Monday, December 20, 2010

2010: Disastrous Year, World gone wild

Thestar: Monday December 20, 2010

NEW YORK: This was the year the Earth struck back.
Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010; the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorists in the past 40 years combined.
"It just seemed like it was back-to-back, and it came in waves," said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010.
"The term '100-year event' really lost its meaning this year."
And we have ourselves to blame most of the time, scientists and disaster experts say.
Even though many catastrophes have the ring of random chance, the hand of man made this a particularly deadly, costly, extreme and weird year for everything from wild weather to earthquakes.
Poor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die.
Disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, "are pretty much constant," said Andreas Schraft, vice president of catastrophic perils for the Geneva-based insurance giant Swiss Re. "All the change that's made is man-made."
The January earthquake that killed well more than 220,000 people in Haiti is a perfect example. Port-au-Prince has nearly three times as many people, many of them living in poverty, and more poorly built shanties than it did 25 years ago. So had the same quake hit in 1985 instead of 2010, total deaths probably would have been in the 80,000 range, said Richard Olson, director of disaster risk reduction at Florida International University.
In February, an earthquake that was more than 500 times stronger than the one that struck Haiti hit an area of Chile that was less populated, better constructed, and not so poor. Chile's bigger quake caused fewer than 1,000 deaths.
Climate scientists say Earth's climate also is changing thanks to man-made global warming, bringing extreme weather, such as heat waves and flooding.
In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles (160,580 sq. kilometers), about the size of Bangladesh. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.
"It's a form of suicide, isn't it? We build houses that kill ourselves (in earthquakes). We build houses in flood zones that drown ourselves," said Roger Bilham, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado. "It's our fault for not anticipating these things. You know, this is the Earth doing its thing."
No one had to tell a mask-wearing Vera Savinova how bad it could get. She is a 52-year-old administrator in a dental clinic who in August took refuge from Moscow's record heat, smog and wildfires.
"I think it is the end of the world," she said. "Our planet warns us against what would happen if we don't care about nature."
The excessive amount of extreme weather that dominated 2010 is a classic sign of man-made global warming that climate scientists have long warned about. They calculate that the killer Russian heat wave, which set a national record of 111 degrees (44 Celsius), would happen once every 100,000 years without global warming.
Preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day on record.
"These (weather) events would not have happened without global warming," said Kevin Trenberth, chief of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
That is why the people who study disasters for a living say it would be wrong to chalk 2010 up to just another bad year.
"The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making," said a weary Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization's Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. "It's almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We've created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact."
Here is a quick tour of an anything but normal 2010:
While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers, deadly quakes also struck Chile, Turkey, China and Indonesia in one of the most active seismic years in decades. Through mid-December there have been 20 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher, compared with the normal 16. This year is tied for the most big quakes since 1970, but it is not a record. Nor is it a significantly above average year for the number of strong earthquakes, U.S. earthquake officials say.
Flooding alone this year killed more than 6,300 people in 59 nations through September, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, 30 people died in floods in the Nashville, Tennessee, region. Inundated countries include China, Italy, India, Colombia and Chad. Super Typhoon Megi, with winds of more than 200 mph devastated the Philippines and parts of China.
Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared with 15,000 in 2009, according to Swiss Re. The World Health Organization, which has not updated its figures past Sept. 30, is just shy of 250,000. By comparison, deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000, according to reports by the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The last year in which natural disasters were this deadly was 1983 because of an Ethiopian drought and famine, according to WHO. Swiss Re calls it the deadliest since 1976.
The charity Oxfam says 21,000 of this year's disaster deaths are weather related.
After strong early year blizzards, nicknamed Snowmageddon, paralyzed the U.S. mid-Atlantic and record snowfalls hit Russia and China, the temperature turned to broil.
The year may go down as the hottest on record worldwide or at the very least in the top three, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The average global temperature through the end of October was 58.53 degrees (14.74 Celsius), a shade over the previous record of 2005, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Los Angeles, California, had its hottest day in recorded history on Sept. 27: 113 degrees. In May, 129 degrees (54 Celsius) set a record for Pakistan and may have been the hottest temperature recorded in an inhabited location.
In the Southeastern United States, the year began with freezes in Florida that had cold-blooded iguanas becoming comatose and falling off trees. Then it became the hottest summer on record for the region. As the year ended, unusually cold weather was back in force.
Northern Australia had the wettest May-October on record, while the southwestern part of that country had its driest spell on record. And parts of the Amazon River basin struck by drought hit their lowest water levels in recorded history.
Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010, more than Hong Kong's economy, according to Swiss Re. That is more than usual, but not a record, Schraft said. That is because this year's disasters often struck poor areas without heavy insurance, such as Haiti.
Ghulam Ali's three-bedroom, one-story house in northwestern Pakistan collapsed during the floods. To rebuild, he had to borrow 50,000 rupees ($583) from friends and family. It is what many Pakistanis earn in half a year.
A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado.
A nearly 2-pound (0.9-kilogram) hailstone that was 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) in diameter fell in South Dakota in July to set a U.S. record. The storm that produced it was one of seven declared disasters for that state this year.
There was not much snow to start the Winter Olympics in a relatively balmy Vancouver, British Columbia, while the U.S. East Coast was snowbound.
In a 24-hour period in October, Indonesia got the trifecta of terra terror: a deadly magnitude 7.7 earthquake, a tsunami that killed more than 500 people and a volcano that caused more than 390,000 people to flee. That is after flooding, landslides and more quakes killed hundreds earlier in the year.
Even the extremes were extreme. This year started with a good sized El Nino, a recurring Pacific Ocean weather oscillation, which causes all sorts of extremes worldwide. Then later in the year, the world got the mirror image Pacific weather system with a strong La Nina, which causes a different set of extremes. Having a year with both a strong El Nino and La Nina is unusual.
And in the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared a record number of major disasters, 79 as of Dec. 14. The average year has 34.
A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by The Associated Press runs 64 printed pages long.
"The extremes are changed in an extreme fashion," said Greg Holland, director of the earth system laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
For example, even though it sounds counterintuitive, global warming likely played a bit of a role in U.S. "Snowmageddon" early this year, Holland said. That is because with a warmer climate, there is more moisture in the air, which makes storms including blizzards, more intense, he said.
White House science adviser John Holdren said people should become acclimated used to climate disasters or do something about global warming: "The science is clear that we can expect more and more of these kinds of damaging events unless and until society's emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles are sharply reduced."
And that is just the "natural disasters." It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes. BP's broken oil well caused 172 million gallons to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Mining disasters, men trapped deep in the Earth, caused dozens of deaths in tragic collapses in West Virginia, China and New Zealand. The fortunate miners in Chile who survived 69 days underground provided the feel good story of the year.
In both technological and natural disasters, there runs a common theme of "pushing the envelope," Olson said.
Colorado's Bilham said the world's population is moving into riskier megacities on fault zones and flood-prone areas. He figures that 400 million to 500 million people in the world live in large cities prone to major earthquakes.
A Haitian disaster will happen again, Bilham said: "It could be Algiers. it could be Tehran. It could be any one of a dozen cities."
World Health Organization's Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters:
World Meteorological Organization:
Swiss Re report on 2010 natural catastrophes:
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency disasters:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Expansion in solar photovoltaic to generate RM200mil in opportunities

