Myth or fact?
GTALCC project designed to accelerate Malaysia’s low carbon city agenda
By Fatihah Manaf
The energy sector has considerable responsibility in tackling global climate change. Electricity providers have no option but to shift to renewable energy (RE) to reduce carbon emissions.
Renewable energy is clean energy where the sources come from unlimited natural resources such as solar and wind. This kind of energy doesn’t pollute the environment and helps to mitigate climate change.
Through Paris Agreement 2015, many countries have pledged to keep their carbon emissions relatively low by 2035 to limit global warming to below 2℃. In meeting this target, many RE initiatives have been introduced all over the world.
In the recent Green Technology Application for the Development of Low Carbon Cities (GTALCC)’s Low Carbon Cities Webinar Series, industry players, academicians, and youth organisations had discussed the future of renewable energy. The discussion included the ongoing local energy transition, RE integration, RE innovations and just energy transition issue.
The webinar titled ‘Renewable Energy is The Future: Myth or Fact?’ was moderated by Dr Hoyyen Chan, an energy specialist.
“GTALCC project is designed to accelerate Malaysia’s low carbon city agenda,” said the moderator.
The session was joined by four experienced panellists – Ibrahim Ariffin, Dr Amir Hisham Hashim, Alexandra Schneiders and Prof Raphael Heffron. Yiming Gao, a youth representative, also participated in the panel discussion.
Renewable energy target and direction
Ibrahim, the Strategic Planning Director of SEDA Malaysia, shared about the country’s progress for renewable energy development.
“We are targeting 35 per cent of carbon intensity reduction by 2030. This is provided we obtain some financial assistance. Then, we can accelerate the carbon intensity reduction to a higher target which is about 45 per cent,” said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim explained the local electricity demand was projected to increase two per cent annually, driven by economic activities. The natural demand was also expected to increase due to population growth.
As for supply, he shared that the installed capacity of Peninsular Malaysia in 2016 was mainly dominated by fossil fuels and only 11 per cent was from hydro or other RE resources. This was to ensure the reliability of the electricity supply and the affordability of LNG prices.
He then highlighted the primary goal of SEDA alongside other industry players was to realise 31 per cent of RE capacity by 2025.
He shared: “We already achieved 23 per cent of RE penetration in 2020, which is mainly dominated by the large hydro.”
However, in delivering reliable green power to consumers, Ibrahim said environmental targets, policies, affordability, economic benefits and system stability needed to be considered.
He also shared that SEDA was responsible for two RE initiatives which were Feed-in-Tariff and Nett Energy Metering.
RE integration into power grids
The Principal Consultant of Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen, Amir, then explained the two approaches of solar development in Malaysia: rooftop solar and large-scale solar (LSS).
He said: “The great thing about rooftop solar is that it’s a lower-cost connection to the grid. It has lower distribution losses, quick speed of implementation and does not use land meant for agriculture etc. It makes solar power accessible to nearly everybody.”
However, he shared that rooftop solar would be less profitable for new developers since there were many local competitions. Besides that, it also required some special equipment that might reduce project viability.
As for LSS, the consultant stated that high competition among multinational companies managed to reduce its cost. This LSS approach also helped the nation to meet the RE target faster.
“There are issues on the intermittency of grid generation, costs and complication for the grids, construction permits, complication and duck curves. However, there are many things that we can do in the way forward,” said Amir.
He then suggested some improvements for both approaches, such as benchmarking the grid operation with large RE against Europe’s or Australia’s experiences.
Peer-to-peer energy trading and blockchain
Schneiders, the Research Associate of UCL Energy Institute and the Task Leader of GO-P2P, explained that peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading could help the community energy groups balance the local supply and demand of electricity. Some governments also viewed this method as an initiative to meet climate change and RE targets.
“Peer-to-peer trading is when you have solar panels on your roof, you produce your own energy. Instead of selling it to your energy supplier, you sell it directly to another consumer such as your neighbour,” said Schneiders.
“People call it the ‘AirBnB of energy’ because it really is about people making profits, selling services directly to each other.”
Schneiders said that most pilots of this GO-P2P used intelligent contracts executed by blockchain as it allowed automated matching of buyers and sellers and financial transactions. This means that people could simply use their smartphones to look for sellers or buyers.
She then explained five essential elements which were needed for the GO-P2P method to function correctly which were the following:
- Power system integration
- Hardware, software & data
- Transactions and markets
- Economic and social value
- Policy and regulatory
Each of the elements showed some issues that need to be overcome for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Renewable energy and the just transition
Heffron began his speech by stating three critical figures regarding the future of RE following the Paris Agreement. He said there would be $44 Trillion of new Energy Investment by 2040.
The Professor for Global Energy Law and Sustainability at the University of Dundee also shared that the price of offshore wind in the UK and solar energy in India had decreased significantly.
“The energy sector is only growing bigger and bigger,” said Heffron.
He said that the flexibility in the electricity system would be vital, and significant investment was needed in electricity grids. He then highlighted that Energy Law needed to be revised to achieve a just transition to a low carbon economy.
“When we think about the just transition, we’re thinking of a whole range of factors. We’re not just thinking about the energy sector,” said Heffron as he mentioned the need to get rid of pollution, which was costly to both economy and people’s health.
“An energy transition needs to be accelerated. It needs to be a just transition, i.e. no one left behind. We should also be utilising the technology that is out there. We need a law and policy revolution. We need to diversify into this new clean energy.”
Heffron emphasised that there were many opportunities in the RE industry, such as economic opportunities and job growth.
Youth participation in renewable energy sector
Yiming, the Energy Transition Lead of Young Sustainable Impact Southeast Asia (YSI SEA) and Interseed, explained the main motivation behind both programmes was the youth who showed their interests in the sustainability field.
He said that many young people in Southeast Asia were aware and active in this field. However, there was no suitable platform for them as innovators.
This then led to the establishment of YSI SEA programme, which aimed to empower the youth to tackle sustainability challenges. The programme had helped the young innovators to connect and interact with investors and stakeholders. However, despite thousands of applications every year, there were only 25 spots in the programme.
“Since the pandemic, the team has been focusing on building an online community platform which is Interseed,” said Yiming.
He said the platform was meant to bring those not selected in the YSI SEA programme.