Sus­tain­ing our sources

We need to use elec­tric­ity and wa­ter more re­spon­si­bly.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch - By WONG LI ZA star2­green@thes­

WILL in­creas­ing wa­ter and elec­tric­ity rates help re­duce con­sump­tion and wastage? Is so­lar en­ergy the next big “al­ter­na­tive” wave? How do we keep our rivers clean?

All these is­sues were ad­dressed in a re­cent in­ter­view with En­ergy, Green Tech­nol­ogy and Wa­ter Min­istry’s (KeTTHA) sec­re­tary gen­eral Datuk Seri Ir Dr Zaini Ujang.

“One of the United Na­tion’s 17 Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals is re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion. This is very im­por­tant, oth­er­wise our en­vi­ron­ment and con­sump­tion won’t be sus­tain­able,” said Zaini.

In re­la­tion to elec­tric­ity, he said peo­ple usu­ally switch on lights when they are in­side a build­ing be­cause they close all the win­dows cur­tains. Why not use nat­u­ral light­ing? De­sign fea­tures like sky­lights will also help.

Sim­i­larly, why use so much air con­di­tion­ing? Why not cool down a build­ing nat­u­rally through cross ven­ti­la­tion? That, of course, would save on elec­tric bills too.

The same ap­plies to wa­ter us­age. “The im­por­tance of wa­ter se­cu­rity can be viewed from var­i­ous per­spec­tives; wa­ter to sus­tain life, wa­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment, wa­ter for food pro­duc­tion, wa­ter for wa­ter sup­ply, wa­ter for good hy­giene and so on,” said Zaini.

“Malaysians use 236 litres of wa­ter a day per capita. That is be­yond what is sus­tain­able. We are aim­ing for 180 litres per day per capita, as per the 11th Malaysian Plan.

“But I can see that un­less we go to the pub­lic and push to­wards bet­ter un­der­stand­ing (of re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion), we will be stay­ing at that level (236l/day) be­cause our wa­ter tar­iffs are so low,” he added.

Pow­er­ing the na­tion

Since the set­ting up of the Sus­tain­able En­ergy Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (Seda) and the in­tro­duc­tion of the Feed-in-Tar­iff (FiT) mech­a­nism in 2012, so­lar projects have sprung up across the coun­try. The FiT pro­gramme re­quires Te­naga Na­sional Ber­had to buy all elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from re­new­able en­ergy sources, in­clud­ing, for ex­am­ple, from homes which have so­lar pan­els (pho­to­voltaic sys­tems) in­stalled on their rooftops (and who have signed up for the scheme), at at­trac­tive rates.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry, the so­lar projects un­der FiT are op­er­at­ing within ini­tial fore­casts and get­ting rea­son­able yield.

Zaini noted that, as of May 31, 472MW of so­lar power is be­ing gen­er­ated na­tion­wide, which amounts to about 2% of es­ti­mated to­tal en­ergy gen­er­ated in the coun­try. Of that to­tal, 314MW are con­nected to the na­tional elec­tri­cal grid.

“This shows that so­lar photo voltaic (PV) devel­op­ment is the most vi­able re­new­able en­ergy re­source as com­pared to other sources,” said Zaini.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the Large Scale So­lar (LSS) pro­gramme last year has also given a boost to the so­lar farm devel­op­ment in Malaysia.

To date, the gov­ern­ment has ap­proved ap­prox­i­mately 1700MW of so­lar PV projects and the num­ber is still grow­ing. Malaysia is also the third largest pro­ducer of so­lar pan­els in the world (much of it is ex­ported).

An­other planned ini­tia­tive is the Net En­ergy Me­ter­ing (NEM). This will al­low con­sumers who have in­stalled so­lar PV pan­els on their rooftops to “net off” (deduct) their elec­tric­ity bills by gen­er­at­ing more elec­tric­ity dur­ing day­light hours.

