A Green Roadmap for Malaysia in 2010
At the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that Malaysia was committed to reducing its carbon emissions by offering ‘credible cuts’ of up to 40% by 2020. This is a strong commitment from a developing country and a much welcomed one.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that according to 2006 UN data, Malaysians emit 7.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita. This is almost equivalent to an average person in the industrialized world.
Malaysia’s commitment is specifically underlined by its Green Technology Policy 2009 which aims to harness green technology development in the country. A Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan (REAP) which sets the medium and long term strategy as well as targets for the policy is in the process of being introduced.
Malaysia’s Green Technology Policy 2009
The Green Technology Policy is built on the basis that “(g)reen technology shall be a driver to accelerate the national economy and promote sustainable development.” A set of four pillars support the thrust of the policy:
- Energy – To attain energy independence and promote efficient utilisation
- Environment – To conserve and minimize the impact on the environment
- Economy – To enhance the national economic development through the use of technology
- Social – Improve the quality of life for all.
The focus of the REAP is particularly on renewable energy. The sources of renewable energy that have been identified under REAP include biomass, biogas, municipal solid waste, solar and mini-hydro. The Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water is also exploring the potential of using wind as a source of renewable energy in Malaysia. Reports reveal that it was undertaking tests in several parts of Malaysia to access its viability.
The search for alternative energy in a country with a development boom like Malaysia is urgent as demand for energy rapidly grows. Renewable energy is a commodity just like any other form of energy. It has a major role in meeting energy demands and moving towards a low carbon future. The Malaysian National Energy Center estimates that Malaysia has an energy potential reaching over RM500 billion in 20 years. Renewable energy stands to be an important energy option with substantial benefits to corporations, consumers and the environment.
Challenges to Energy Sustainability
While the REAP aims to provide a pathway to a low-carbon society, there are implementation challenges which needs further scrutiny.
Consistency and transparency in the way the policy is implemented is going to be a key question. In view of this, Datuk Dr. Halim Man, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water has mentioned the need for legislation. He says that a Renewable Energy Act will ‘pave the way for a new era for renewable energy development in the country’.
Legislation can potentially provide the rules to make renewable energy an important component in the country’s energy mix. It can address market failures, create a level playing field for emerging technologies and phase out any unfair competition in the area.
In terms of the reach of the policy, it is also important to overcome technological barriers. There is a need to urgently step up research and development of viable renewable energy solutions that are appropriate for a country like Malaysia. For example, according to Dr. Halim Man, his ministry estimates that solar energy will surpass all other forms of renewable energies for Malaysia after 2020.
The potential to develop a Malaysia-specific renewable energy mix will also be highly dependent on the need to drive down cost by providing direct and indirect subsidies. The REAP needs to be specific about the potential incentives that the government can offer.
The policy also outlines some industries that can potentially benefit from the government’s commitment particularly through development of new markets and cost savings:
- Energy supply sector: green technology is particularly useful in power generation and in energy supply management areas. Potentials can include more co-generation by the industrial and commercial sectors which can lead to cost efficiencies
- Energy utilisation sector: application of green technology in all areas and in demand side management programmes
- Building sector : particularly in the construction, management, maintenance and demolition of buildings can provide new avenues for a greener construction industry.
- Waste and water management sector: potential for technology demand in the management and utilisation of water resources, waste water treatment, solid waste and sanitary landfill
- Transportation sector: ability to incorporate green technology in transportation infrastructure and vehicles, particularly through development of biofuels and public road transport.
Finding a path to sustainable energy will require concerted effort from government and industry. The Malaysian government is moving in the right direction towards this end. While there are implementation issues with the policy which need further scrutiny, an umbrella framework like this is just the catalyst to drive change.
Yet, for true eco-innovation to thrive, Malaysian industry must embrace the energy challenge and tap on the opportunities presented by the policy. ■