Thestar: Monday November 22, 2010


GEORGE TOWN: The solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the country is expected to increase substantially to 11mega watt (MW) in 2011, generating about RM200mil in business opportunities for companies involved in installing solar power generation systems.
AWC Bhd managing director Azmir Merican told StarBiz that the 11MW capacity would provide for the grid-connected market in the peninsula and the off-grid market in East Malaysia, following the implementation of the feed-in tariff scheme under the Renewable Energy Law next July.
The feed-in tariffs proposed for residential buildings is around RM1.20 per kilowatt (KW) hour and for commercial properties around RM1.10 per KW hour, while the tariff to consume solar power from Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) is around 32sen per KW hour for both residential and commercial properties.
AWC, a provider of engineering services and integrated facility management solutions, is listed on the Main Market. Ithad just set up a joint-venture company, AWC Solamas Sdn Bhd, with Solamas Sdn Bhd to provide solar power integrated services to tap the huge potential of the renewable energy sector in the country.
Solar panels installed by AWC Solamas
We expect the commercial and government sectors to generate the bulk of demand for solar PV system installation, as the commercial enterprises and the Government would be interested in reducing power spending to stay competitive and to save money.
A large factory, for example, would require the installation of 1MW capacity, which would cost about RM16mil to install.
The RM16mil would include the cost of designing, building, and installing the solar PV system to suit the requirements of the customer, he said.
Commenting on overseas markets, Azmir said the joint venture company would also look into providing its services in the Middle East.
The Middle East is heavily investing into solar projects, and we would like to be a part of this, he said. In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, there is 1500MW capacity of concentrated solar power slated for development by 2020, and the installation for 100MW capacity has already started. The UAE has also invested about US$2bil into solar PV manufacturing.
Azmir said the company would also explore Africa, which has a large growth potential in the energy sector, and pursue opportunities in Malaysia and South-East Asia.
ETI Tech Corp Bhd, an ACE market renewable energy provider company, is targeting to sell between 500 and 1,000 sets per month of solar power generation system for off-grid applications in 2011 for the Sabah and Sarawak market.
We sold only about 60 sets this year, which generated over RM1mil in revenue, as we started the business some 18 months ago.
The off-grid solar PV market in Sabah and Sarawak is huge, as there are some 400,000 rural households which are still using diesel-generators as power systems.
ETI Tech has to date spent about RM4mil in research and development to produce lithium polymer batteries for off-grid applications in east Malaysia, ETI managing director K.K. Lee said.
Meanwhile, Gading Kencana Sdn Bhd managing director Guntor Tobeng said the company was now bidding for two 5MW solar power projects called by Johor Port in Pasir Gudang and by Tenaga Nasional Bhd for its solar farm project in Putrajaya, which would cost about RM180mil to install.
In 2012, the solar power capacity in Malaysia is expected to grow to 22MW, generating about RM400mil in business opportunities.
These business opportunities are in the supply of modules, system components, and provision of installation services to households and commercial buildings which generate solar energy for their own usage or those connected to the power grid for distribution. The capital barrier to these businesses is also very low, ranging between RM50,000 and RM3mil, Guntor said.
Based in Shah Alam, Gading Kencana is involved a providing consultancy and engineering services for renewable energy used in residential and commercial buildings.
The company has, so far this year, completed RM10mil worth of solar energy projects for rural areas in east Malaysia.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Renewable power seen generating RM70b

Thestar Propertyct 1, 2010

GEORGE TOWN: The renewable power sector is expected to generate an estimated RM70bil in revenue by 2020, following the implementation of the feed-in tariff scheme under the Renewable Energy Law next July.
Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic (MBIPV) project technical advisor Chen Wei-nee told StarBiz that the income tax from the RM70bil generated by renewable power plants would alone account for RM1.75bil. MBIPV is a project administered by the Energy, Green Technology, and Water Ministry.
“By 2020, there will also be some RM19bil of loan values for renewable energy projects, which will provide local banks with new sources of revenues,” she said after a talk on feed-in tariff scheme for solar energy at investPenang here.
There would also be some 52,000 jobs created to construct, operate and maintain renewable energy power plants, she added.
“The savings to reduce carbon dioxide emission will be about RM 2.1bil,” she said. Chen urged households and commercial units to quickly sign up with local power distributors for 21 years once the feed-in tariff scheme under the Renewable Energy Law was implemented next July.

“By signing and commissioning the solar power system in their buildings early, residential and commercial units will be able to obtain an attractive price to sell to local power distributors and buy back at a lower market rate,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gading Kencana Sdn Bhd managing director Guntor Tobeng said the grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the country was expected to grow from 2MW (mega-watt) this year to 11MW in 2011, generating about RM209mil in business opportunities for small-medium entrepreneurs (SMEs), compared with about RM19mil in 2010.
In 2012, the solar power capacity was expected to grow to 22MW, generating RM352mil in business opportunities, according to Guntor.
“These business opportunities are in the supply of modules, system components, and provision of installation services to households and commercial buildings which generate solar energy for their own usage or those connected to the power grid for distribution. The capital barrier to these businesses is also very low, ranging between RM50,000 to RM3mil,” he said.
Guntor said the RM50,000 was applicable for SMEs interested in providing installation services and selling things such as inverters and cables to solar-powered residences and commercial units.
“The RM3mil investment is required for SMEs interested in producing solar modules using imported equipment and cells from US, China, and Taiwan,” he said.
Based in Shah Alam, Gading Kencana is involved a providing consultancy and engineering services for renewable energy used in residential and commercial buildings.
The company has, so far this year, completed RM10mil worth of solar energy projects for rural areas in East Malaysia

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


TENAGA NASIONAL BERHAD has signed an agreement for the purchase of electricity generated by a small Renewable Energy (RE) power project developed by Garisan Etika (M) Sdn. Bhd. under the Small Renewable Energy Power (SREP) Program. The SREP Program was launched by the Government in May 2001 to promote the utilisation of renewable energy in power generation and to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. The signing of this agreement demonstrates the continous support given by TNB for the success of the Government's SREP Program.

TNB has agreed to purchase the electricity from Garisan Etika (M) Sdn. Bhd. for a period of 21 years. The estimated value of this REPPA is about RM18.4 million per year .

The RE power plant developed by Garisan Etika (M) Sdn. Bhd., which utilizes Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB) as bio-mass fuel, will be located in Bandar Tenggara, Kota Tinggi, Johor Darul Takzim and will have an export capacity of 10 MW to TNB. As at todate the total capacity under REPPA is 98.15 MW.

None of the Directors or Major Shareholder of TNB or persons connected to the Directors or Major Shareholder of TNB has interest, direct or indirect, on the said matter.

This announcement is dated 7 September 2010.


TENAGA NASIONAL BERHAD has signed an agreement for the purchase of electricity generated by a small Renewable Energy (RE) power project developed by Maju Intan Biomass Energy Sdn. Bhd. under the Small Renewable Energy Power (SREP) Program. The SREP Program was launched by the Government in May 2001 to promote the utilisation of renewable energy in power generation and to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. The signing of this agreement demonstrates the continous support given by TNB for the success of the Government's SREP Program.

TNB has agreed to purchase the electricity from Maju Intan Biomass Energy Sdn. Bhd. for a period of 21 years. The estimated value of this REPPA is about RM18,396,000 per year .

The RE power plant developed by Maju Intan Biomass Energy Sdn. Bhd., which utilizes Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB) a bio-mass fuel, will be located at Lot No. 27114, Mukim Durian Sebatang, Teluk Intan, Perak Darul Ridzuan and will have an export capacity of 10 MW to TNB. As at to date, the total capacity under REPPA is 108.15MW.

None of the Directors or Major Shareholder of TNB or persons connected to the Directors or Major Shareholder of TNB has interest, direct or indirect, on the said matter.

This announcement is dated 7 September 2010.


TENAGA NASIONAL BERHAD has signed an agreement for the purchase of electricity generated by a small Renewable Energy (RE) power project developed by Felda Palm Industries Sdn. Bhd. under the Very Small Renewable Energy Power (VSREP )Program . The SREP Program was launched by the Government in May 2001 to promote the utilisation of renewable energy in power generation and to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. The signing of this agreement demonstrates the continous support given by TNB for the success of the Government's SREP Program.

TNB has agreed to purchase the electricity from Felda Palm Industries (M) Sdn. Bhd. for a period of 21 years. The estimated value of this REPPA is about RM919,800.00 per year .