KeTTHA, through Seda, has also en­gaged with Univer­siti Malaysia Tereng­ganu to con­duct re­search on the po­ten­tial of wind en­ergy in Penin­su­lar Malaysia and Sabah.

Pi­lot projects are be­ing ex­plored in eight lo­ca­tions in Penin­su­lar Malaysia – namely Langkawi (Kedah), Mers­ing (Jo­hor), Durian Tung­gal (Me­laka), Chup­ing (Perlis), Kuala Tereng­ganu, Setiu and Ki­jal (Tereng­ganu) and Ba­chok (Ke­lan­tan) – and three lo­ca­tions in Sabah (Ku­dat, Kota Marudu and Pu­lau Banggi).

In terms of geo­ther­mal en­ergy, plans for the coun­try’s first Geo­ther­mal Power Plant in Tawau, Sabah with a ca­pac­ity of 37MW are in the pipe­line.

Re­duc­ing wastage

But pro­mot­ing ef­fi­cient use of re­sources faces the chal­lenge of chang­ing mind­sets and habits.

“Cli­mate change seems very re­mote to most peo­ple un­less they live on a low-ly­ing is­land en­dan­gered by ris­ing sea lev­els,” said Zaini.

Lack of co­or­di­na­tion among the var­i­ous gov­ern­ment min­istries and agen­cies, NGOs and pri­vate en­ti­ties also lead to them work­ing in sep­a­rate si­los, re­sult­ing in du­pli­ca­tion of tasks and in­ef­fi­cient de­ploy­ment

of re­sources in pro­mot­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. Added to all that is the sen­si­tive is­sue of ju­ris­dic­tion.

An­other chal­lenge lies with low tar­iffs, said Zaini.

“Our lev­elised tar­iffs are too cheap, where re­turn of in­vest­ment is (not at­trac­tive) com­pared to other coun­tries. Many coun­tries push en­ergy ef­fi­ciency by ra­tio­nal­is­ing (rais­ing) the tar­iffs,” he ex­plained.

“When the tar­iffs are high, peo­ple want to re­duce us­age and change their elec­tri­cal equip­ment to more ef­fi­cient ones.”

Com­pa­nies are also not in­ter­ested to im­prove their ma­chin­ery for bet­ter en­ergy or wa­ter ef­fi­ciency be­cause the tar­iffs are still rel­a­tively low in Malaysia, he said.

“We must price wa­ter at a cer­tain level so that peo­ple are in­ter­ested to re­duce wa­ter con­sump­tion and wa­ter com­pa­nies are in­ter­ested to in­vest to re­duce non-rev­enue wa­ter (NRW),” said Zaini.

In the gov­ern­ment sec­tor, ini­tia­tives taken to re­duce en­ergy con­sump­tion in 25 min­istry build­ings (mon­i­tored from 2014-2016, com­pared to a base­line in 2013) showed en­ergy sav­ings im­prov­ing from 5.6% in 2014 to 10.9% in 2016.

The 13th Asia Pa­cific Roundtable on Sus­tain­able Con­sump­tion and Pro­duc­tion (13th APRSCP) is themed ‘En­abling Sus­tain­able Con­sump­tion and Pro­duc­tion To­wards Achiev­ing Green Growth’. En­dorsed and sup­ported by the Me­laka State Gov­ern­ment, it is co-hosted by APRSCP and ENSEARCH and will be held on Oct 24-26 in Me­laka. For reg­is­tra­tion and more in­for­ma­tion, please visit the Ensearch web­site (

— Photo: MOHD SAHAR MISNI/The Star

So­lar power elec­tric pan­els (left) are the most vi­able re­new­able en­ergy re­source, says Dr Zaini Ujang, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the En­ergy, Green Tech­nol­ogy and Wa­ter Min­istry (KeTTHA)

— Filepic

Sky­lights al­low sun­light to il­lu­mi­nate this mall at Se­tia Alam, lead­ing to sub­stan­tial sav­ings on elec­tric bills.

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