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Rebates, Business Pivots, and Gas Reliance: Leaders Share Comments at ICLAD 2021

The fifth annual International Conference on Learning & Development (ICLAD) was recently held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 16-18 November 2021. On the morning of the launch, chief executives came together at a roundtable to discuss the energy transition happening across the ASEAN region.

Kicking off the discussion was Datuk Fazlur Rahman, Chief Strategy & Ventures Officer of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (“TNB”), Malaysia’s national electricity supplier. Over the past decade, the utility has pivoted largely towards renewable energy investments, with business decisions steered by their ‘Reimagining TNB’ agenda, first formulated in 2016.

Commenting on the considerations for the clean transition, Datuk Fazlur said, “Firstly, I think what’s important is the energy trilemma – balancing the need for energy sustainability, with energy security and energy equity. That’s always been the primary concern when we talk about the transition for the electricity sector.”

Balancing the three arms of sustainable, secure, and affordable electricity has been a long-standing challenge for the industry. Many experts have commented that achieving all three sides of the trilemma is unlikely, unless at some minor cost of one of the other sides.

“From GE’s standpoint, with the addition of renewable energy, we believe that gas power should be deployed in the form of dependable capacity,” added Ramesh Singaram, Chief Executive Officer of GE Gas Power Asia Pacific.

“There are many other dependable capacities that are available today, but not to a scale that can ensure a sustainable impact. The benefit is not only from an emissions perspective, but from a technology standpoint. Compared to coal, the gas carbon footprint is smaller, the startup time is faster, the financing is quite attractive, and so on. And when you think about gases, it enables future technology. So, you move from Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to more zero-carbon fuels in the form of hydrogen and also ammonia,” he added.

Ramesh also stressed that the transition cannot be solved by technology alone. Local partnerships, stakeholder alignment, and supportive policy are all keys to unlocking a future with cleaner, greener energy.

“Within ASEAN, you have different countries at different stages of development. There are countries which are much more developed, countries which are developing and countries that are just using electricity just to get by with their daily lives. It’s a multi-speed problem for us to solve, because from the perspective of different countries, their needs are different as well,” Ramesh added.

It’s a multi-speed problem for us to solve, because from the perspective of different countries, their needs are different as well

Malaysia’s own landscape presents unique opportunities and challenges. Peninsular Malaysia has achieved a commendable electrification rate of nearly 100%, whilst East Malaysia continues to face challenges in securing stable power supply. Recently, the government announced a set of energy initiatives under the 12th Malaysia Plan, outlining various clean energy goals, including raising the country’s renewable energy mix to 40% by 2035.

Datuk Fazlur shared, “By nature of Tenaga’s business, the implications of emissions to the environment is a key aspect of our business. Therefore, the expectations of the stakeholders, investors, etc, is that we need to do our part in this particular area. So, we’ve looked at this and translated it into the various strategies that we have within the organisation. Today, we have about 3.5 gigawatts of renewable capacity. Going forward by 2025, we would expect to have about 8.3 gigawatts of renewable capacity.”

While TNB has traditionally provided power through conventional methods, carbon-cut commitments mean that the company must shift into newer, evolving areas of power generation. One such business pivot was the establishment of GSPARX, a renewable energy subsidiary under TNB. The company’s mission is to provide renewable energy consultation, installation, and maintenance services to TNB’s 9.5 million customers across the nation.

“TNB has been around since 1949; known as LLN back then. In the past, power generation has always been central, with central planning of large power plants. But in the future, it will be more distributed. There’s decentralisation happening, and digitalisation happening. So, these are the drivers that will create the impetus for us to rethink how we serve the customer at the end of the day.”

Bringing renewable energy to everyday homes is not a new initiative. The country’s Sustainable Energy Development Authority (“SEDA”) had launched the Net Energy Metering (“NEM”) mechanism in 2016, in an effort to encourage greater renewable uptake by consumers in Malaysia. This is part of its larger effort to promote the generation of RE in Malaysia and accelerate the country’s energy transition.

According to Dato’ Hamzah bin Hussin, Chief Executive Officer of SEDA, the demand for the programme has been encouraging, and continues to grow. “I’m glad to share that to-date, our NEM 3.0 programme has at least 200 participants and take-up of about 50 megawatts. This is one of the success stories from the ministry with SEDA as the implementing agency,” he shared.

As a key public player, SEDA has also steered its focus towards education and engagement campaigns. The organisation’s Sustainability Achieved Via Energy Efficiency (SAVE) 2.0 campaign is a RM200 e-rebate program for households that purchase energy efficient air-conditioning units or refrigerators. The programme aims to increase public awareness on energy efficiency and consumption, especially for domestic consumers.

SEDA has aligned ourselves with universities, colleges, and also youth associations, to encourage them to participate

“Previously, the topic of energy transition appealed more to certain folks, like academics, researchers or policymakers. But as the world evolves, more and more people are talking more about it. So, on this front, SEDA has aligned ourselves with universities, colleges, and also youth associations, to encourage them to participate, to grow, in terms of their consciousness and awareness of sustainability,” said Dato’ Hamzah.

Concluding his remarks, he said, “At the end of the day, we want the market in general, including consumers and businesses too, to have a fair opportunity to contribute to the nation’s renewable growth.”

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