The RE power plant developed by Felda Palm Industries Sdn. Bhd., which utilizes methane gas from Palm Oil Mill Effluent as bio-gas fuel, will be located in Bandar Baru Serting, Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus and will have an export capacity of 0.5 MW to TNB. As at to date, the total capacity under REPPA is 108.65 MW.

None of the Directors or Major Shareholder of TNB or persons connected to the Directors or Major Shareholder of TNB has interest, direct or indirect, on the said matter.

This announcement is dated 7 September 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Emphasis on developing biomass, biogas

Wednesday September 1, 2010


They are given more opportunity to be developed as renewable energy under feed-in tariff policy
PETALING JAYA: Biomass and biogas will be given more opportunity to develop as renewable energy (RE) resources during the first 10 years of the implementation of feed-in tariff (FiT) in Malaysia.
This is based on the quotas set for the various RE technologies under the proposed FiT policy by the RE/Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic (MBIPV) national project team under the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology & Water (see table 1).
Nevertheless, this does not mean that other RE technologies will be given less focus under the proposed policy.
The quotas allocated for each RE technology each year is to set a limit on the amount of electricity that can be paid for by the Government. It is based on the availability and cash flow management of the RE fund that will be put under the management of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority, or Seda. This is to ensure that the RE fund can be managed more effectively.
“It is important that we manage the RE fund in an effective manner to ensure that FiT payments can be honoured over its entire duration and propel RE development in the country to achieve their maximum potentials in the short and long terms,” RE/MBIPV national project leader and chief technical adviser Ir Ahmad Hadri Haris told StarBiz in an email.
So far, the RE resources that have been approved under the proposed FiT are biomass (from plantation, agriculture, forestry residues and solid waste); biogas (from plantation, agriculture, forestry residues, animal waste, landfill gas and sewage gas); mini-hydro; and solar photovoltaic (PV).
As the cost of solar technology progressively reduces over the years of the FiT implementation, solar energy would supersede other technologies to become the most important renewable resources; and this was expected to happen after 2020, Ahmad Hadri said.
FiT forms part of the RE Act that will be tabled before the Parliament in October. It is part of the Government’s plan to boost RE contribution to Malaysia’s electricity-generation mix from less than 1% in 2009 to around 5.5% by 2015 (see table 2).
If passed by the end of the year, the mechanism is set to take effect from the second quarter of next year.
And with the policy in place, individuals or business owners can then sell electricity they generated from renewable resources to utility companies such as Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Sarawak Energy Bhd at a fixed premium rate for a specific period.
As of now, the indicative FiT rates for every kilowatt of RE generated are as follows: 27 to 31 sen for biomass; 28 to 32 sen for biogas; 23 to 24 sen per mini-hydro; and 85 sen to RM1.23 for solar PV. According to Ahmad Hadri, the indicative rates are still subject to change unless the RE Act is passed.
To participate in the FiT system, individuals or industries need to install two meters – one for power sold and the other for consumption. The meters will be read at the end of every month, and two bills will be issued – one stating the amount of renewable energy users generated and the other stating the amount of electricity from the main grid that users have consumed. Users will have to pay the amount due to the utility company for the electricity consumed, while the utility company will pay users for the renewable energy generated.
The Government believed that the FiT system would encourage the growth of renewable energy usage multi-fold from the estimated 55 megawatt (MW) to one gigawatt (GW) by 2015 and 4GW by 2030. That is in line with its aim to minimise the need for fossil-fuel power plants and reduce carbon emission.

Monday, August 30, 2010

More banks offer green technology financing

Monday August 30, 2010


Environmental business grows
PETALING JAYA: More banks in Malaysia are going into green technology financing in view of the potential market for environmental business amid surging levels of greenhouse gases.
Although green financing has not taken off in a big way in Malaysia compared with developed countries, it has been gaining prominence.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (Japan), one of the five foreign commercial banks which recently received licences to operate in the country, has teamed up with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) to provide US$200mil financing for local manufacturers.
Lim Hong Tat ... ‘Maybank has also financed green projects in the Philippines, Indonesia, China and Vietnam.’
The financing, the first of its kind in the country, would be used to fund various types of “green initiatives” including renewable energy, recycling and waste management projects, according to FMM.
The Government had set up a RM1.5bil Green Technology Financing Scheme (GTFS) under Budget 2010 to encourage the supply and usage of green technologies, especially in energy, water and waste management industries.
CIMB Bank had also teamed up with Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd to promote GTFS and would contribute up to RM150mil for the scheme.
On the RM1.5bil GTFS, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin was reported as saying the banks had to date approved RM161mil for six companies that planned to reduce carbon by 114,691 tonnes.
So far, a total of 43 projects had been approved for the GTFS, he noted.
HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd managing director for commercial banking David Morton said as a participant of the scheme, the bank’s relationship managers had been working with customers to identify projects that employed the use of green technology and guide them on the availability of funding via this scheme.
Nirukt Sapru ... ‘Green financing is open to all sectors, including biomass and biofuels.’
The bank had also been running its Commercial Banking Green Campaign since November 2009 to encourage customers to conduct their business in a sustainable manner while reinforcing the bank’s commitment to environmental protection, he added.
The campaign, which ends in October, offers customers special “green financing” rates with HSBC’s Industrial Hire Purchase-i and Leasing-i offering.
On the allocation of loans, Morton said HSBC did not have a limit for this type of financing and it was always on the lookout for suitable proposals for viable projects.
“We encourage any profitable and sustainable business to approach HSBC to apply for financing in this area,” he told StarBiz.
Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) deputy president and head of community financial services Lim Hong Tat said the bank was ready to provide advice and financial assistance to companies intending to upgrade their manufacturing process, “green” their premises or go into large-scale implementation of clean development mechanism, biomass and other energy projects.
He did not divulge the amount of financing disbursed or available.
Green projects financed locally by Maybank include waste water treatment plants, solid waste recycling plant, oil palm biomass steam powered generator and construction of green buildings.
The bank had also financed green projects in its operations in the Philippines, Indonesia, China and Vietnam, Lim noted.
Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd managing director of origination and client coverage, wholesale banking, Nirukt Sapru, said “green financing” was open to all sectors, including biomass and biofuels.
“With our track record, expertise and international network in sustainable financing, we are able to play a key role in Malaysia – as we have done so in other markets in supporting the shift – as more corporates in Malaysia look towards growth and expansion opportunities, leveraging on green financing and best practices,” he added.
Citing some of the challenges in green financing, Morton said although recent events had increased awareness of the importance of sustaining the environment, the strong push and pull factors for companies to go green in Malaysia were relatively absent.
“For companies, the choice of employing ‘green’ technology remains very much profit-driven. Demand for green financing at the moment is relatively slow given its dependence on the pace of adoption of green technology and practices,” he added.
Lim said also said Malaysian businesses should strive to better understand what green technology really meant by engaging experts on the subject.
Meanwhile, ACCA global head of sustainability and corporate social responsibility Henning Dräger said ACCA was actively involved in stakeholder forums and working groups that dealt with green technology finance.
ACCA’s role was to follow developments in this sector on behalf of students who might want to join this industry in the future and inform members of relevant initiatives.
“We are also asked to provide expert input to questions about return on investment for low carbon technologies and carbon accounting frameworks which are part of our sustainability remit,” Dräger added.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Renewable energy a growth sector for Malaysia

