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Empowering Malaysians to Create a Sustainable Energy Future

Last year was Earth’s hottest year ever, shattering 2016’s heat record by a wide margin. Scientists estimate that 2023 was 1.48°C warmer than the pre-industrial period – perilously close to the 1.5°C threshold that nations agreed to respect in the 2015 Paris climate accords. Breaching this limit risks more storms, droughts, extreme heat, and flooding than humanity can safely manage.

2023 was just a preview of the future that awaits if the world does not act immediately on climate action. Borrowing the words of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, “we must respond to record-breaking temperature rises with path-breaking action”. Malaysia’s National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) unveiled last year represents a significant milestone in this regard.

The NETR charts an accelerated pathway for Malaysia to achieve net-zero emissions, signaling the nation’s steadfast efforts in the global fight against climate change. But beyond just a document about measures to meet net-zero targets, the roadmap more fundamentally embodies a new way of thinking to transform Malaysia’s economy and livelihoods for a stronger and more resilient future.

The climate crisis is a behavioural crisis

The roadmap recognises that the transition to a low-carbon future is not merely a policy objective, but also a moral imperative. Through the NETR, the government aspires to trailblaze a development path that is not solely hinged on energy, but on a larger collective resolve of stewardship and responsibility for our planet and future generations.

As such, although the development of green technology and infrastructure remains central for the goal of reducing carbon emissions, the NETR goes beyond a technical fix alone to avoid the worst impacts of the climate challenge. There’s a component of Malaysia’s net-zero transition that is behavioural, and it involves people and decision-making.

Indeed, an interdisciplinary team of global scientists recently proposed that ecological ‘overshoot’ caused by a crisis in human behaviour is the real root of the climate breakdown. Humanity needs 1.7 Earths to maintain its current consumption of resources – so unless this demand is significantly reduced, many other climate ‘innovations’ would only be like sticking plaster.

Without buy-in from individuals and groups, whether it is building new habits and routines to conserve energy or galvanizing support for cleaner tech, climate progress will likely occur far more slowly than what is needed. Figuring out the interplay between energy systems and behaviour, between infrastructure and personal action, is therefore part of the vanguard in sustainability thinking.

 The greatest action individuals can take against climate change is to reduce their carbon footprints through energy efficient habits and behaviours. In fact, more than 40% of the reduction in energy-related emissions needed to be in line with the Paris Agreement require consumers’ active involvement – either through behavioural changes or the uptake of energy efficient appliances.

However, even if individuals were aware of the benefits of embracing energy-efficient habits, human behaviour is not always rational. In sustainability studies, the “value-action” gap refers to the difference between what people say they desire to do, and what they actually do. So, even consumers that feel guilty about their choices may not necessarily make substantial behavioural changes.

Which is why effective consumer engagement is paramount to driving the changes needed for a net-zero future. Individual change starts with helping people to feel that they have real agency, and that their actions will make a difference in the global climate crisis. Appropriate interventions and programmes should be designed to catalyse sustainable changes in individual behaviours.

As Malaysia’s national electricity utility, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has been focused on pursuing a customer-led approach to empower consumers in navigating the complexities of the electricity supply industry. Leveraging on energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) solutions, Malaysians are being equipped for a more sustainable future with smarter energy solutions, particularly to circumvent the country’s hot weather.

Empowering consumers to embrace sustainability

TNB recognises that the emergence of technologies like smart meters, energy monitoring systems, and solar-photovoltaic (PV) technologies provide an exciting opportunity for a new generation of producing consumers – or ‘prosumers’

TNB recognises that the emergence of technologies like smart meters, energy monitoring systems, and solar-photovoltaic (PV) technologies provide an exciting opportunity for a new generation of producing consumers – or ‘prosumers’ – to play a more active role in transforming the traditional energy systems that we know today.

Through the myTNB platform, for instance, customers who transitioned to smart meters can actively monitor their electricity usage and energy consumption in real-time. Having access to their daily electricity usage information helps put the power back into the consumers’ hands for managing household energy expenditure and reducing carbon footprint.

Consumers also have the option to subscribe to green energy and purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) through myGreen+ and mGATS, enabling them to support the government’s agenda of generating 20% electricity via renewable energy sources by 2025. No major investments nor contracts are needed for the subscription, making it more accessible for consumers.

In further efforts to improve the accessibility of RE technology, the Green Electricity Tariff (GET) programme and the Supply Agreement with Renewable Energy (SARE) programme allows consumers to enjoy low-carbon electricity supply, including solar energy, at zero upfront installation costs and immediate electricity cost savings.

Meanwhile to drive the shift to cleaner mobility, TNB is also working together with industry partners to develop EV charging points via TNB Electron across the nation, with the goal of assisting the Government target of 10,000 chargers by 2024. We will also provide EV users with a geospatial-based platform through the GO TO-U mobile app that enables easy booking and activation of the chargers.

Towards a climate and energy literate society

As we strive to make sustainable behaviours the new normal under the NETR, we need to ensure that a comprehensive understanding of the energy system permeates all levels of our society. This points to the need for improved energy literacy and energy awareness – which are critical for informed decision-making and responsible action when it comes to managing one’s daily energy usage.

Malaysia, like most countries around the world, has identified a gap to bridge in the practice and understanding of energy literacy among its citizens. To bridge this gap, TNB in collaboration with Energy Transition and Water Transformation Ministry (PETRA) launched the Malaysia Energy Literacy Programme (MELP) in hopes of cultivating a generation of energy-sensitive Malaysians.

Rolled out in collaboration with partners including Malaysia’s Energy Commission (EC) and the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) last year, the MELP is dedicated to transforming Malaysians into well-informed energy citizens, with a shared sense of responsibility to safeguard our nation’s energy sources and ensure that energy truly belongs to everyone.

With collaboration as its driving strategy, the MELP has stakeholders across government agencies, industry players, NGOs, educational bodies, and the media, all working together to promote sustainability at all levels of the energy supply ecosystem, from the utilities all the way to the end consumer, be it commercial or residential users.

Sustainability is everyone’s responsibility

Entering 2024 with more record heat worldwide, the time for the boldest of climate action really is now or never. Fortunately, we have credible scientific data and evidence that shows just how much we can achieve if we can all shift towards more energy-efficient habits and behaviours, representing a substantially overlooked strategy in the global energy transition.

Nonetheless, achieving such radical transformations in patterns of behaviour, by design, and within the bounds of public acceptability and democratic process, is admittedly a gargantuan task. The social and behavioural dimension does not only present opportunities to reduce energy and resource demand, but also brings major challenges in delivering the whole endeavour.

Therefore, behaviour must be viewed more broadly as a critical dimension to Malaysia’s national decarbonisation agenda. As Malaysians, each and every one of us have a role to play in delivering on the promises and goals of the NETR by embracing more sustainable energy habits, together with supporting the large-scale infrastructure changes needed across all areas of energy use going forward.

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