The energy conversation: Huawei Tech4City Competition explores how technology can drive inclusive energy transition

By Huawei

As the world pivots toward renewable energy, the third Huawei Tech4City dialogue took a deep dive into how technology can build a sustainable and equitable energy landscape for the future.

Participants heard from sustainability leaders on how tech can drive the green energy transition at the third Huawei Tech4City dialogue held last month. Image: Huawei

Huawei recently concluded its third dialogue session on 15 June, which is held in conjunction with its Tech4City Competition 2023. This final dialogue session delved into how technology can be harnessed to drive energy digitalisation, paving the way for a sustainable and green future.

Through these dialogues, the competition aims to drive the conversation on sustainable development and empower the younger generation to build a better future through technology.

Speakers from the World Energy Council, EDP Renewables Asia Pacific, and Huawei Digital Power shed light on how the integration of digital technology can play a pivotal role in shaping a new energy landscape for Singapore and the world.

The indispensable role of data

Reliable data lies at the heart of the energy transition, especially in terms of carbon reporting, said Robert Yap, who serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Board and Non-Executive Director at EDP Renewables Asia Pacific, as well as the Chairman of Swan & Maclaren Group.

After all, commitment to carbon reporting also goes hand in hand with the company’s dedication to sustainable practices.

“The ability for us to crunch that data and use it in a way that supports carbon reporting…will be a top priority,” Yap emphasised. Even a database or information repository that facilitates the collection and tracking of carbon data will prove useful, especially for meeting sustainability reporting requirements, he shared.

An example Yap raised is how internet-of-things technology installed in buildings, such as building management and energy management systems, allows companies to collect energy data. “We can intervene if the air-conditioning drops, [but] we also want to be able to capture the carbon savings that come from it,” he explained.

Innovative solutions can consider other aspects of carbon reporting, such as intellectual property concerns and the possibility of using machine learning to crunch big data, he added.  

Liu Xiaowei, Director of Special Projects, World Energy Council, also shared that there are many tools that can guide equitable energy transitions, such as the World Energy Trilemma Index. It helps policymakers assess the national energy system performance across three domains: energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability.

To tackle challenges that may arise during the energy transition, Liu highlighted the importance of a systems approach to address challenges. When pressing a light switch, for instance, a complex system is activated: the battery behind the switch, the oil mined from the ground, to the transportation chain that brings it to one’s home. Participants should thus adopt systems thinking and “go to the root of the challenges”, she said.

Humanising the energy transition

While technology and financial considerations are important in energy transition, they are not the sole drivers of change. Liu emphasised that energy transition is about “people and the planet”, which entails redesigning the energy system such that the transition is beneficial for all.

“Humanising energy is really about putting people at the centre,” she shared. “When we talk about transition, it is also about location-based transition”. This means recognising the diversity of needs across different regions and development stages, be it in a city-state like Singapore or a village in Vietnam.

When devising any solutions, participants should therefore engage relevant stakeholders in the dialogue and come up with a co-created roadmap, said Liu.

A project that showcases the potential synergies between energy transition and community engagement is the smart agri-voltaic power plant project that utilises Huawei’s inverter technology in Ningxia, China, shared Zac Teo Zi Cheng, Senior Business Development Manager, Huawei Singapore Digital Power.

The project features a dual land-use design, combining solar energy generation with goji berry cultivation.

By building solar panels on desert land, the project helped to cut evaporation from the soil by up to 40 per cent and increased vegetation coverage by nearly 90 per cent in a few short years. This allowed for the cultivation of alfalfa and subsequently goji berries to improve the soil, generating green energy while also creating new jobs for the locals, shared Teo.

As shown, innovative land utilisation and community engagement can co-exist harmoniously in promoting an equitable shift to clean energy.

Advice for participants in Tech4City 2023

The advisory committee also shared what they are looking out for in the upcoming proposals for the Huawei Tech4City Competition.

Christina Lee, Founder & CEO, Global Green Connect, raised three key principles: real impact on society, monetisation for the private sector, and inclusivity.

Outstanding proposals should demonstrate an understanding of the broader ecosystem and how to contribute to a more equitable society.

“It is also important to think out of the box and “conceptualize approaches that are innovative and ground-breaking,” said May Lwin, President’s Chair Professor of Communication Studies at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University.

This year, the competition attracted 372 participants from local universities and polytechnics and received close to 100 submissions. The top 16 teams that enter the semi-finals will be shortlisted and will receive mentorship in preparing for a video submission on 20 August. The finals will be held on 13 September, where the top 8 teams will present their ideas to the advisory council.

The champion team will walk away with a prize of S$15,000, with the runner-ups and second runner-ups getting S$8,000 and S$5,000 respectively. The other finalists will receive consolation prizes. A cash prize of S$3,000, co-awarded by Huawei and SBS Transit, will be given to the best innovation in mobility.