Renewable Energy in Malaysia

Renewable Energy in Malaysia

By Maryam Nazir Chaudhary

Introduction

Energy is, without a doubt, a fundamental necessity. From switching on the lights, to public transport to running complex machinery, life as we know it is wholly dependent on energy. However, it does not come without its issues. Energy sources such as coal, natural gas and oil finite emit greenhouses gas like carbon dioxide and methane, accelerating global warming. Furthermore, they are associated with air pollution, acid precipitation, ozone depletion and deforestation.

Not only that, but fossil fuels are also finite. This poses an enormous challenge, especially as a 100% increase in the global population is predicted by 2050. Subsequently, primary-energy demands are estimated to triple by the middle of the century. Continued use of this energy supply will impair any efforts to achieve sustainable development, which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

In order to avert the oncoming crisis, renewable energy sources, such as solar, hydro and wind, have been put forth as a solution. Benefits include, decreased cost over the long-term, infinite availability and little to no societal or environmental impact. Nevertheless, shifting to an entirely different energy avenue is no easy feat; many countries continue to make use of fossil fuels.

Energy in Malaysia

In 2016, coal, the cheapest fossil fuel, made up the majority of Malaysia’s power generation energy mix, a whopping 42.5%. The Malaysian government has remained staunchly firm in their decision to exclude nuclear energy. Poor public approval, environmental and health impacts as well as issues with waste management heavily disadvantage the use of this energy source.

Abdullah et al. reported that only 2% of Malaysia’s energy needs were met using renewable sources. This number must increase if Malaysia wishes to create a more sustainable society; luckily, the country’s natural characteristics make it ideal for the cultivation of renewable energy sources.

Malaysia’s Potential

Being a tropical country, with sunny days all year around, solar energy is a promising energy alternative in Malaysia. An average of 12 hours of sunshine can provide up to 1900 kWh/m2 annually. Unfortunately, in 2010, the solar status of the country was merely 1 MW, when it has the capacity to reach 6500 MW.

Wind power is yet another budding renewable energy source for Malaysia. Strong winds from the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea possess average wind speeds of 1.5 and 4.5 m/s, whereas winds in high altitude areas can reach 11 m/s.

Alongside Indonesia, Malaysia is the world’s largest palm oil producer. Biomass from oil palms can produce 8 Mtoe of energy, saving 7.5 billion per year of crude oil. Moreover, sugarcane, bagasse, rice husks and other agricultural wastes can also be expended as biomass residues. Malaysia aims to generate 1340 MW by 2030 using biomass.

A staggering 42% of Malaysia is composed of highlands; the abundant rivers present are perfect for supplying hydro power. Already, Malaysia is employing this source – in 2009, 12 large-scale and 50 other hydropower stations possessed electricity generating capacity of around 18,500 MW. In 2019, almost 200 MW of energy in Malaysia was generated by small hydropower stations.

Tenaga Nasional Berhad: A Case Study

Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is the incumbent utility company of Malaysia. Its subsidiary TNB Renewables Sdn. Bhd. (TRe) aims to grow the renewable energy sector, including Large Scale Solar (LSS) and biomass projects.

In 2018, the company commissioned the Sepang LSS plant and aims to build yet another in Kedah. Several challenges arose during construction such as delayed approval from authorities, subsequent increased costs and deferred work progress as well as tight project schedules.

TNB has also set up several large hydropower stations such as the Kenyir Hydro Power Station in Terengganu, the Cameron Highland Hydro Power Stations and the Sungai Piah Hydro Power Stations in Perak. Related difficulties during these projects included the need for thorough hydrology studies and uncertain costs due to unexpected earthwork.

Thus, TNB is taking a great many steps to help achieve the Malaysian government’s target of 20% renewable energy penetration by 2025.

Conclusion

Malaysia has pledged to diminish its greenhouse gas emissions relative to GDP by 45%, by the year 2030. Although several initiatives have been taken to further renewable energy in the country, Malaysia still has much potential that is yet to be tapped into.

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