Thestar: Saturday August 28, 2010


The Star will feature a series of stories in conjunction with StarBiz-ICRM Corporate Responsibility Awards. The CR Awards is the result of a partnership between The Star and Institute of Corporate Responsibility Malaysia (ICRM), supported by the Securities Commission and Bursa Malaysia Bhd. Its working partners are PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Securities Industry Development Corp.
THE renewable energy sector is fast gaining ground as a new growth area for many countries worldwide with the vast potential it presents environmentally and economically.
Renewable energy plays a major role in meeting a country’s energy needs, enabling businesses to reap energy cost savings and revenue while combating global warming.
On the homefront, renewable energy is seen as a growth sector that will help propel the country into a high-income economy.
The sector, however, is still relatively undeveloped in the country as reflected in the low achievement of renewable energy targets under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services associate director (sustainability and climate change) Mark Wong, the 9MP targeted the production of 350MW of grid-connected electricity from renewable sources, translating into 1.8% of electricity mix.
“However, only 53MW was achieved by the end of 2009, or 15% of the targeted capacity,” he said.
The 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) re-emphasised the use of renewable energy to meet Malaysia’s growing energy demands, in particular hydro power for electricity generation and blending of biofuels for transport sector.
Two of the steps taken by the Government to help boost development in renewable energy sector is the plan to implement a feed-in tariff programme later this year and the mandatory blending of biofuels for transport sector in 2011.
Wong said renewable energy was expected to contribute about 6% of the country’s electricity production mix in the next five years and about 11% by 2020.
“Renewable energy is often perceived to be a green initiative that is something nice to do. What needs to be understood is that there is a strong business case for renewable energy sector in the long term,” he said.
Renewable energy advisor to the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, Ahmad Hadri Haris, had said in a report that based on projections by experts, the sector could provide at least RM70bil worth of revenue for the private sector and potentially generate tax revenue of at least RM1.76bil for the Government by 2020.
Another economic and social benefit arising from the sector is job creation. Experts have estimated that at least 52,000 jobs could be created from the construction, operation and maintenance of renewable energy plants in the country by 2020.
ACCA Global head of sustainability and corporate social responsibility Henning Drager said there was a strong recognition that the dependence on fossil fuels needed to be curtailed. This is based on the Government’s support of renewables as reflected in the National Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan.
“Communities, industries, businesses and households need a reliable energy supply to prosper.
“Ramping up the renewable energy generation percentage is crucial if Malaysia is serious about reducing fossil fuels’ contribution to climate change, addressing energy security issues around importing oil and coal from unstable global regions, and the creation of skilled and unskilled jobs in the domestic renewables sector.”
Latest projections by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is that renewable energy, especially solar power, could play a large role in Malaysia’s future energy generation. This is because the country is blessed with over 250 days of sunshine a year, thus providing great potential to meet the energy needs of businesses and communities.
Amsterdam-based international expert on corporate responsibility and sustainable development, Paul Hohnen, concurred.
He said the country’s challenges in the long term included the transition from its reliance on finite supplies of oil and gas to renewable sources such as solar power and also to ensure maximum diversity and sustainability of its ecosystems.
“At the end of the day, the sun is Malaysia’s greatest renewable asset. It sustainably powers forests and farms, as well as tourism. But there is still much untapped potential and this is where much of the growth potential is.
“If Malaysia can achieve this transition, it will create firm foundations not only for domestic solar power industries but also industries based on plant genetic diversity (such as medicines), and sustainable crops for fuel, food, fibre and fertilisation,” he said.
Drager said significant upfront investment would be required to increase the contribution of renewables based on a thorough assessment of their respective generation potential.
“Addressing any structural, political and cultural barriers to redirecting government subsidies towards this sector will be a key element for future success,” he added.
Drager said a detailed renewables job creation programme would need to be worked out by the Government to match the skills based on the renewables ambition.
“The programme should also address Malaysia’s high-income model because the highly-skilled labour required, including engineers, electricians and project managers, will be able to demand salary premiums and create aspirations around joining Malaysia’s renewables drive.”
Concrete measures and frameworks needed to be worked out across stakeholder groups and these include low and no interest loans, longer return-on-investment timelines, tax incentives and ambitious renewables targets, he said.
> To participate in StarBiz-ICRM Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010, you will need to fill out an online questionnaire. Submission closes on Sept 24. The online questionnaire is accessible at Further questions can be directed to or call 03-2072 2130 or 03-2070-0130. For more information, log on to

StarBiz-ICRM Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010: Workshop to assist companies to fill out survey

IN conjunction with the StarBiz-ICRM Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010, CSR Asia in association with the organisers , StarBiz and ICRM, will conduct a workshop to assist companies with completing the survey.
The workshop will be held at Cyberhub on 1st Floor, Menara Star, Section 16, Petaling Jaya from 9.30–11.00 am on Sept 2. For those attending the workshop, kindly bring along your laptop to access the survey online or a printed copy of the survey.
For those who cannot make it during that time, CSR Asia staff will be on hand for the rest of the day at the same venue to answer your questions. Companies that have difficulties completing the survey or require further guidance and information are strongly encouraged to attend this workshop.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Higher supply of power for peninsula

Thestar: Monday August 16, 2010


Ministry plans plant-up of an additional 2,000 MW
PUTRAJAYA: The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry is planning for the plant-up of an additional 2,000 MW of power, which is 400 MW higher than the amount originally sought from the Bakun dam.
“As the economy picks up amid the bullish projections, it is safer for Peninsular Malaysia, in terms of industrialisation, to ensure that the power supplied exceeds the amount that was planned under the previous submarine cable transmission project from Bakun to the peninsula,’’ Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin told StarBiz.
“When we do the planning, we look at two things: to provide the necessary power to make up for the loss from Bakun and retire some of the old plants in the peninsula,’’ he said.
Chin was referring to the scrapped undersea cable project that was supposed to transmit 1,600 MW to the peninsula via two cables of 800 MW each.
Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui … ‘The investment in cable transmission is tremendous and would reflect on the tariffs.’
“The investment in cable transmission is tremendous and would reflect on the tariffs. It is convenient to transmit power from Bakun but if anything goes wrong with the cable, we will be cutting off 1,600 MW of power supply for Peninsular Malaysia,’’ he said.
The Energy Commission hopes to identify the power company that will plant up an additional 1,000 MW of electricity by the end of January next year.
The commission is still in the consultative process, evaluating the proposals submitted by three bidders for existing sites – Tenaga Nasional Bhd (Janamanjung), Malakoff Bhd (Tanjung Bin) and Jimah Power Sdn Bhd (Jimah).
The winner of the bid has to ensure that the plant will be operational by the first quarter of 2015.
The second plant can be a greenfield project which probably would take longer to plan, as it involves site investigations and compliance with environmental requirements.

Electricity consumption per capita in Malaysia now stands at about 3,412 kWh a year, significantly higher than most developing countries, but still below the average in developed countries.
It is projected to more than double to 7,571 kWh per person in 2030, higher than that of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation region average of 6,833 kWh per person.

Chin said the decision to build a coal-fired plant, instead of using hydropower from Bakun, did put the energy mix into some imbalance.
We can make up for that in other ways,’’ he said. “With the feed-in-tariff (FIT) to be in place by next year, we anticipate more plant-ups with photovoltaic installations and biomass technology.
“It will take time to build up these renewable energy sources but we hope this trend will continue with people powering their homes with photovoltaic installations,’’ he said.

The Government is planning to implement a FIT policy to encourage industries and households to install solar panels and sell their excess power to utility companies.
The proposed feed-in-tariff is being drafted and is expected to be passed into law by parliament by the end of the year.

Once passed, the FIT could enable industries and households to sell power to the main grid during the day and buy it at night.
In Peninsular Malaysia, the excess power can be sold to Tenaga Nasional Bhd, while in Sarawak, it can be sold to Sarawak Energy Bhd.
Two meters have to be installed in households and industries that adopt the FIT system – one for power sold and the other for consumption.

According to reports in July, the rates for electricity generated from renewable energy resources to be purchased by utility companies would be decided once the policy had been passed into law.
However, for Sarawak, the purchase rates would be decided by Sarawak Energy.

