Singapore has always enjoyed a reputation as a “Garden City” for being “clean and green” due to its effective management of the urban environment and maintenance of the green space. With a land mass of approximately 700 square km and population of 4.5 million, it has also invested heavily on the environmental infrastructures such as waste water treatment and waste disposal facilities. Most recently, it has embarked on the recycling and reuse of the water resources under a program called “Newater” which has become a model for many countries to follow.

It is now 2008, energy security dominates international stage, crude oil price is nearing a record high of over $100 US a barrel, global warming and climate change are now household concerns. Europe-led market demand for biofuels is all the rage. Singapore claims to be the world’s second largest petroleum refinery center with installed capacity of well over 1 million barrels/d. However, Singapore relies on the import of nearly100% of its raw energy supply. This reliance on imported fossil energy necessarily subjects Singapore’s economic and environmental sustainability to external factors that all energy importing countries must also face. These included global oil/gas market fluctuations; political instability of the oil exporting countries; international protocol (Kyoto Agreement) to limit CO2 emission from fossil energy use, as well as changes in public energy consumption patterns.

Government has encouraged development of clean, alternative energy programs such as the Sinergy Program which provided a testbed for hydrogen based fuel cell vehicles since the 1990’s. More recently, it has announced major R&D funding program on clean and renewable energy. It has successfully attracted major investments for the manufacturing of solar-PV panels with the announced capacity of 1,500 MWe per year, as well as a wafer manufacturing plant to provide the mono-silicon materials needed for the solar cells.

On the other hand, private sector investors have taken advantage of Singapore’s strategic location in the tropical SE Asia together with its well established infrastructures for crude oil handling, storage, and refineries. Singapore is benefiting directly from its proximity to this rich repository of biomass resources. In recent years, Singapore has attracted major foreign direct investments in biodiesel production facilities. All together, 6 biodiesel production projects have been confirmed, with a total combined capacity of close to 2 million tonnes/per year and the total investment dollars is close to S$2 billion. All of these investments aim to bring in crude plant/seed based oil from the region and refine them in Singapore. A regional biofuels analysis center is also being set-up to cope with the anticipated demand from all these activities.

Domestically, Singapore generates about 650,000 Tonnes/year of biomass wastes which includes food waste, wood/timber wastes and sludge/biosolids. Many of the woody biomass comes from the thriving shipping/trans-shipping industry in Singapore where wooden pallets are routinely disposed when they become unrepairable. Increasingly, the government of Singapore, through the National Environment Agency (NEA) and private sector investors are exploring opportunities for their energy recovery and utilisation. Once plant has been built by local investor to convert food waste to biogas, another diverts about 600 tonnes/d of municipal solid waste (MSW) for recycling and reuse, of which about 300 tonnes/d of woody biomass are used as fuel for cogen. The third recovers energy and generates hot water from horticultural wastes. Government is now encouraging more opportunities for diverting biomass waste from the incinerators and landfill sites. It is expected that more private sector investment will see the economic benefit for recovering energy from the biomass resources.

In summary, Singapore is in the forefront of bioenergy R&D, it is also racing ahead to explore more sustainable 2nd and 3rd generation of biofuels technology and will likely to lead the commercial developments of these renewable energy due to its pro-active government policies for attracting investments.