Green Technology, Green Economy: More Than Meets The Eye

Posted on June 23, 2010. Filed under: Ecology |

– Bernama-

By Melati Mohd Ariff

This six-part article dwells on several environmental issues namely global warming, water vitality, ecosystems, biodiversity and Green Economy. This is last of the series.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 (BERNAMA) — The colour green has always been associated with nature and when it is added to technology and economy, it signifies great hope and expectation.

And jumping into the green bandwagon is becoming a trend these days with companies and oganisations stepping forward and disclosing their so-called ‘green initiatives’.

S. Piarapakaran, the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations’ (Fomca) Senior Manager for Environment, Energy and Water shared his observation on this green subject with Bernama in a recent interview.

MORE THAN MERE COLOUR

Being ‘green’ is not just about the colour. That is just the surface, said Piarapakaran, stressing it is actually challenging to go green.

“Environmental friendly technology is what green technology is all about. It reduces impact to the environment due to development process and consumption pattern,” he explained.

“In essence, green technology is inter-related in every aspect of our daily life and behaviour,” he explained.

Anthony Tan, the Executive Director of Centre for Environment, Technology and Development (Cetdem) concurred that green technology is any technology that helps to reduce the threat to the environment.

“It goes beyond electricity generation. How we construct our buildings and the material used. What kind of industries we are bringing to Malaysia, whether they are energy intensive. Those are also green technologies,” he said providing examples to Bernama during an interview at Cetdem’s office in Petaling Jaya recently.

According to Tan, green technology also involves technologies that are locally developed for instance technologies related to the palm oil industry.

“When it comes to the least polluting way or running an oil palm mill or even an oil palm estate, those are actually local technologies that we actually can export to countries like Indonesia or Thailand,” he explained.

GREEN ECONOMY

Moving on to ‘green economy’, Piarapakaran identified three major components namely the government, industrial and commercial entities, and domestic consumers where all have an important role to play.

He said change in government procurement, buildings, practices and habits of their officers would definitely give a huge impact.

“We cannot green a township or an agency. We need to first green the people there. This creates the first wave in green economy.

“As for the industrial and commercial sectors, can they change their operations to be green? They will always refer to their Return of Investment (ROI) when it comes to changing operating methods.

“This requires top management commitment. More often, changing to green practices involve investment but usually it saves a lot of expenditure in longer run.

“Domestic consumers also need to go green and being environmentally friendly can be done with thousands of simple practices,” he pointed out.

Piarapakaran cited some examples here, namely purchasing energy efficient and water efficient products would reduce consumers’ impact to environment as well as reduce their bills.

He, however, cautioned that developing the demand for green products is not easy and more often than not, there would be misleading claims and in the process consumers would be cheated.

GREEN RESOURCES

Green economy should encompass green elements in all stages of development and the final objective is to achieve green growth. This is the opinion of Asfaazam Kasbani, assistant resident representative of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Malaysia.

“Our current economy is mainly dependent on fossil fuel, often referred as brown or black economy.

“The renewable or green fuel on the other hand largely contributes to green economy and it will take time. It will not happen tomorrow or even 10 or 20 years down the road.

“We are talking about a longer time frame, probably 30 to 50 years or more, Malaysia could to take a leaf from some developed countries for example that have managed to energise their ‘energy guzzling industries’ and reduce impact on the environment.

Germany and Denmark, he said generate around 15 per cent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind turbine and solar PV (photovoltaic).

“It takes 50 years down the road for these developed countries to come to this level. One good thing is the lessons learnt are already available for other countries. We should learn from them,” stressed Asfaazam who is also UNDP’s senior programme manager for environment and energy.

CHECK TRANSPORTATION

Malaysia should have initiated green economy several years back despite the fact that the country is blessed with abundant natural resources including petroleum.

“Our oil reserves can last about 10 to 15 years. This calls for prudent usage. By 2015 or 2020, Malaysia would be a net importer of oil. We have no choice but to do it now,” Asfaazam said with reference to green economy.

He argued that one of the pillars for green economy is the transportation sector, where the number of motor vehicles on the road should be reduced.

