Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Envvironment, at the 2023 FIRST Global Challenge Opening Ceremony on 7 October 2023
1 When I was given the brief that the 2023 FIRST Global Challenge is the “Olympics” for robotics, this was not what I was expecting. I have been a Minister for youth in the past, but this is nothing that I have seen – there is so much energy and creativity. I know that you are all STEM experts, but your parade of nations has a lot of culture. You are obviously very proud of your country. Singapore is so happy and privileged to have all of you here. A warm welcome to Singapore!
Hydrogen as a Promising Low-Carbon Alternative
2 While you are here, you should really understand Singapore better. We are a very small country, but with lots of people. We are one of the most densely populated countries in the world. We are small and therefore very alternative energy disadvantaged. If you talk about putting solar panels, we have very little land for that. We are putting it on our rooftops and our reservoirs, but that is about it. We do not have high mountains or wide rivers for hydropower. We do not have geothermal power.
3 What do we do? How can we decarbonise and not emit carbon emissions? We have to look for alternatives. We are thinking of importing renewable energy from neighbouring countries, but how do you solve the issues of intermittency and energy security? Hydrogen can be the answer to many of our challenges, particularly low-carbon hydrogen. It is especially attractive as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. It can enhance energy security and help to manage intermittency problems.
4 Singapore is not alone in recognising hydrogen as a promising alternative. Around 40 countries have announced their hydrogen strategies and committed significant resources to realising these strategies.In addition, there are growing industry activities along the hydrogen value chain. There are more than 100 pilot and demonstration projects involving the use of hydrogen and its carrier forms in shipping.
Singapore’s National Hydrogen Strategy
5 Hydrogen can potentially supply up to 50 per cent of Singapore’s projected electricity demand by 2050 and play an important role in our decarbonisation efforts. To unlock the potential of hydrogen, we have organised in five key thrusts. First, we will explore the use of advanced hydrogen technologies and carrier pathways, and focus on those that are closer to commercially viability. For example, ammonia, which is a hydrogen carrier and has the potential to be a fuel for power generation and bunkering. Second, we are increasing our Research & Development efforts to find new solutions. We will focus efforts in areas such as importing, handling, and utilising hydrogen safely, economically and at scale, because we are going to be transporting a lot of that around the world. Third, we will work with industry and international partners to facilitate global hydrogen trade and supply chains, to build a trading and financing ecosystem for low-carbon hydrogen. Fourth, we will undertake long-term land and infrastructure planning, to find ways to accommodate the required hydrogen infrastructure on our small island.
6 Lastly, and importantly, we want to ready our industry and workforce as the hydrogen economy develops. Climate action and energy transition is about inclusive change, bringing jobs to people, and making sure that all segments of the population, all our workers and communities are brought along this change. We will work with the industry, unions, and the education sector to support workforce development, and to equip Singaporeans with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the hydrogen economy.
Empowering Youths to Contribute to the Hydrogen Transition through Robotics
7 Even with the increased global investments in new technologies and supply chains, the hydrogen market is still at a nascent stage. The widespread adoption of hydrogen will eventually depend on our youths. It will depend on you, the next generation of global leaders, to work together to improve infrastructure development.
8 The FIRST Global Challenge is a wonderful platform for all of you to harness technology, to foster a deeper understanding of complex systems, automation, and problem-solving.Robotics supports the hydrogen transition by improving efficiency, safety, and cost effectiveness. By bringing together youths from over 190 countries to work on the world’s pressing challenges collaboratively, we hope to spark innovative solutions. I encourage all of you to work with your mentors and experts, so that you can come up with solutions to the problems of the world.
9 We are hoping that you will be the next generation of leaders to bring our world towards a better future. We talk about net zero commitments around the world – net zero by 2050 will see us limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To reach net zero by 2050, we need many new technologies. 2050 seems like a long time, but to all of you here, you will be in the prime of your life. Some of you will be leaders of your countries, while others will be business leaders of industries. Some of you will be top scientists in your country. Some of you will be great teachers and educationalists, bringing back this wonderful experience and inspiring many more students in your countries. Some of you here will shape a better world.
10 But we cannot do that alone. No country can do it alone. Just like hydrogen, we need to have different countries working together for solutions in transportation, technologies, equipment, and markets. So let this be a start of many things. It is a great opportunity given to you. As Mr Dean Kamen has said, opportunities come with responsibility. Your responsibility is to go back and inspire many more around you and to bring what you have learnt to good use with hard work. It is also your responsibility to keep up with the ties forged here, to collaborate with one another. The world is here in Singapore and the world here will find the solutions for the world outside. I look forward to inspiring examples coming from the FIRST Global Challenge.
11 Thank you.