The FIT policy, which falls under the country’s national renewable energy policy and action plan, aims to encourage the public to work alongside the Government to generate green and sustainable electricity.
“Although prices are expensive, the world trend per kilowatt is dropping very fast,’’ Chin said.
Currently, a solar power panel that produces one kilowatt costs about RM25,000. A household normally requires a two-kilowatt solar panel.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

1st MEMC-owned solar wafer ops by year-end

Thestar: Thursday July 15, 2010


KUCHING: MEMC Electronic Materials Inc’s first internal solar wafer manufacturing facility at the Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone will have an initial annual production of 600 megawatt (equivalent of solar energy) when it begins operation in five to six months.
MEMC vice-president for solar wafer manufacturing Brian Wuebbels said there were plans to expand the plant’s annual capacity by five-fold in five years if demand picked up.
“The investment in the plant’s phase 1 project will be more than RM500mil,” he said during a briefing for Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister and Industrial Development Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam at the project site yesterday.
Fast-track construction work started six weeks ago, and the plant is expected to be ready before year-end.
MEMC, a global leader in the manufacture and sales of wafers to the semiconductor and solar industries, has recruited about 80 employees, and the first batch of 20 mechanical and electrical engineers are now in the US on a two-month training programme.
(From left) MEMC Malaysia solar project executive Claudio Laddo and Brian Wuebbels briefing Tan Sri Dr George Chan.
The plant will have some 600 local employees by December, and the workforce may be increased to 2,500 if its phase 2 project is implemented as planned by 2013.
Wuebbels said MEMC, which had been contracting out the production of solar wafers in China, had decided to site its first internal manufacturing facility for solar wafers in Malaysia because the country recognised intellectual property.
He also said the company planned to transfer the solar wafer technology to Malaysia at the phase 2 development.
The Sarawak plant would produce high-efficiency monocrystalline and multicrystalline solar wafers for the global market, Wuebbels said.
“The solar market is expanding rapidly, with the Asia-Pacific and the US the fastest growing markets although the main market now is Europe,” he added.
Meanwhile, MEMC’s second silicon wafer plant in Malaysia, located in Ipoh, has started operations.
Its Malaysia region procurement head, Nara Subramaniam, said the plant had completed its trial production on the pilot line.
“The Ipoh plant makes larger diameter silicon wafers than those produced at the Kuala Lumpur (KL) plant,” Nara, who was also in Kuching, said yesterday.
He said about RM150mil had been invested in the facility which had about 300 employees.
The company was investing another RM49mil to expand the KL facility to raise production capacity by about 30%, he said.
“The expansion is expected to be completed in five to six months. The existing plant is operating at 80% to 90% of the installed capacity,” he added.
The KL plant, which has a workforce of 450, was set up 38 years ago as MEMC’s first overseas subsidiary.
Meanwhile, MEMC said in a press release that as the fatest growing energy technology in the world, solar energy had helped to drive increased boost interest in clean, renewable energy sources.
The company said although the solar market had grown at more than 40% annualy since the late 1990s, it still currently only represented less than 1% of the world’s energy supply.
MEMC said it extended its expertise into the solar wafer market three years ago, and was currently working at enhancing solar wafer efficiencies as well as other pioneering efforts that would impact the solar market for years to come.
“As technical advances and other factors continue to increase the pervasiveness of solar around the world, MEMC will be there providing a solid and reliable foundation to build on,” it added.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bill on renewable energy underway, says Minister

Thestar: Tuesday July 6, 2010

CYBERJAYA: The Government is drafting the bill on renewable energy to make way for more aggressive development of energy in the country.
Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui said the Act, which is expected to be enacted early next year, will also introduce the implementation of the Feed-in Tariff mechanism.
He said the move was in line with the government's aim of achieving a capacity of 2,080 MW in renewable energy by 2020.
"The Attorney General is currently fine-tuning the bill.
"We are confident of the bill being tabled for debate and approval during the Dewan Rakyat sitting this October," he told reporters after officiating the international summit on Advances in Renewable Energy Technologies (ICARET 2010) here on Tuesday.
Earlier, in his speech, Peter said the government was continuously looking and exploring new ideas and strategies to accelerate green technology advancement in the country.
"We will announce from time to time the incentives and packages made available by the government to the stakeholders and interested parties for this sector.
"We have plans to make Malaysia a leading player in the world on green technology and we must get support from all quarters to achieve this," he said.
He also said the ministry would be organising the International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM) in Kuala Lumpur for four days from October 14 to further project Malaysia in the green technology field.
He said the conference would offer a unique opportunity for Malaysia to showcase to the world the latest green technology and eco-products available in the market.
"The objective of IGEM is to create greater awareness and promote the importance of green technology as well as to encourage our industries to be innovative and in the fore-front of the green growth," he said. - BERNAMA NJ SD

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The sun is the perfect alternative to power homes

Tuesday May 18, 2010


MALACCA: The effort to promote green technology and encourage the use of alternative energy source got a boost here recently when more than 200 captains of industries and public bodies attended a special briefing on solar energy. The hour-long briefing was presented by US-based solar experts SunPower Corporation who are investing some RM2.3bil to set up their solar cell fabrication plant in Rembia, Alor Gajah.
SunPower Malaysia’s managing director Robert Vinje said the sun was the most constant and readily available energy source that could be tapped to power both homes and industries minus carbon pollution.
With current concerns about global warming and increasing price of energy, solar power is one of the most efficient and affordable energy alternatives available today, he said during the briefing held at Renaissance Hotel Malacca recently.
Go green: Vinje impressing upon the audience that solar power is one of the most efficient and affordable energy alternatives
“People are looking for alternatives to power their lives and the planet for both economic as well as environmental reasons.
“For a tropical country like Malaysia, utilising the frequent sunshine it gets is the right thing to do.
“It is free after all,” he said.
Solar energy, he noted, was non-polluting as solar cells have no moving parts that need to be fixed, hence required very little maintenance.
He also said solar energy was relatively environmental friendly compared to the burning of fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and carcinogens into the air.
“Compared with the noise from the machines that are used to drill and pump oil, solar cells are totally silent.
“Energy can be extracted from the sun without making a peep,” quipped Vinje.
Later when addressing questions from the floor, he said utilising solar power helped save money in the long run although solar panels or lights may be expensive to buy at the beginning.
“We are aware of the rising cost of oil yet energy from the sun is something one does not have to pay for,” he said, adding that solar-powered lights and other similar products were also very easy to install.
The fabrication plant in Rembia, is expected to create about 7,000 jobs.
To date, Malaysia has attracted several foreign direct investments including SunPower, worth up to RM13.8bil, to set up solar panels manufacturing facilities in Malaysia.
These include US-based companies First Solar Inc at the Kulim Hi Tech Park (KHTP), the China-based ReneSola in Johor Baru, the German company Q-Cells in Selangor Science Park 2, and the Japanese firm Tokuyama Corp in Sarawak.

MEMC of US plans solar wafer plant

Thestar: Thursday May 27, 2010


KUCHING: US-based MEMC Electronic Material Corp will invest RM710mil in a plant in Samajaya Free Industrial Zone here to produce solar wafers. ‘“The plant on 20ha is expected to start operation by next year to cater for the rapid growth and demand for solar cells globally,’’ Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister and Industrial Development Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said at the state assembly session yesterday.
It is understood that MEMC had awarded the contract to build the plant.
Chan said MEMC, which has nine manufacturing facilities in United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific, was a pioneer in the design and development of wafer technologies for over 50 years.
One of the plants is located in the Sungei Way Free Industrial Zone in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
He said the company held hundreds of worldwide patents on silicon products and processes, and had hundreds more pending.
“The investment of MEMC will kick-start the development of a new cluster of high value-adding and high-technology industry. It marks the beginning of another new technological leap for Sarawak.
“Solar industry has the potential to create great spin-off benefits for the economy via the production of high-value innovative products, and the creation of potential downstream industries in lighting, green buildings, home applications and solar heating.
“The solar project signifies efforts to reduce carbon footprint,’’ Dr Chan added.
MEMC will recruit some 600 people for the Kuching plant, according to Dr Chan.
Besides MEMC, Sarawak had attracted two other foreign direct investments this year – RM1.12bil from Taiwan Food Park Sdn Bhd and RM360mil from Asia Minerals Ltd.
Dr Chan said 48 manufacturing projects had either been approved by the state industrial coordination committee or supported by it for approval by the international trade and industry ministry in the first five months of this year.

