Malaysia is committed to a more efficient future of energy. Working together with the government and its relevant agencies, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), through its wholly owned subsidiary TNB Energy Services, is helping that cause.
We had the pleasure of catching up with the Managing Director of TNBES, Dr. Ahmad Jaafar, who has more than 27 years’ experience in the electricity industry, to explore insight around efficiency, renewable energy, and electric vehicles.
What can we do about energy efficiency?
Commercial and industrial sectors in Malaysia account for more than three quarters of final electricity consumption, making them a vital part of an efficient solution according to Dr. Ahmad Jaafar.
“The challenge with the industrial segment is that often you have to spend to save. When you approach an organisation and say ‘we can save you 50% of your electricity costs, but you need to make an upfront investment,’ there is often hesitation. At TNBES we work to convince those industrial players while supporting them through our Energy Performance Contracting (EPC).”
While industrial and commercial sectors are the biggest consumers, residential customers have an important role to play, and according to Dr. Ahmad Jaafar, it’s often one where benefits are easier to realise.
“The majority of people think that electricity can only be controlled by switching it on, or switching it off. They have no idea that normal consumption can be reduced by as much as 50% with efficiency efforts.”
How does education play a part in encouraging energy efficiency?
Dr. Ahmad Jaafar points out that simple efforts such as LED lighting or more efficient air conditioning can have a big impact on electricity use, but understanding the importance of these initiatives goes far deeper.
“We need to start at school and teach children about sustainability form an early age. We need to teach children how to be responsible about what they use. That’s something seriously lacking today. We need to tackle energy efficiency from schools and universities.”
He argues promoting energy efficiency should not be punitive, but should help reinforce positive actions. “All relevant stakeholders should support the positive need to make these changes for Mother Nature.”
What are the trends for renewable energy in the future?
One area that offers huge potential in delivering a more sustainable ecosystem is the role of renewable energy, targeted to achieve 50% share of electricity generation by 2050.
“The trend for renewable energy is very encouraging. We at TNBES are already involved in several joint ventures around biogas and mini-hydro. Another emerging technology is that of solar. It’s far more efficient than it was 10 years ago. What’s more important is the increasing focus on battery storage technology. It’s expensive for Malaysia currently, but as the technology develops it will create a great opportunity to support clean energy growth.”
He is equally quick to point out that with renewable energy it’s important to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
Even with solar, we need to focus on what we can achieve.
“Wind unfortunately isn’t particularly viable in Malaysia. Even with solar, we need to focus on what we can achieve. We have less solar potential than, for example, Thailand. With renewable energy it’s not about being a leader with your installed capacity, it’s about ensuring you are delivering solutions that can be useful to everyone.”
Aside from the clear environmental benefits, Dr. Ahmad Jaafar argues for subtler economic benefits of renewable energy.
“Big multinationals like Apple or Microsoft, when they come to invest in a country, they always ask about sustainable energy. If a company doesn’t embrace green energy, they’re not considered good partners.”
It’s clear that renewable energy is a positive step forward for Malaysia on many fronts.
Are we charging up for electric vehicles?
Another notable step forward that TNBES is working to support is the adoption of electric vehicles (EV), via a partnership with Petronas Dagangan to install 100 EV charging points across Malaysia by 2018.
“Nobody can deny that electric vehicles are the transport of the future. It’s something we have to embrace, and we have to embrace it quickly,” said Dr. Ahmad Jaafar.
With as many as 20 million electric vehicles expected on roads around the world by 2020, what are the barriers for Malaysia?
“One of the challenges in adoption of electric vehicles is around the ease of charging your car. You don’t want to have to charge every 50km. So a key element is the battery.”
But the second challenge is the one that TNBES is moving to address – the need for charging stations. “We have a good partner in GreenTech Malaysia. They’ve already launched around 160 charging stations, and we are partnering with them to expand this network, as well as exploring a wider collaboration with PETRONAS petrol stations.”
Dr. Ahmad Jaafar points out one more significant hurdle to overcome. “Electric vehicles are like the chicken and the egg. What comes first, the charging stations or the car? Charging stations need to be deregulated, so everyone who has the money to deliver one can. But who is in the best position to do that? Is it TNB, or some company that doesn’t understand our electricity network? That’s why we see our role as so important.”