Solar panels wait for sunny outlook in Singapore

Mon Mar 30, 2009 5:56am EDT
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By Laurence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - For a country that's right on the equator, relying on solar energy in Singapore seems like a bright idea. Try and get off the grid, however, and it quickly loses its shine.

The tropical city-state's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are similar to Europe, and it imports all its fuel, which on paper makes solar power attractive.

"There's a lot of roof top space in almost any housing -- why not have an array of solar water heaters?" said Yatin Premchand of the Singapore Environment Council.

But in reality, solar panels are so pricey it makes little economic sense to get off the grid.

The bulk of Singapore's almost 5 million people also live in high-rise buildings, rather than houses, which makes putting up cells on the roof nearly impossible for individuals.

Solar power garnered increasing attention as oil prices soared last year and as Asian governments are under pressure to help curb climate change.

Singapore is trying to become a hub for the clean energy sector, having attracted Norway's REC to build the world's largest solar manufacturing plant. It hopes the sector will create 7,000 jobs by 2015 and add S$1.7 billion to the economy.

But these solar panels will be exported and the government has provided few local incentives or targets to use solar power, unlike European countries such as Germany.   Continued...

<p>Solar panels are pictured on the Marina Barrage building, with the Singapore Flyer observation wheel and office and hotel buildings pictured in the background, in Singapore in this March 25, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Laurence SiMeng Tan</p>