Government initiatives needed to boost green tech

Thestar: Friday May 28, 2010


HIGH installation costs and lack of government initiatives is hampering the design of sustainable buildings and civil works in Malaysia. Malaysian Society for Engineering and Technology chairman Prof Datuk Abang Abdullah Abang Ali said there might be a lot of enthusiasm, but green initiatives were just starting in the country.
Speaking at a press conference to promote the Fourth World Engineering Congress to be held in Kuching, Abang Abdullah said that Government policies should encourage more public participation.
He cited solar energy as an example, saying that Malaysia’s energy sector should adopt buy-back programmes similar to that of Australia’s.
“Houses with solar panels that generate surplus electricity should be able to sell back to the national grid,” he said.
Abang Abdullah said the lack of installation of solar panels was largely due to the difficulty in storing the electricity produced.
“Certainly, it’s difficult to store electricity at home. You wouldn’t want too many batteries at your house, but the Government can come in on this.
“If you can sell back your energy to the national grid, then people will naturally adopt more green technologies.”
In Australia, the buy-back programme has encouraged many homes, schools, community centres and other public buildings to install solar panels as a source of revenue.
He noted that sustainable living awareness was fragmented in Malaysia, adding: “In Kuala Lumpur, there is a lot of enthusiasm, but elsewhere, it’s lower. Through the congress, we hope to rectify this.”
Meanwhile, Infrastructure Development Assistant Minister Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman, who was present at the press conference as guest of honour, said that high cost was another impeding factor.
“Right now, it is too expensive,” said Daud, a trained engineer.
“This is the main problem. In Sarawak, we are trying. If you look at the extension of the Kuching Waterfront, we incorporated green technologies, but more can be done once costs come down,” he added.
The adoption of green technologies has become a talking point globally.
Federation of Engineering Institutions in Islamic Countries deputy president Associate Professor Megat Johari Megat Mohd Noor said that Malaysia could not escape climate change.
“Climate change that is accelerated by human activity anywhere in the world will have an impact on Malaysia as well,” Johari said.
“Just because Malaysia is free from most natural disasters, it doesn’t mean that we won’t be affected in some way.”
Johari said the Government should adopt a carbon-trading programme.
Carbon trading is where high-polluting countries pay towards less-polluting countries to conserve the environment.
Since the early part of this decade, Papau New Guinea has been earning revenue from rich countries by preserving its rainforests.
“Climate-change problems are no longer localised. Malaysia has to play its role in balancing global pollution,” he added.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Significant fuel savings possible for cars

Thestar: Published: Friday June 4, 2010 MYT 9:15:00 AM

WASHINGTON: A prestigious U.S. research panel has concluded that technology already widely available could significantly cut fuel consumption by cars and light trucks without sacrificing safety or performance.
With some technologies, the fuel consumption by passenger cars, sport-utility vehicles, minivans and light trucks can be reduced by nearly half, but at a price - anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per vehicle, the National Research Council said in a report released Thursday.
Critics of offshore drilling pounced on the findings as further evidence that there is a host of options beyond drilling for solving U.S. energy woes.
Said Trevor Jones, chairman of the panel that wrote the report: "Consumers will need to consider the trade-offs between higher vehicle prices and saving fuel and money at the gas pump."
The report, which looked at three-types of automotive engines, found:
_ The full combination of improved technologies could reduce fuel consumption by 29 percent in medium and large cars and pickup trucks with conventional engines at an added cost to consumers of about $2,200.
_ Switching to diesel engines and components could yield fuel savings of about 37 percent at an added cost of $5,900 per vehicle.
_ Gas-electric hybrid engines and components could reduce fuel as much as 43 percent at an increase of $6,000 per vehicle.
Smaller reductions in fuel savings can be achieved for considerably less money, the report noted.
For example, one available conventional engine technology allows a six- or eight-cylinder engine to run on fewer cylinders when full engine power is not needed, such as on flat roads.
That can reduce fuel consumption as much as 10 percent at a retail price increase of about $350 to $500 per vehicle.
Over two-thirds of total U.S. oil consumption is for transportation, and almost two-thirds of transportation consumption is gasoline used primarily in cars and light trucks.
"Fuel efficiency is a cleaner, cheaper, faster way to go to meet our energy demands than drilling in increasingly risky places - we don't need to be drilling for more oil in the Gulf," said Roland Hwang, the Natural Resources Defense Council's transportation program director.
Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said automakers have doubled the number of models on the market that achieve an average of 30 mpg (13 kpl) or higher on the highway in the past year, from 100 models to 200.
Key to whether consumers will spend more to buy fuel-efficient cars and trucks is the price of gasoline, she said.
When gas was $4 a gallon ($1 a liter) two years ago, consumers were lining up for those models; as the price of gas declined, consumer interest waned.
Automakers are eager to sell more fuel efficient vehicles, "but with relatively inexpensive fuels, it's a challenge to us," Bergquist said.
Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the cost estimates in the report for incorporating fuel-saving technologies are "very conservative" and most likely too high.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a "tear down" study under way that looks part-by-part at the components in vehicles, how much they cost to produce and how much it would cost to reduce fuel consumption, Kliesch said.
The results of that study should provide a more accurate picture of the cost of adding fuel-saving technologies to new cars and light trucks, he said.
Department of Transportation rules require new cars and trucks to achieve a fleetwide average of 34.1 mpg (14.5 kpl) by 2016.
Federal officials announced two weeks ago that they have begun work on new round of fuel efficiency standards to kick in between 2017 and 2025. - AP

Friday, June 4, 2010

Using better alternatives

Thestar: Saturday May 29, 2010


Companies that have been riding on subsidies need to find other means to stay competitive
SHOULD companies ride on Government handouts in the form of subsidies to boost their profit margins?
The answer is a resounding no, although some economists would argue that government subsidies are sometimes needed up to a certain extent to help fledgling domestic industries grow. In such instances, subsidies are seen as incentives to attract industries and new investments to do business and expand in the local economy.
Whether subsidies are the right form of incentives is debatable due to the generic nature of many subsidies that the Government provides, says Stewart Forbes, the executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
“Directed incentives are a much better means of attracting investments,” he explains, adding that funds properly targeted are a more cost-effective measure.
“Removing subsidies is necessary not only to reduce national indebtedness, but also to release additional funds as incentives for investments and businesses,” Forbes says.
Over the week, the Prime Minister’s Department’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) revealed that of the RM74bil government subsidy bill last year, a hefty RM18bil were channelled to various companies.
Companies operating in Malaysia are said to be benefiting from the government subsidy scheme directly in the form of fuel and energy savings, thanks to the subsidised gas element used in the production of electricity. Other forms of benefit come from the usage of subsidised goods, such as sugar and flour, as inputs in the production processes of some companies.
The lower cost of production resulting from the deployment of subsidised goods and services has somewhat provided “incentives” for companies to invest in Malaysia.
“But subsidies are not a sustainable solution in the long run. Surely, there are other factors that make Malaysia a worthy investment destination,” says the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) vice-president Datuk Paul Selva Raj.
With subsidy rationalisation on the cards, higher costs of operations are expected for companies operating in Malaysia. So, how will that affect the cost-competitiveness of doing business in the country?
“The negative effects of subsidy removal should not be seen as long-term impediments to companies’ performances. Businesses need to come to terms with higher costs of operations by finding other means of productivity gains, such as through the mechanisation and labour efficiency,” Forbes opines.
He also argues the fact that Malaysia is taking a pro-active approach to control its finances before the situation gets out of hand is a positive signal of a stable economy for many foreign investors.
Power impact
While most industry captains in the country are not against the idea of the Government removing subsidies, even though that would mean higher cost of operations, their main concern is how would such initiative unfairly impact their competitiveness.
Pointing to the cost of electricity tariff as an example, Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, the past president of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) and co-chairman of Pemandu, argues that there has been a misconception that industries are gaining miles from subsidised gas in the country.
Truth is, he says, the subsidy money is not going to the manufacturers.
According to FMM’s research last year, the electricity tariff rates in Malaysia are almost comparable to that of its neighbouring countries, despite it having a higher level of subsidies on gas to the power sector.
Prices of natural gas in Malaysia to the power sector at present is RM10.70 per mmbtu (million British thermal unit), compared with Singapore’s RM33.65 per mmbtu and Thailand’s RM20 per mmbtu. But despite the lower gas prices, the average electricity tariff for industries in Malaysia is at 29.45 sen per kWh, compared with Singapore’s 33.03 sen and Thailand’s 34.4 sen per kWh.
So, based on the above calculations, Yong argues that any reduction in gas subsidies should not be passed on to manufacturers in the form of higher electricity tariff, as that would have a negative impact on Malaysia’s competitiveness as an exporting nation.
The Subsidy Rationalisation Lab organised by Pemandu has proposed gas prices to the power sector be raised by RM4.65 per mmbtu in mid-year, before further hikes of RM3 per mmbtu every six months for the next five years. This will be accompanied by an initial increase in electricity tariff by 2.4 sen per kWh, and subsequent hikes of 1.6 sen per kWh every six months for the next five years, which translates into a collective rise of 18.4 sen per kWh.
Seeking a better deal
Of the total government subsidies that went to companies last year, it is understood that the bulk of it (as much as 65%) was actually enjoyed by the power sector, with very limited benefits being transferred to end-users.
So, at a forum held in conjunction with the Subsidy Rationalisation Lab open day recently, some fingers were pointed to the high costs that Tenaga Nasional Bhd had to pay to independent power producers (IPPs) as one of the root causes of the problem.
Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, as one of the panellists that day, argued that some of the deficit problems that the country faced today arose from the expensive deals that the Government had with the private sector, including the IPPs and toll concessionaires. He stressed that the Government should look into renegotiating deals with IPPs and toll concessionaires even before the expiry of those contracts as part of its measures to mitigate the high cost of subsidies it had to bear every year.
Yong, who was also one of the panellists at the forum, concurred, saying: “We cannot continue with what we’ve been doing in the past ... renegotiation of contracts is an essential part of the subsidy rationalisation plan to address ‘unequal treaties’.”

