I am glad to have Ir. G. Lalchand as my blog’s guest contributor. The following article is the first in his series about Malaysia’s energy challenges.
Adequate, reliable and affordable electricity supply has been the cornerstone of economic development in Malaysia. This is still an important imperative for Malaysia to follow in order to achieve the desired objectives of “Wawasan 2020” and the more recent aim to become a “High Income Economy” by 2020.
Recent statements from the government policy and regulatory bodies have laid out some strategies to ensure that the nation’s energy needs will continue to be assured to power the economic development strategies required to achieve the planned GDP growth rates desired as mentioned in the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme).
The Minister of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), YB Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui, speaking on the “Future Energy in Malaysia” at the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MICCI) event on 24 April 2012 assured his audience that “Going forward, we will ensure that the energy supply in Malaysia is sufficient, reliable and cost effective to ensure our regional competitiveness in trade and industry.”
How does Malaysia plan to ensure that these key assurances are guaranteed for the future economic development to achieve the 2020 objectives mentioned above? In his address, the YB Minister touched on a variety of issues which included energy security, fuel supply and pricing (especially on gas pricing), renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, nuclear option, and the restructuring of the electricity supply industry.
For RE (Renewable Energy), YB Minister indicated that the applications for a total of about 311 MW of various RE power plants have been approved under the RE Act with the grant of FiT (feed-in tariff) rates. The estimated RE capacity that may be developed by 2020 could reach over 2,000 MW and over 3,000 MW by 2030.
With these statements of intent, should we consider nuclear energy as an urgent option for Peninsular Malaysia? The nuclear option has been a contentious issue in Malaysia even before the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan. So what is the significance of YB Minister’s reference to the nuclear option, especially after the Fukushima incident in March 2011?
The PEMANDU-led EPP 11: Deploying Nuclear Energy for Power Generation under the ETP in 2010 projected the development of two units of NPP (nuclear power plants) of 1,000 MW each, with the first unit to be commissioned in 2021. These two units are estimated to cost about RM 21.3 billion. The ETP was formulated in 2010 before the serious Fukushima NPP incident.
At an earlier National Energy Security Conference 2012 (on 28 Feb. 2012), a KeTTHA presentation included the slide below to show the electric power demand and supply projection for Peninsular Malaysia up to 2031.
This is an excellent presentation because it clearly shows the demand projection and generating plant development planned to achieve an appropriate “Reserve Margin (%)” of below 20% from the current excessive margin of the order of 40%.
However, the table in the top left hand corner of the chart appears to give incorrect information. The current generating capacity in Peninsular Malaysia is a bit over 22,000 MW without any nuclear (shown as 5,000 MW in the table). As shown in the chart, the required generating capacity by 2030 will need to be a little over 30,000 MW.
This type of “transparent” information was an integral part of statistical data presentations in LLN’s (National Electricity Board) Annual Reports, which also showed the system load profile, until 1990. TNB (Tenaga Nasional Berhad) has however deleted this information from its Annual Reports right from its formation in 1990. Can this information be of such commercial confidentiality that it has to be hidden from the public?
What is perhaps less comforting from the KeTTHA presentation is the absence of any reference to EE and potential RE development in the energy mix especially when the RE Act and its accompanying FiT mechanism has been implemented from Dec. 1, 2011.
Even more disconcerting is the indication that Malaysia plans to install 5,000 MW of nuclear power capacity by 2030. It would appear from the above that the government has “made up its mind to go nuclear”, apparently without taking into account public opinion and acceptance of the nuclear option, even after the Fukushima incident last year.
Notwithstanding the “nuclear disasters” of Chernobyl (said to be a disaster waiting to happen) and Fukushima (where humans had under-estimated the power, or the “wrath”, of nature), NPP are not inherently dangerous. However, post Fukushima, we need to consider very carefully the public acceptance of NPP as a source of low-carbon primary energy in our efforts to ensure indigenous energy security.
The dangers of nuclear radiation hazards have raised fears among the Malaysian population with the “bad” experience of the Asian Rare Earth fiasco in Perak and the ongoing hassle over the LAMP (Lynas Advanced Materials Plant) in Gebeng Pahang. These fears have yet to be resolved and continue to be opposed as demonstrated by the Anti-Lynas protestors.
It is therefore even more critical that public sentiments be adequately addressed on such a critical matter as it affects not only the present population in the country but our descendants over many generations to come.
An even more critical question to answer is “Do we really need any nuclear power plants in the next decade”? Successful adoption of EE initiatives and RE development can reduce the need for alternative generating plant capacity. This question needs to be answered before any firm commitments are made to develop any NPP and that too after getting public acceptance of the technology that is to be employed.
It is worth repeating YB Minister’s earlier statement “Going forward, we will ensure that the energy supply in Malaysia is sufficient, reliable and cost effective to ensure our regional competitiveness in trade and industry”.
So are we on the right path to achieving these objectives in an optimally cost-effective manner?