Electricity demand and supply in Peninsular Malaysia: Energy efficiency, renewable energy, or nuclear? (Part 3)

This is Ir. G. Lalchand’s third article in his series of Malaysia’s energy challenges.

Part 2 of this series showed that Malaysia may not need to add any nuclear (or other fossil-fuelled) power generation plant until after 2025 provided that the RE (Renewable Energy) development (even when moderated) and adoption of EE (Energy Efficiency) initiatives (even on a conservative basis) are pursued diligently.

This is of course subject to the potential retirement of existing fossil fuelled power plants, whether operated by IPPs (Independent Power Producers) or TNB (Tenaga Nasional Berhad) itself. The potential retirement of existing power plants would naturally warrant an earlier planting up of the new proposed power plants. I will address this aspect in a later episode in this series.

Initiatives from the Malaysian government to promote more energy efficient technology and its use (photo from www.saveenergy.gov.my)

Obviously, these projections also depend on the actual pace of adoption of EE practices and the rate of development of RE power generation under the RE Act and its FiT (Feed-in Tariff) mechanism. The development of RE in Malaysia is being handled by SEDA (Sustainable Energy Development Authority) under the provisions of the RE Act and its related FiT mechanism. There is no dedicated agency to implement EE&C (Energy Efficiency & Conservation) initiatives although SEDA is expected to do so when the EE&C Act is enacted.

So let us look at the possibilities, constraints and impact of pursuing the desired EE&C initiatives and assess the likelihood of achieving the target savings as mentioned earlier.

First of all, there is widespread public skepticism, at least in Malaysia, as to whether the frequently touted EE initiatives can really deliver the promises made for it. How difficult, or easy, is it to achieve the ambitious demand saving targets that are often announced by various authorities?

Secondly, even if the skepticism can be overturned, there would still be some doubt as to how much impact can EE have on the national power demand. The chart below, which is also shown in part 1 of this series, indicates a potential demand saving of about 826 MW by 2020, at a conservative demand saving rate of about 0.5% in demand per annum.

Fig. 1. Projected Electricity Demand (Business-as-usual, BAU, is at 3.2% p.a. growth rate)

A demand reduction of about 826 MW, together with a reserve margin of 25% equates to a generating capacity need of about 1,030 MW, which could need over RM 3.0 billion in capital investment, a tidy sum to save indeed.

What does this mean to an “ordinary consumer”? The typical consumer would probably say “So what! Even if EE is able to save 826 MW in demand by 2020, does it mean me having to pay more for my electricity?” This would be a fair response from a consumer, whose first preference would be “What is in it for me?”. So, let us look at the demand saving issue from a consumer’s perspective. A consumer would certainly be happy to help national EE objectives if by doing so he can also save his own electricity costs.

There are several EE initiatives that can be exploited by all categories of consumers and a few simple and easy initiatives are considered as follows.

One of the most widely implemented options is the use of 5-Star EE refrigerators (fridges), an initiative that was promoted by KeTTHA (Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water) from mid 2011 under its SAVE (Sustainability Achieved Via Energy Savings) programme. A 5-Star fridge is about 25% more efficient than a standard 3-Star fridge. The chart below shows the potential savings that consumers can gain from changing to EE type 5-Star fridges for a typical 400 litre fridge for which the price premium for a 5-Star fridge is less than RM 200.00.

Fig. 2. Savings from 5-star refrigerators

This chart shows that even on the present subsidised tariff, the consumer will recover the premium price for the 5-Star fridge in a few years and will continue to make “profits” over the rest of the fridge life. If the fuel subsidies are reduced and the electricity tariffs increased, then the payback period for the price premium will be shorter and the “profits” would start earlier.

Another attractive option would be the replacement of typical window or split type air-conditioners (A/Cs) with their 5-Star or “Inverter type” equivalent models. These EE A/Cs provide savings of between 10% to over 50% (for the inverter type units). These replacement initiatives by consumers will benefit them directly through energy and cost savings as shown in the chart below, which shows the savings for a typical 1 HP household A/C operated for an average of about 6 hours a day. Obviously, the savings would be proportionally higher if the A/C use is for longer periods.

Fig. 3. Savings for EE split type A/C

A simpler and frequently used option in Malaysia is the replacement of incandescent lamps with CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps). KeTTHA has mandated the phasing out of incandescent lamps by 2014. Many users have already “cottoned-on” to the cost savings these CFLs provide and their use is rapidly displacing the traditional incandescent lamps

As a corollary, tubular fluorescent lamps, which are commonly used for commercial and residential use, also have more energy efficient alternatives. The traditional T-8 type of tubes can be replaced by the more efficient T-5 tubes which give the same lighting level with about a one-third reduction in the energy used (a T-8 tube of 36 watts can be replaced by a T-5 tube of about 28 or 24 watts).