Che Khalib: Accept reality of subsidy, depleting gas

Thestar: Friday June 4, 2010

TANJUNG MALIM: Subsidy reduction for gas is a reality Malaysians must accept in the face of depleting natural gas resources and rising costs, says Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh.
The current subsidy Malaysians were enjoying was not a sustainable structure, he said.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala recently said Malaysia would be bankrupt by 2019 if it did not cut subsidies and reduce borrowings.
During the Subsidy Rationalisation Lab Open Day held last Friday, reducing gas subsidy and increasing electricity tariff were among the recommendations laid out to bring the country’s economy on solid grounds.
The move, however, is not expected to affect most households as it will only affect those consuming more than 200kWh of electricity.
The Government is expected to continue to subsidise the groups of people using less than 200kWh, representing about 56% of the population.
Speaking to Bernama after officiating TNB’s RM1.1mil new building for its Tanjung Malim Office yesterday, Che Khalib asked: “Are you telling me 56% of Malaysians belong to the group that you call hard core poor?
“No, I don’t think so. I think the Government is generous enough to come up with subsidy recommendation to maintain that 56% population still enjoy the subsidised tariff.”
Citing Petronas, Che Khalib said the country’s gas volume was expected to go down by 2016 and, despite this, Petronas would have to continue supplying for the industries and TNB. — Bernama
       “Come year 2016, it will have to import more gas into the country to ensure gas volume is sufficient to power up our power plants and also for the industries to use as well as to meet the growing demand,” he added.
At that point, the gas would be bought at market price and not at subsidised price, he said.      
“Petronas has to buy expensive and sell cheap?. (It’s) double jeopardy. I don’t think this is a sustainable structure at all,” he reiterated.
Therefore, people had to appreciate the proposal at the Subsidy Rationalisation Lab Open Day for a gradual increase and not an abrupt increase in prices to a level that would affect the economic structure of the country, he said.
However, people could debate on how much to be increased or when the subsidy could be removed gradually, such as within five or 10 years, he said.
These decisions could be debated but to go on to say that subsidies would remain forever, “I don’t think it is sustainable,” Che Khalib added.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Green initiatives part of DiGi business strategy

Thestar: Saturday April 10, 2010

PETALING JAYA: DiGi.Com Bhd is now practically synonymous with green initiatives.
This is hardly surprising, considering it has pumped in more than RM40mil in “green investments” since 2008 and plans to invest RM60mil more over the next few years.
“We’d like to think that we are among the largest ‘green investors’ in the country,” outgoing chief executive officer Johan Dennelind said in an interview with StarBizWeek.
Johan Dennelind ... ‘We are prepared to invest up to R M100mil.’
He said DiGi, the third largest mobile operator in the country, had its “wake-up call” in 2008 when it received an industry report which stated that the information and communications technology sector would basically grow emissions at double the pace of the aviation industry, commonly perceived to be a large carbon emitter itself – in two years.
“We said to ourselves, let’s use this as a wake-up call and take that message to our shareholders – so, that’s how it all started and this has become part of our business strategy now.
“We saw ourselves being a big culprit because in 2007, 2008, we were emitting something like 100,000 tonnes of carbon, and we thought to ourselves, if we didn’t do anything, it could very well increase by up to 70% in four to five years’ time and that was not acceptable,” said Dennelind.
There are only a few things people can do as individuals, according to him.
“We started out basically just trying to raise the awareness among employees at DiGi. We spent quite a lot of time trying to educate the employees – things like car pooling were encouraged.
“At DiGi, polystyrene is not used at the cafeteria while garbage bins have also been banned in the office,” Dennelind said.
Instead, DiGi’s sprawling campus-like headquarters in Shah Alam has waste separation areas, where employees have to “arrange” their waste which is then sent for recycling.
To cut down on the use of paper, DiGi asks its employees to log in or provide some form of identification before using paper, to track how much is being used by each employee.
“After all these (efforts), we looked at what we could do as a company to reduce our (carbon) footprint,” Dennelind said.
As part of its efforts to counter the problem, in 2008 DiGi launched its Deep Green Programme, which not only seeks to address energy efficiency within the company’s business, but also with related stakeholders.
Dennelind said DiGi’s goal was to slash its carbon emissions by 50% by 2012.
“Can we reach 50% in two years? Yes. Are we certain? No. Then again, the important thing really is not the number itself, it’s the initiatives and how we engage ourselves around them,” he said.
Does doing its part for Mother Nature help bring down the cost of doing business?
“To some extent it does because you save energy and hence reduce some cost but you also have to invest in the initiatives. We said that we were prepared to invest up to RM100mil and we have invested close to RM40mil since 2008 in green investments to enable us to achieve the 50% reduction,” said Dennelind.
Among the company’s green initiatives, DiGi recently organised the Challenge for Change competition which saw teams from eight local universities participating in a six-month programme to develop energy solutions.
It has also helped fund the micro-hydro system which uses “green technology” in the remote village of Kampung Lumpagas at the border of Sabah and Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Estimated to cost around RM160,000 and expected to be ready by mid-year, the micro-hydro system will generate up to 3kW of electricity for basic lighting.
The system is expected to gradually phase out the use of firewood, kerosene and diesel- and petrol-run generators – all culprits of global warming.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Foreign interest may return with clarity in tariff structure, says Tenaga

Written by The Edge Financial Daily   
Tuesday, 30 March 2010 23:54

 KUALA LUMPUR: TENAGA NASIONAL BHD [] believes that foreign interest "may come back" to the company once clarity is seen in terms of government policy on tariff structure.

Its CEO Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohd Nor said foreign interest in Tenaga peaked at 28% but was now down to about 9%, with many investors exiting due to the lack of clarity in power tariff policy.

