Solar power as a renewable source of energy in Malaysia
The renewable energy sector is growing at an exponential rate. Even though solar energy is the cheapest electricity in history, and while the capacity for the renewable energy sector is strengthening, renewables still only account for 11 per cent of the world’s primary energy.
With the United Nations expecting an overshoot of the Paris Agreement 2030 targets, the transition to renewables needs to be accelerated.
There are many barriers to the renewable energy transition in Malaysia, such as economic obstacles and social barriers. However, international pressure and awareness on the negative impacts of fossil fuel-based energy are catalysing government action to decarbonise the energy sector.
In conjunction with the Circular Economy Conference 2021, Star Media Group organised a webinar discussing solar power as Malaysia’s renewable energy source.
Ng Wei Wei, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the United Overseas Bank (UOB) Malaysia, in her keynote address, shared the bank was keen to champion sustainability and solar energy in combating climate change.
Ng said: “As an ASEAN bank, UOB is committed to playing our role. We initially aimed to build a sustainable finance portfolio of US$15 billion by 2023. Given the increasing demand by businesses for such opportunities, we have already hit US$13 billion as of June 2021. The market for clean, renewable energy, such as solar is only going to grow, and Malaysian companies can benefit from that.”
The webinar also featured Jasper Wong, Yusrizal Yusof and Ibrahim Ariffin. Dr Chen Wei-Nee, Vice President at New Energy Ventures of Hibiscus Petroleum Bhd, moderated the session.
RE development in Malaysia
Ibrahim, the Director of Strategic Planning Division of Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia, mentioned that Malaysia’s electricity supply industry was undergoing an exciting time during this energy transition phase.
“Towards the end of last year, Malaysia revised renewable energy targets from 20 per cent of the capacity mix by 2025 to 31 per cent by 2025 and 40 per cent by 2035,” said Ibrahim.
The newly-revised target has made Malaysia the country with the highest RE targets in the ASEAN region.
As of December 2020, Ibrahim revealed Malaysia had realised 8.4 GW of RE capacity in operations, with solar capacity as the second-highest resource.
He said: “Looking at where we are today, we can see significant growth. Progressive, in terms of the addition of renewable energy into our capacity mix.”
Acknowledging the economic and climate change crisis, Ibrahim said there was no better time than tough economic times for companies or individuals to invest in solar PV systems.
He said the investments would positively impact the environment, and investors would experience reductions in electricity bills.
He then mentioned some incentives provided by the government in support of solar development, such as the Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).
TNB facilitates the energy transition
Yusrizal, the Managing Director of TNB Renewables, said it was unfair for him to speak on behalf of TNB Group but shared that the group had entered the Vietnam solar power market under the subsidiary.
He stated the function of TNB Renewables had always been to grow renewable energy and solar business development through investments.
He emphasised that although the approaches used in Malaysia were different from those in Vietnam, the key was to ensure the grids get solar power input.
He shared that TNB, together with regulators such as the Energy Commission and SEDA, took a more cautious approach in Malaysia than Vietnam, which has less stringent requirements.
“They would rather specify a very stringent requirement for the interconnection, rather than let loose and let everyone come in one go. And look at what we have now in Malaysia. All plants connected can be dispatched fully, and reduce the risk of revenue recovery.”
Yusrizal said strong backings from financial institutions, authority, and rules and regulations had facilitated the market growth.
He said: “As an investor, number one, we need to make sure that whatever money that we put in, we should be able to recover the amount. We should be able to pay the financier and at the same time make sure that the system can cater for the large penetration.”
UOB’s ESG journey
To drive the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda, Ng said UOB has integrated ESG considerations into its lending policies and implemented responsible financing.
This integration prohibits the bank from financing activities or projects that are high risk, such as the new coal-fired plant projects.
She said: “The UN Sustainable Development Goals guide our policies.”
Ng revealed UOB had rolled out three sustainable financing frameworks: Smart City Sustainable Finance Framework, Real Estate Sustainable Finance Framework, Green Circular Economy Framework, and the upcoming Green Trade Finance Framework.
“You’ll be heavily invested in an education and building awareness piece. We share best practices, green solutions with our customers and ecosystem partners, and more importantly, develop actionable plans to help them in their progress on the ESG journey.”
Ng stated that strong government push with conducive policies, supported by various green incentives and green technology financing schemes, was the critical impetus for businesses to adopt solar energy.
The adoption also allows customers to reduce operating costs for reducing carbon footprints and helps build their ESG credentials.
UOB’s role in the green circular economy
Wong, Head of Construction & Infrastructure, Group Wholesale Banking of UOB, said that the bank provides financing support for recycling and upcycling solar panels.
He said this issue of recycling and upcycling would be gradually built up until the 2030s or 2040s, considering the life cycle of solar panels. Wong said UOB encouraged their clients to reduce, reuse and recycle as part of the frameworks rolled out by the bank.
He also mentioned materials of solar panels were recyclable, and there would be a considerable market for recycling by 2050.
He said: “By that time, we can truly say we can take from the cradle to the grave, and then recycle.”
Touching on solar adoption, Wong said UOB offered zero per cent interest for individuals.
“Zero per cent interest, you can’t get any lower than that. So, there’s no discussion on the interest rate. Financing cost is not an issue.”
Ng also shared UOB had launched the U-Solar Programme to help UOB’s customers address their cost concerns of installing and operating solar power systems.
The programme, which is under UOB’s Smart City Sustainable Finance Framework, is Asia’s first integrated solar energy platform providing financial solutions to solar developers, contractors, businesses and homeowners. — @green