activities also offer unique learning opportunities for students to cultivate skills that are relevant for the green economy.

Visitors at SIEW 2023 can also find out more about the NUS Centre for Hydrogen Innovations. Established in 2022, this is a first-of-its-kind in Southeast Asia to tackle the challenges of using hydrogen as a low-carbon energy alternative and to develop research talent for a hydrogen economy.

Another ground-breaking initiative featured at SIEW 2023 is the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT), which will serve as an innovation hub for academia and industry partners to collaborate, develop and testbed energy-efficient cooling technologies for data centres in tropical climates.

Providing thought leadership for renewable energy adoption in ASEAN

To top off the week’s activities and discussions, the NUS Energy Studies Institute will be co-hosting a joint roundtable with the ASEAN Centre for Energy, on 27 October 2023, the final day of SIEW 2023. The roundtable will bring together renewable energy experts from the region to discuss the current and future energy investment landscape.

Conversations and presentations at the roundtable will focus on how ASEAN countries can close the gap between the current trajectory of renewable energy adoption and the targets set through identifying financial sources, setting budget allocation, and building strong collaborations between the public and private sectors. Associate Professor Lee Poh Seng, Executive Director of the NUS Energy Institute, will deliver the welcome remarks for the roundtable.

As a proud SIEW Energy Showcase Sponsor for the week-long event, NUS’ presence at SIEW 2023 demonstrates how the University serves as a catalyst for the net-zero emissions transition by pushing the boundaries of renewable energy technology research to create a sustainable energy future for Singapore.