The chart below shows the costs and savings from the use of CFLs to replace incandescent lamps. It is clear that the higher cost of a CFL is recovered from the energy savings within the first 1,000 hours of use.

Fig. 4. Comparative costs – lighting

These examples show that electricity consumers can derive cost savings for themselves by adopting EE initiatives for their own benefits. In the process they certainly also contribute to helping to achieve the national energy savings and carbon reductions promised by our Prime Minister at the COP (Conference of Parties) 15 in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Can they contribute to the demand reduction mentioned earlier? Let us look at the numbers involved.

A fridge has a power demand of over 100 watts, but its energy saving equates to only between 25 and 33 watts. It is estimated that there about 9 million fridges of these types in operation in Malaysia (about 7 million for domestic consumers and about 2 million for the other commercial and industrial users, not counting the heavy duty large commercial and industrial units). Thus a change of all refrigerators can contribute to a demand saving of between 225 MW and 297 MW.

Money savings from energy efficient technology applied, in this case, to refrigerators (photo from www.energystar.gov)

Similarly,1-HP A/Cs have a power demand of the order of 0.9 kW each but the equivalent saving demand reduction would be of the order of  25 to 70 watts (for the inverter type). The total number of such A/C units in operation may be of the same order as fridges (9 million units comprising say 25% of residences with an average of 3 A/Cs each, and about 700,000 commercial consumers with an average of about 5 units each). Hence the demand reduction from changing to EE A/Cs can be of the order of 225 MW to over 600 MW.

Where A/Cs are used for cooling, the inclusion of roof insulation can further help to reduce the cooling power demand. This is because many premises in Malaysia, whether residential, commercial or industrial, are not equipped with adequate roof or wall and window insulation. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the rains in the Klang Valley reduces power demand by about 3% for Peninsular Malaysia. This is equal to a demand reduction of about 450 MW on a maximum power demand of about 15,000 MW. Again, only a part (say 50% or 225 MW) of this reduction may be achieved with enhanced roof, wall and window insulation.

These three simple initiatives indicate a potential demand reduction of the order of between 675 MW and about 1,100 MW. No account is taken for any “demand reductions” from conversion to EE lighting loads for domestic premises as these reductions occur during the evening, or “off-peak” periods, even though the consumers will themselves save energy and costs.

These simple options have not even touched on the far more substantial savings that may be derived from the large commercial and industrial facilities where the lighting, A/C and industrial process loads provide the opportunity for much more significant demand reductions.

So, it seems clear that the demand reduction projection of about 826 MW by 2020 is relatively easy to achieve. What is needed to do so is to have the relevant government agency to conduct sustained promotion efforts to convince users to adopt these energy saving initiatives.

But we, as consumers, do not need to wait for the government to convince us. The monetary savings shown above should be sufficient incentive for us to take the initiatives ourselves, and in the process help reduce the need for more coal fired, or god-forbid, nuclear power plants to be developed in Malaysia.

For the record, I am not anti-nuclear power as it may be needed ultimately (but certainly not as early as 2021 or so). I choose to consider nuclear power as a “choice of last resort” if we are not able to satisfy our power and energy needs by more traditional and safer alternatives.



  1. Good write-up as usual, Lal, putting forth your support on energy efficiency and yet being pragmatic. One thing I like to ask: since it takes about 10 years to build a nuclear power plant, wouldn’t it be wise for Malaysia to start building or at least putting up concrete plans for building one, so by the time when we do need additional energy (as you wrote, perhaps after 2021), we already have one nuclear power plant up and ready to go?

    • Thanks Chris for your comment. You are right in saying that early action is needed to prepare for the development of a nuclear power plant (NPP) due to its long implementation timeframe.

      I believe that the relevant government agencies involved are doing exactly that; e.g., AELB (Atomic Energy Agency Licensing Board) and the MNPC (Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation) have indicated at a forum in Feb. 2012 their timeline for the proposed NPP development to commission the first unit in 2021, including all the regulatory and international certification needed. This calls for a final decision to develop the NPP by 2014, which means a project development time of only 7 years.

      Meanwhile, TNB also stated to be building up its own technical capacity by establishing a suitably trained and qualified NPP Team to enable it to develop the NPP and then to manage its operation and maintenance competently.

      A press statement from a “group of concerned NGOs” dated 19 July 2012, reports that tenders have been awarded for consultancy services for various actions such as “feasibility studies, site selection and public awareness management” to meet the stated time frame as determined by PEMANDU.

      I agree that Malaysia needs “to be ready for the development of an NPP, as and when needed” (for which appropriate actions are on-going) but not necessarily by 2021.

      I believe the presentation of the relevant statistics on power demand and supply for Malaysia for the period up to about 2025 show that Malaysia can defer a decision on the development of the NPP till after 2015, while still maintaining a 10 year implementation timeframe.

      I shall cover this in the next segment of my input which will also address the potential decommissioning of existing power plants as was mentioned earlier.

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