Air-con addicted Singapore seeks new ways to escape urban heat trap

By District Energy posted 09-28-2018 09:04


Robin Hicks, Eco-Business

Singapore uses more air-conditioning per person than any country in Southeast Asia, and is projected to use 73 per cent more energy on cooling from 2010 to 2030. Image: Eco-Business


Singapore is trapped in a vicious circle caused by urbanisation, exacerbated by climate change and locked in by a national obsession with keeping cool. The city is getting hotter. As it gets hotter, the air-conditioning is cranked up. The more air-conditioning that is blasted out, the hotter it gets.

The outside air in Singapore’s built-up areas, where buildings belch aircon exhaust day and night, is up to 7 degrees Celsius hotter than in the tropical island’s shrinking green areas, observes Professor Lee Poh Seng, deputy director of the Centre for Energy Research & Technology at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Lee has just founded a consortium of government, industry and academic thinkers called CoolestSG—short for Cooling Energy Science and Technology Singapore—to find new ways to tackle a cooling conundrum that is particularly acute in the tropical metropolis.

The amount of energy used to cool Singapore—which has more installed air-conditioning units per capita than anywhere in Southeast Asia—is projected to grow by 73 per cent between 2010 and 2030, according to Lee’s figures, as the built environment mushrooms to house a population projected to grow from 5 million in 2010 to just under 7 million over the next 12 years. 

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