"The announcement by the prime minister on the New Economic Model (NEM) that the subsidies will eventually be removed is a positive sign at providing more clarity to our industry," he told reporters on the sidelines of Invest Malaysia 2010 on Tuesday, March 30.
Che Khalib said once there was clarity in relation to subsidy and tariff pass-through formula, Tenaga should be able to attract foreign interest.

"The more transparent tariff pass-through formula and removal of subsidies have to come together, as people may question who will bear the cost once the subsidies are removed," he said.

"Once the removal of the subsidy happens, the pass-through formula must be in place, if not, the industry players will have to absorb it," he added.

Che Khalib was quick to add that Tenaga "is not in a position" to absorb the cost that would come with the removal of the subsidy.

He said he did not know when the pass-through formula would be adopted or when the government would announce a tariff review.

Nonetheless, he said the gas price in Malaysia was below the market price and would remain so even with a 10%-20% increase in tariffs. "It is still going to be below the market price. We eventually have to raise the gas price to the market price, which cannot be done overnight," he said.

Che Khalib said the tariffs would have to reflect the increase in gas price, which may be raised gradually, perhaps over a period of more than five years.

Meanwhile, Reuters cited Che Khalib as saying the utility giant would report a better profit in its second quarter ended Feb 28, 2010, after electricity demand bounced back strongly from a year ago.

Tenaga saw a 13.8% increase in power demand in the second quarter from a contraction of 7.6% in the same period a year earlier.

"Due to this, we think that we are going to far exceed our initial estimate of 3% demand growth for the full year," Che Khalib told Reuters in an interview at the Invest Malaysia conference.

"My guess is that it (growth) could be 6%-7% for the full year," he said.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Call for telcos to invest in green technology

:Business Times: Published: 2010/03/18
NOKIA Siemens Networks Malaysia said the government should take the lead and get telecommunication companies to equip their transmission towers with renewable power sources.

This is in line with the government's commitment to reduce the country's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 40 per cent by 2020.

"Alongside the government, we strongly believe the telecommunications industry is uniquely placed to drive this," said Nokia Siemens Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Rainer Althoff.

The biggest environmental impact in a telecommunications network is energy consumption, which typically accounts for around 80 per cent of the total energy consumed, and up to 30 per cent of overall energy cost.

This means that telcos that invest in energy efficient technologies are not only able to reduce CO2 emissions but also make higher profits with lower energy spending.

"A key move would be for the government to encourage new off-grid base stations deployed in Malaysia from 2011 be based on renewable energy sources versus fossil fuel," he said.

Althoff told this to reporters at Nokia Siemens EnergiSmart Eco-Adventure Day - Greening Malaysia's Telecommunications Industry event in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, on Tuesday.

At present, Malaysia has about 20,000 base stations nationwide, powered by diesel generators.

"If 5 per cent were to use renewable energy, it would be a good start," Althoff said, noting that it is important that the government comes up with a policy to "force" telco players to invest in green technology.

With the expectation that electricity costs will shoot up by around 55 per cent in the next five years, telcos must cut their reliance on non-renewable energy resources.

In recognition of this, Althoff said the company is committed to improve the efficiency of its base stations products by up to 40 per cent by 2012.

Nokia Siemens aims to use renewable energy like wind and solar power to be the first choice for all remote base station sites by next year.

"A low carbon economy not only benefits the environment, but also feasible and holds great potential for sustainable growth in all industries," he said.

Recently, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd announced it would invest up to RM100 million in its Deep Green programme to reduce CO2 emission by 50 per cent within four years.

Singapore's MobileOne also made a commitment to reduce its telecommunications network carbon print by 35 per cent by early 2011.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Electric Cars: Where to Plug In Away From Home?

From: Business Week

Plug-in electric vehicles have an edge over hydrogen-powered cars for a simple reason: The infrastructure to support them, the electric grid, is already in place. At night, you just connect the car to an outlet in your garage.
Unless of course, you don't have a garage. Now, Coulomb Technologies of Campbell, Calif., wants to provide service to city-dwellers and other drivers who lack handy access to an outlet for their cars. It's testing a subscription-based network in San Jose called ChargePoint, whose members use special key fobs to access outlets mounted on lamp posts, parking meters, or in parking lots. The power isn't free. Subscribers must register a credit card when they sign up for the service. Then, when they swipe the key fob, their usage is metered and charged to the card.
China is taking a different, top-down approach. It's starting to build a nationwide network of charging points to speed the adoption of electric vehicles. Electricité de France is working with carmakers on a similar idea.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Research on oil palm biomass to be ready next march

Thestar: Monday March 22, 2010

TAWAU: The comprehensive research on viable renewable energy, using oil palm biomass and palm oil mill effluent, currently being undertaken by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, will be ready in a month, Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said.
"The research is on-going. We will have the findings within a month. The research covers all aspects including economic viability, problems faced by parties involved and the actual number of oil palm mills which can geneate biomass-based energy.
"I can truly say this is one industry which has a huge potential to generate 1,335 megawatts of energy if all the palm oil biomass produced in the country is maximised to the fullest," Dompok told reporters after officiating a conference of the East Malaysia Planters Association here on Monday.
The conference themed, "Sustainable Growth For People, Planet and Profit" is organised by EMPA and sponsored by Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd.
He said despite the industry's vast potential, exorbitant start-up cost and capital outlay could pose challenges.
"One major issue to overcome will be the distant location of palm oil mills from Tenaga Nasional (TNB) and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB)'s transmission line grids.
"Besides, the tariff offered by power purchasers in this country is 21 sen for per kw/hour, which is too low, while the industry needs to fetch between 29 sen and 30 sen for per kw/hour to remain profitable," Dompok added.
He said MPOB's research would also address this problem and the findings would be handed over to the government for further action as the issue of palm oil biomass renewable energy also involved other ministeries.
Dompok said palm oil mills nearer to TNB or SESB's transmission grid can take off first while mills located far away may take longer to take off.
"It has to be carried out in stages. We might need two phases to implement the activities," said Dompok, adding that the use of palm oil biomass as reneweable energy can solve the government's problem of ensuring adequate electricity supply in the country and Sabah.
"I wish to emphasise here that this is not the sole solution to the power supply problem in Sabah but it will complement the government's effort to overcome the shortage.
"What's more important is we will be able to clear palm oil estates (of the empty fruit bunches), and give a clean image to the industry.
Earlier, Dompok urged all 417 mills in the country to pursue the use of biomass and palm oil mill effluent in the production of renewal energy and organic fertiliser.
He said the goverment had allocated RM1.5 billion under the Green Technology Fund which can be utilised by mills to produce bio-energy.
"This fund provides loans with a two per cent subsidy from the government for producers and users of green technology. In addition, the government provides a 60 per cent guarantee on the loan," he added. - Bernama

Secondary water source vital in crisis

Thestar: Mar 20, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: Harvesting rainwater and using groundwater are two ways to alleviate shortages in times of drought, said the Council for Water and Green Technology Professionals.
“A secondary water source provides more security, especially in times of crisis,” said its secretary-general Mohmad Asari Daud at a roundtable discussion on “Clean Water for Our Future” on Thursday.
Currently, he said, only 1% of the country’s water supply is from groundwater while 99% is derived from surface water.
He said that in Malaysia the quality of groundwater was generally better than surface water.
“The storage of rainwater should be encouraged as it can be utilised for cleaning purposes and watering plants at home,” added Mohmad Asari.

World Water Day falls on Monday and in discussing ways to obtain clean and an undisrupted supply, Malaysian Water Partnership chairman Datuk Syed Muhammad Shahbudin emphasised the need for an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) system.
“There are 11 ministries as well as agencies and operators involved but they are not co-ordinated,” he said, adding that the IWRM system was not moving at the moment.
Other panellists at the discussion were Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association information secretary Zulkefli Muhammad and the Institute of Geology Malaysia’s hydro-geology expert Mohd Nazan Awang.
Malaysian Water Association immediate past president and Syarikat Air Terengganu’s former chief executive officer Datuk Wan Ngah Ali was the moderator.