“Here we still use our own transport to go to work. In developed countries, the people largely commute by public transport,” he said, adding that much improvement is needed for the country’s policies and services related to public transportation.

EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES

Dr Loh Chi Leong, Executive Director of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) said one of the alternatives to petrol for motor vehicles would be natural gas because it pollutes less. Electrical vehicles including the ones using batteries are also an option.

While admitting that the initial investment for such a venture would be costly, there would be savings in the long term.

“For this you need initial commitment from the top decision makers. Again this will involve political will. It can be done. In New Delhi they did it overnight. They made a declaration that all the buses must run on natural gas.

“Other countries are doing it even in Los Angeles. They did not react until it is too late, until they got so much problem with air pollution they were forced to take action,” said Dr Loh.

He said energy saving devices could be used and would help save money for the country in the long term but they were costly for the average person.

One such device, is the Solar Photovoltaics (PVs). They are arrays of cells containing solar photovoltaic material that converts solar radiation into direct current.

He said studies have shown that Solar PVs actually produce more energy than even needed for a house that eventually contributes to storage problem.

“This is green, it is renewable energy and it is quite a feasible solution provided we can solve the storage problem for the electricity generated,” said Dr Loh.

Dr Loh also spoke about the light saving bulbs that cost more than the ordinary light bulbs but still not given due consideration by the consumers.

“If the government can subsidise that, and everybody buys it, the energy consumption will drop way below the initial investment,” he said.

WASTED ENERGY

The usage of fossil fuel to generate electricity in Malaysia remains high, so said Piarapakaran who is also the secretary general of the Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia (WECAM).

Due to unavailability of other alternatives, consumers are directly affected every time when there is a price hike in the international petroleum price.

He quoted a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) which said about 48 per cent of the energy is wasted in its journey to reach end users.

“Energy wastage in Malaysia is due to unplanned development. Fossil fuel is wasted due to traffic congestion. Electrical appliances that waste energy is sold without control and policies that promote wastage.

“For example, the National Automotive Policy that helps Malaysians to possess car easily but on the contrary the public has to shift to public transportation to reduce high fuel consumption,” said Piarapakaran.

He further urged the unification of energy sector under one ministry for policy work as well as one regulatory agency. Without unified policy development and regulatory framework, Malaysia is deemed to face severe impact from energy crisis.

GOING NUCLEAR?

Much have been discussed on Malaysia’s intention to turn to nuclear power ever since the government made the announcement in early May.

Minister for Energy, Green Technology and Water Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said Malaysia’s first 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant costing US$3.1 billion could be ready by 2021.

Electricity usage in Malaysia currently amounts to 14,000 megawatts while total capacity is 23,000 MW.

The minister said Malaysia would hit critical level by 2017.

“We have mentioned in many platforms that uranium, plutonium and thorium (possible fuel for nuclear reactor) are non renewable resources and they will deplete one day.

“Nuclear is actually not the solution. It may assist Malaysia in short-term energy mix management.

“The location of a nuclear plant and the nuclear waste disposal are equally critical issues. We must always remember that nuclear waste will be kept for a long period of time. If we keep them for long, leakages may occur and cause disaster,” said Piarapakaran.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Tan of Cetdem concurred that Malaysia does not need a nuclear plant and that the resources proposed could be diverted for other investments such as the solar PV system.

Installing solar PV unfortunately is still costly in Malaysia, he said.

However, in Denmark and Germany, solar PV has become part of house installation and lifestyle.

“If you have more and more people generating electricity from home, you don’t really need extra power station, not even a nuclear power station.

“Energy efficiency is something that Cetdem has been pushing for the government to consider,” he added.

Dr Loh of MNS told Bernama, what is needed at this point in time is an integrated power plan that the government had to put forward for public scrutiny.

“We hear some people asking for a nuclear power plant. Others are saying we need more coal-powered plants. Another group wanted more hydro-powered plants.

“We need one government document that says what is best for Malaysia, which one will give us the best returns and cause the least damage,” he said.

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