Like most of the world, Malaysia is on the move towards more sustainable energy sources. Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, Renewable Energy (RE) sources such as biomass, biogas, solar and mini hydro are targeted to reach 7.8% of total installed capacity in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah by 2020. That’s a target of about 2080MW of power generated by renewable energy, up from the 243MW generated in 2014.
Solar energy is currently the number one contributor to Malaysia’s RE mix. The development of Large Scale Solar (LSS) Photovoltaic Plants and the implementation of the Net Energy Metering (NEM) scheme are two such examples of the government’s efforts to encourage renewable energy growth. Both programs are targeted to achieve 2,250MW and 500MW of installed capacity respectively by 2025. Another initiative is the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) system, which allows for individuals or businesses to deploy renewable energy to the national grid and get paid for it.
Both LSS Plants and the FiT system utilise Solar Photovoltaic (PV) technology to feed into the solar power grid, complementing the nation’s overall RE agenda. Solar PV currently makes up 66% of the nation’s RE installed capacity, with biomass, biogas, and small hydro following suit.
The possibilities afforded by solar energy is immense. According to World Energy, total annual solar radiation beaming unto our earth is more than 7,500 times our annual primary energy consumption! Located at an advantageous position on the equatorial belt, Malaysia is primed to capitalise on this form of energy. With a very promising average solar radiation of 400–600 MJ/m2 per month, it is no wonder that Malaysia is slowly but surely moving towards larger solar projects to feed the nation’s energy demand.
Groundbreaking Moment in Solar Power
Whilst Malaysia has invested in various solar initiatives over the past few years, plans for a large-scale solar project only recently took off. On 14 September 2017, TNB held the ground-breaking ceremony of its 50MW Large Scale Solar (LSS) project in Kuala Langat, Selangor – the first ever LSS project in the nation.
Through competitive bidding, the prestigious LSS project was awarded to TNB Sepang Solar Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary under TNB, by the Suruhanjaya Tenaga of Malaysia. Investing in this massive RM348 million project, TNB hopes to diversify its energy mix of fossil fuels with more green energy.
“The energy industry can no longer depend on fossil fuels to generate electricity”, said Secretary General of Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Bin Ujang. “This is because the world is going through a transition from the use of fossil fuels to eco-friendly fuel in generating electricity.”
Currently, Malaysia relies on natural gas and coal as our primary sources of energy for electricity generation. In 2013, fossil fuel sources amounted to 90.6% of Malaysia’s electricity generation mix. However, there will come a day when these finite resources will run out.
Building on a 98-hectare (over 240 acres) land, this LSS project will serve as a catalyst to TNB’s aspiration in developing renewable energy in the country and the region. Once completed in November 2018, Malaysians can look forward to an increased electricity generated from renewable energy sources from 23.2MW to 73.2MW.
Solar Powering the Region
With regional power demand projected to grow by 5 to 6% annually between 2016-2020, Southeast Asia is on the lookout for alternative sources to meet its population’s needs. Indeed, ASEAN powerhouses have banded together to set the goal of boosting the region’s share of renewable energy to 23% of its energy mix by 2025.
In its aspiration to pursue an active role in supporting Malaysia’s RE agenda, TNB aims to bring the nation forward as the leading country for RE within ASEAN. “For TNB, the LSS in Sepang will help us expand our expertise to develop renewable energy projects in Malaysia and overseas”, says President and CEO of TNB, Datuk Seri Ir. Azman Mohd. “TNB’s management has already devised a strategy to become a major renewable energy leader in ASEAN. Some of these efforts have been made through investments in solar projects, biomass, biogas and mini hydro.”
While it remains to be seen if Malaysia can be powered solely by solar energy in decades to come, the LSS project is undoubtedly a milestone in the nation’s journey towards a greener future. Though technology in this field is young, the potential for harvesting a permanent energy source will serve as a driver for solar innovation and invention within the region.