INSIGHTS

The Upshot with Boon Chye

The Upshot with Hoe Boon Chye: Revolutionising Asia's Energy Transition through Technology

The Upshot is a content series by Infrastructure Asia to profile key leaders in the industry. We dive deep into their areas of expertise to present expert opinions and thought-provoking perspectives on the most pertinent aspects of sustainable infrastructure development.

Asia’s energy trilemma, comprising security, sustainability, and affordability, presents a pressing need for the transition towards cleaner and more energy-efficient processes. Moderating the region’s growth in energy demand and enhancing energy efficiencies require a shift to renewables and implementation of demand-side energy management measures simultaneously.

To gain a better understanding on how industry players can spearhead sustainable infrastructure development in the region, Infrastructure Asia sat down with Hoe Boon Chye, Chief Executive Officer of award-winning energy efficiency company bbp, where he shared crucial insights on how technology can redefine the way businesses consume and manage their energy resources.


Accelerating the low-carbon transition through Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS)

The potential gains from energy efficiency are substantial. Through an EaaS business model, asset owners can outsource the end-to-end management of retrofitting and optimising energy-intensive assets to companies like bbp.

bbp's core technology focuses on extracting energy savings, particularly from cooling systems – a critical aspect of energy consumption across various industries. As Boon Chye shared, "In commercial buildings, such as shopping malls, offices, hotels, as well as data centres, manufacturing plants, airports and hospitals, a significant portion of energy, often up to 60%, is dedicated to cooling.” Tapping on a pay-as-you-save model, bbp’s approach involves enhancing existing infrastructure, particularly centralised water-cooled chiller systems that provide cooling to such facilities.

The company leverages existing technologies, such as sensors, to gather real-time data on variables like temperature, humidity, and load changes. This data feeds into the company’s patented software, which then optimises chiller systems to save energy while ensuring operations are not disrupted. With the potential to extract up to 40% in energy savings from the assets they work on, this can translate to roughly SGD 50,000 to SGD 5,000,000 of savings per year, depending on the scale of the project.

To ensure accountability and provide peace of mind to clients, bbp collaborates with independent third parties, such as TUV, to verify actual savings. This transparency is essential for instilling confidence in businesses.


Overcoming inertia to drive sustainable change

One significant challenge Boon Chye observed in the adoption of energy-efficient technologies lies with the difficulty in changing mindsets. Even though there is a general mindset shift towards sustainability on the institutional level, and various sustainable technologies have already been implemented for decades, cost can still be too big a hurdle to overcome for many businesses.

“Most business owners are understandably still very cost-conscious. You can talk about energy efficiency and sustainability all you want, but at the end of the day, business owners still have a bottom line to deliver,” he said.

But sustainability and cost-efficiency can still coexist. "When introducing technology that fundamentally changes the way people operate their systems, there’s bound to be some resistance. This transformation requires you to change perceptions and behaviours in order to get people on board to adopt your technology."

Boon Chye added that the key to convincing even the most cost-conscious business owners to come around is to highlight the substantial cost-savings that can be achieved through energy-efficient technologies.

Retrofitting can be an attractive way for businesses to enhance sustainability efforts while side-stepping the high costs that come with the adoption of new technologies. It minimises business disruption and costs that come with building from scratch. “Retrofitting existing buildings can be done in just three to six months, which is [typically] faster than constructing an entirely new green building – making it a quick win for sustainability,” he explained.


Aggregating demand for greater impact across Asia

The journey towards adopting energy-efficient technologies can be a challenging one for small and medium-sized developers in Asia. They may face difficulties when seeking to attract institutional capital and forming the right partnerships independently. Several factors such as limited awareness of technical and financial solutions, inadequate project scale, and the absence of viable project financing options, contribute to an existing market gap.

To help bridge this gap, aggregating energy efficiency demand holds great potential for the region. Boon Chye shared, “Partnerships with organisations like Infrastructure Asia help us connect with major players who own multiple buildings or industrial parks in the region. This allows us to deliver this technology at scale – and when you can deliver at scale, you benefit more people faster.”

By aggregating demand, industry players can pool their resources and expertise to address energy efficiency at a larger scale. This not only allows for more efficient implementation of technologies but also leverages collective bargaining power to secure more favourable financing terms and incentives from governments and financial institutions.

In the wider context of the region’s overall transition to renewable energy, Boon Chye sees potential for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to play an even greater role in driving technology adoption by showcasing its benefits and creating trust among stakeholders. “The private market may sometimes not be ready to come forward and adopt new or non-conventional technology. But if the public sector is willing to take the lead and demonstrate success, this tends to accelerate adoption."

 
Charting the future of sustainable development

Looking ahead, Boon Chye views data as the driving force behind future energy efficiency solutions. “Never in our lifetime have we had so much data that is readily available. This abundance of data, coupled with advancements in Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G technology, will drive new innovations. People can organise insights better, leading to improved productivity."

Data-driven solutions can provide businesses with deeper insights into their energy consumption patterns. By harnessing real-time data and leveraging sophisticated analytics, organisations can pinpoint areas where energy efficiency improvements are most needed. This approach can help them optimise their energy usage in a way that was previously inconceivable, leading to significant cost savings.

Overall, he believes that more can still be done on the energy efficiency side for the region. “By lowering the demand, you won't need to worry so much about the supply, which is what energy efficiency is all about.” With the fusion of technology and innovative business models set to redefine the way businesses consume and manage their energy resources in Asia, he leaves some advice for businesses unsure about how to start their energy transition: Start from somewhere. Do not aim for perfection. Identify low-hanging fruit in your energy usage, address them, and build on your successes. It is about creating wins and involving the entire organisation in the journey towards a more sustainable future.

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