UOB simplifies and amplifies Singaporeans' green energy journeys with U-Energy

The bank seeks to help address the energy crisis and rising electricity costs, says UOB’s Jasper Wong.

Imagine saving up to 40% of your current electricity costs whilst making your energy consumption more sustainable. It is not just a fantasy; it is a reality, according to UOB. But most Singaporeans apparently are not aware of this, and this is what pushed UOB to launch the U-Energy programme. 

“A lot of times when we approach our clients and say, ‘Hey, do you know that you can save 30 to 40% of your energy costs by using an [artificial intelligence (AI)] tool to monitor your electricity or optimize your energy usage,’ clients are very surprised,” Jasper Wong, Head of Construction and Infrastructure, Sector Solutions Group at UOB, told Asian Banking & Finance in an exclusive interview.  

“They know that there are key tools out there that can actually help them to save money. But because they are very busy, and they [do not] have anyone they can go and talk with to help them with their energy needs, they basically just set it aside. So promoting market awareness is something that U-Energy is striving to do, to help the industry,” he said.

The bank did not just want to promote sustainable energy options. They also wanted to simplify sustainability for businesses and homeowners.

That was how U-Energy came about. Unveiled in September, the programme—touted as Asia's first integrated financing platform to drive the adoption of energy projects—can easily be accessed online. 

Better yet, customers signing up for the program will have easy access to nine energy partners to choose from who can help them meet their sustainable energy needs, depending on their preferences.

“When they go to our website, they will see our partners, [who] will lay out what kind of building types that they can service, and also the type of projects that they can do. So for instance, the customer may choose to do LED upgrades, they may do solar, and so on,” Wong explained.

The platform also comes with an energy savings calculator that gives the client a rough idea of how much energy savings they can achieve, and what kind of greenhouse gas emissions impact that they can have, amongst others. Clients only need to fill out some questions about their home and building, as well as their consumption needs, and select flexible financing options.

Clients can then choose either to do a direct capital expenditure (Capex) or direct purchase of the equipment needed; or they can apply for the energy-as-a-service model, where they do not have to upfront the cost and pay as they are able to save from the energy efficiency project.

Energy crisis, rising costs
Wong named the energy crisis as one of the driving forces behind UOB’s decision to create and launch the platform.

“A lot of people are talking about sustainability and the climate crisis, how the weather’s changing, people are moving to cities. By 2030, it’s said that four of the top five most congested cities in the world will be in Asia,” Wong noted.
He added that there’s a lot of pressure being put on Asian cities in regards to whether they're talking about energy usage, water usage, as well as the e-waste management—everything that needs power, and also everything that needs to be made more efficient.
This demand for more energy, coupled with limitations in non-renewable energy resources, is driving energy prices up, Wong explained. This reality especially became more apparent in Singapore, where UOB observed how challenging it was for corporates to deal with the costs during the pandemic, at a time when revenues are not growing so fast.
UOB found the answer in digitalisation. “It has accelerated the ability for us to effectively quantify and track and monitor in terms of how people use their energy,” Wong said, adding that through installing IoT and using AI technology, amongst other digital tools, you can better optimise your energy usage.

“The digitalisation era has actually helped propel energy efficiency, the ability for companies to actually track and monitor how they're using the electricity,” he added.

U for a greener tomorrow
Wong said that UOB is also rolling out the U-Energy platform in markets outside of Singapore, notably Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. This is to help their customers, who may have a presence in these three countries, to implement their energy efficiency projects under just one platform.

“[Besides] the nine energy partners that we have launched in Singapore, we are also in the process of onboarding partners in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. So, we expect to grow the programme as we launch in each of those countries,” Wong said.

Whilst UOB has no specific target for U-Energy, as a whole, the programme is part of the bank’s 15 billion sustainable financing target that it plans to achieve by 2023.

Already, Wong shared that just a few weeks after launch they have already gotten a lot of inquiries about U-Energy, not just from prospective clients but also from those who seek to partner with the platform.

Apart from the sustainable energy needs of homeowners and corporates, Wong shared that UOB will also roll-out other sustainable-related programmes to help various sectors. 

Already the bank has the U-Drive initiative for electric vehicles, and they are also looking to support transport operators, Wong said, adding that they particularly seek to support those that can provide the infrastructure for rolling out more charging stations across Singapore. 

For the property sector, UOB also has a real estate sustainable finance framework, where they provide green loans to developers; a green circular economy framework, aimed for circular economy, which is involved in the handling e-waste, amongst others; and finally, the bank also has a green trade finance working capital framework, for trade finance activities that are related to green or sustainability.

“Our goal is to support our clients through their sustainability journey so that we can forge a sustainable future together with that,” Wong concluded.

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