Electricity consumption and its impact on the environment is your business

KUALA LUMPUR: The November flooding in Thailand with a death toll of more than 500 has been described as one of the most damaging natural disasters in Thai history.

Although climate change scientists are still unsure of whether there is a direct link between these floods and climate change, there is a general consensus that recent climate changes are likely to be the result of global warming, i.e., greenhouse gas emission.

According to the International Energy Agency, the biggest contributor to high levels of CO2 emissions is the energy industry, which accounts for 41 per cent of emissions, followed by the transport industry (23 per cent) and the manufacturing industry (20 per cent) in 2009.

In Malaysia, a UTM study in 2010 projected CO2 emissions in the country would reach 285.73 million tonnes (from 187 million tonnes in 2006) with 43.4 per cent coming from the power industry.

Although Malaysia does experience some occasional flooding on a small scale, there is no evidence to suggest that the volume of CO2 emissions in the country is the main cause.

Nevertheless, in light of the global emission of CO2, Malaysia made a commitment at the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40 per cent of its 2005 levels by 2020, subject to assistance from developed countries.

It may seem impossible to reconcile such an ambitious reduction target whilst entertaining aspirations of becoming a developed nation within the same period, but it really should not be.

What this goal does require is a clear understanding that the responsibility to achieve this balance between development and being environmentally friendly rests on both the industries and the consumer.

The energy industry has to secure a viable, sustainable and affordable power supply without sacrificing the Earth’s resources.

And to achieve this, it could use incentives from the government and technical and financial assistance from developed countries to maximise its increased use of renewable energy sources as well as clean technology.

Consumers, on the other hand, have to play a role in moderating their demand for electricity through managing how they use this precious commodity.

According to the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KETTHA), peak demand for electricity in Peninsular Malaysia reached 15,476 Megawatts in May 2011, a 2.7 per cent increase from the previous year.

Based on the current projection, the peak demand is expected to reach 21 Gigawatts (GW) in 2020 and 25 GW by 2030.

The energy industry currently relies on finite resources such as fossil fuels to generate power for electricity.

Although the impact of CO2 emissions on the environment is undeniable, Malaysia still has more than 60 per cent of its land covered with rainforest, whereas most developed countries have less than 30 per cent.

The issue of CO2 should not be overly emphasised because the country’s rainforest could probably absorb more CO2 than is currently being produced.

In the long run, the energy industry needs to find alternatives to depleting fossil fuels.

In Malaysia, the government has initiated a holistic review of the energy industry with a view to making it sustainable, reliable and efficient.

One of the areas that has always been considered is now part of the effort towards enhancing the use of renewable energy.

Wind, solar, and hydro power stations all operate with close to zero CO2 emissions and will not only assist with alleviating the fuel supply problem but will also reduce climate change problems.

However, these alternatives are not quite so dependable or feasible since the cost of producing electricity in this manner is significantly higher than using fossil fuels.

The recent introduction of the feed-in tariff (FiT) system, which imposes a 1-per cent tariff on those whose consumption is above 300 kilowatt hours (kWh), to fund the development of renewable energy managed by the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) under KETTHA is a resounding success, especially for solar photovoltaic technology.

However, it needs a subsidy of a 1-per cent levy or more.

Among the sources of renewable energy (RE) currently available in Malaysia are hydropower, solar, biomass from rice husks, palm oil waste (bio fuel) and municipal waste.

Under the FiT scheme, customers will have to pay the renewable energy power generator a premium for clean energy that is generated for a fixed number of years for a fixed payment per kWh of electricity generated and a guaranteed minimum payment for every kWh exported to the grid.

Many local companies are already taking advantage of RE technologies to begin reducing energy costs and earning revenue.

The first biomass RE project using empty fruit bunches as fuel was initiated by TSH Bio Energy Sdn Bhd, and it sold electricity to TNB at 21.25 sen/kWh.

Solar photovoltaic technology to generate electricity from the sun has enabled homeowners to generate electricity for their own use and to sell to the national grid.

What could be more economical when your financial outlay for the photovoltaic panels on your roof gives you free electricity as well as the opportunity to sell the extra power to the national grid for at least 21 years, by which time you will have recovered the installation and maintenance costs and made a healthy profit?

These are alternative energy sources we can consider for the future.

However, all of them are not viable on their own and need subsidies to ensure financial feasibility. — Bernama

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