With its lush rainforests and rich flora and fauna, the Temburong district in Brunei Darussalam lives up to its moniker as the sultanate’s “green jewel.”
Home to the 50,000-hectare Ulu Temburong National Park, it is one of the major destinations for tourists wishing to explore the country’s rainforests.
No wonder the government wants to make sure Temburong’s development will not be at the expense of the environment, especially now that the district has become more accessible. The completion of a 30-kilometer bridge last year allows commuters to travel across the country without passing through Malaysia.
A new report published by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) details recommendations to develop Temburong into an eco-friendly town—an ecotown—to safeguard the environment. These include deploying energy efficiency and conservation guidelines for commercial buildings, both old and new; clean electricity supply using a smart grid system; and a smart transport system.
The report is the fourth that the ERIA produced for Temburong’s ecotown development. ERIA worked with the Ministry of Energy Brunei Darussalam in producing the study.
Energy efficiency and conservation guidelines
The report says once Temburong’s ecotown development starts, several commercial buildings—such as a convention center for international and regional conferences, five-star and higher luxury hotels, and shopping malls—would be built in the district. All these commercial buildings should apply energy efficiency and conservation designs to curb electricity use.
The guidelines, for instance, call for minimum building energy performance, as well as a proposed approval process in screening building designs.
The guidelines would apply to all new buildings with a gross floor area of 2,000 square meters or more; existing buildings to be extended to as much as 2,000 square meters in gross floor area or more; and existing buildings with a gross floor area of 2,000 square meters or more, which need major retrofitting.
Having a clean energy supply is vital to an ecotown, the report notes. It cited zero-emission power sources, such as variable renewable energy, including solar and wind, as ideal options for Temburong.
The study says a 60-megawatt solar plant has enough capacity to supply electricity to the district, assuming 49 gigawatt hours in yearly demand and annual generation of 78 gigawatt hours, and even to transfer surplus electricity to the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.
However, the report notes two major issues: the solar plant would need a big tract of land of 300 to 600 acres (121 to 243 hectares) and a huge investment of between $160 million and $268 million, depending on the scope of the project.
The report also proposes deploying a smart grid system, which entails the use of an energy management system to ensure the efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of power supply.
Clean transport is also key to developing an ecotown or smart city. Brunei has two options: electric vehicle and a fuel-cell electric vehicle, which runs on hydrogen power.
An electric vehicle will be the priority since the price of lithium-ion batteries has been falling. Also, since Brunei is a relatively small country, bigger batteries with 500–600 kilowatt-hour capacity will not be needed.
The report expects the introduction of electric vehicles will increase electricity demand and, consequently, natural gas consumption for power generation.
Since Brunei has started to produce hydrogen, fuel-cell electric vehicles are also an option in Temburong, but ERIA believes the technology will not be available commercially until after 2030 as it continues to be developed.
The report proposes that Temburong only allows either of the two options for passenger cars in the district.
ERIA says the proposed plan will offer Bruneians an opportunity to incorporate energy efficiency in developing an ecotown.
“This opportunity, if seized early and coordinated well, can be translated into several benefits, such as energy and environmental sustainability of an ecotown, showcase of efficient demand-side management in the commercial sector, showcase of greenhouse gas reduction, and promotion of ecotourism,” the report says.
If proven successful in Temburong, the strategies and measures mapped out in the report can be implemented for nationwide adoption, contributing to Brunei’s energy and environmental sustainability goals, it adds.