Sunday, April 12, 2009



by Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar

During the past five Year Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), “[e]fficient utilization of energy resources as well as the use of alternative fuels, particularly renewable energy was encouraged.” During the current 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010), “the energy sector will further enhance its role as an enabler towards strengthening economic growth. In this regard, the sources of fuel
will be diversified through greater utilization of renewable energy. Emphasis will be given to further reduce the dependency on petroleum products by increasing the use of alternative fuels. In ensuring efficient utilization of energy resources and minimization of wastage, the focus will be on energy efficiency initiatives, particularly in the industrial, transport and commercial sectors as well as in government buildings.”[1] In short, energy efficiency is a prerequisite to the development and utilization of sustainable energy from renewable sources.

To date, the current Plan has covered the only following sources of renewable energy (RE), namely, hydropower, biomass, and solar energy. “By 2010, RE is expected to contribute 350 MW … to a total energy supply of 3,128 peta Joule (PJ) or to help meet a peak demand for electricity reaching 20,087 MW,”[2] that is less than 1.7 per cent of the total generation. This percentage will still be far short of the expected pattern, based on the global primary energy supply mix of 24.3 per cent renewable by 2020: which consists of plantation biomass (13.0 per cent), organic wastes (6.6 per cent), hydro (3.9 per cent), solar and wind energy (0.8 per cent). On the other hand, the non-renewables will still be dominant sources of energy, that is, 75.7 per cent consisting of natural gas (29.1 per cent), oil (29.0 per cent), coal (12.7 per cent), and nuclear (4.9 per cent).[3]

Thus, other sources of renewable energy which ought to be featured in the forthcoming 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015) are: energy from organic waste including solid waste, tide and tidal energy, wave energy, wind energy, and ocean thermal energy off the North Borneo (Sabah) Trough.

By 2010, it is estimated that the total amount of solid waste generated by the projected population of Malaysia of almost 29 million is 23,200 tonnes per day[4]. About 45 per cent of the waste generated in Malaysia is food waste which could be sorted at source, collected, and processed by anaerobic digestion to generate methane gas or compressed natural gas as fuel. The composition of the remaining waste that contains “some energy value” is as follows: plastic (24 per cent) and paper (7 per cent). Thus, about 75 per cent of the so-called “organic” waste has the total potential of generating 1,770 MW of power.[5]

Other type of organic waste is that of palm oil mill effluent (POME) which could potentially be harnessed to generate a total of 700 MW power from the conversion of the waste to gaseous methane, by anaerobic generation, from over 400 mills throughout the country. For instance, a typical palm oil mill with capacity of processing 60 tonnes per hour of fresh-fruit bunches (FFB) produces 237,000 cubic metre per year of POME, from which 6,600,000 cubic metre of biogas per year could be produced, and converted, to generate about 1.82 MW of power. This potential does not include the combustion of other biomass, namely, palm fronds, palm trunks, empty fruit bunches (EFB), meso-carp fibres, and shells, into electricity, since these “so-called waste” have competing demands as “materials” for agriculture and other industries.

Along the long shorelines facing the open seas, and at sea, Malaysia has yet to exploit the potential of wind energy, tide and tidal energy, and ocean thermal energy[6].

Wind energy is extracted from wind passing through a turbine, introduced into the traditional windmill design, which has become a power source for electricity generation. A wind turbine can generate from 30 kW of power with swept blade diameter of 10 metres to 3-4 MW with swept diameter of 100 metres.

Tide and tidal energy is the energy extracted from the rise and fall of tides, that is a result of tidal range. The total peak power available from tidal generation at optimum sites throughout the world is estimated to be about 100,000 MW. One major installation at La Rance, Britanny, France has been realized. With 10 square km of surface area of tidal basin, 10 metre of tidal range, the average power that could be generated is about 17 MW.

As highlighted in the February issue of MILENIA Muslim, Malaysia should be on the global map of world’s “ocean thermal energy” resources.

In summary, in order to close the gap that exists between the enormous potential of renewables and their current relatively low market share in energy supply and consumption, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has been founded in Bonn, Germany on 26 January 2009 ( It is the first international organization to focus exclusively on the issue of renewable energies, addressing both the industrialized and the developing world. Its major functions will be to advise its members on creating the right frameworks, building capacity, and improving financing and the transfer of technology and know-how for renewable energies.

Again Malaysia, though its representative did participate at the Preparatory Conference in Madrid on 10-11 April 2008, was not a Signatory State nor in attendance at the Founding Conference of the International Renewable Energy Agency in Bonn in January this year. Over 120 official delegations from across the world attended the founding Conference, and a total of 75 nations, a broad cross-section of developing and industrialized countries, signed the Agency’s Statute.

The founding of IRENA is a key milestone on the road towards a future-oriented energy supply that is secured, reliable, affordable, green, clean, and sustainable. Thus, Malaysia must demonstrate its commitment towards these goals for its sustainability and prosperity.

It is, thus, high time for Malaysia to create its own “National Renewable Energy Agency (NERA)”.

Kandang, Melaka
6 February 2009

Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar, P.Eng., FIEM, FASc, received his first degree with honours in Engineering from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia in 1972/3, and a Mechanical Engineer by profession (BEM: 12555), Master of Environmental Science (Miami) on the application of solar energy technology and hydrogen for pollution control in 1976, and PhD (Hawaii) in Marine Geography in 1984.

[1] Ninth Malaysia Plan (2005-2010). Economic Planning Unit. p.393 (, 1 February 2009)
[2] Ibid, p. 403.
[3] Jose Goldemberg et al (1988). Energy for Sustainable World. New Delhi: Wiley Eastern Ltd. p.489

[4] It is based on the average generation of waste at 0.8 kg per capita per day.
[5] This is based on refuse with an average heating value of 8.8 MJ/kg (Goldemberg et al (1988: 488))
[6] The treatment of this source of renewable energy has been covered in the February 2009 issue of MILENIA Muslim.