Exploring the renewable solar, ocean energy landscape - MIDA | Malaysian Investment Development Authority
contrastBtngrayscaleBtn oku-icon


plusBtn crossBtn minusBtn


This site
is mobile


Exploring the renewable solar, ocean energy landscape

Exploring the renewable solar, ocean energy landscape

29 May 2023

Collective action will only be taken more seriously once the world recognise that human-caused climate change has impacted our wellbeing 

The world is progressively seeing the urgency of adopting clean, sustainable and affordable energy sources in combating climate change by exploring major renewable energy (RE) technologies particularly solar and ocean. 

Malaysia as a tropical nation surrounded by vast areas of ocean should be focusing on advancing both REs locally in fulfilling the national energy security, local academicians and industry experts told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR)

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu maritime policy and management senior lecturer Dr Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen said currently, about 5% of the total energy mix comes from RE.

She opined that the real focus should be cumulatively emphasised on all renewable potentials. 

“We are quite mature in solar power generation, but that does not mean we should neglect other contributing factors to energy generation, such as marine RE (MRE), especially when there is a vast ocean area around Malaysia,” she told TMR

Similarly, University of Nottingham Malaysia’s School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences senior lecturer Dr Matthew Ashfold said in addition to solar and ocean sources of energy, there are other renewable sources including wind, hydropower, bioenergy and geothermal. 

As solar electricity is now an established technology, he said it is growing rapidly worldwide and now often provides energy more cheaply than traditional fossil fuel sources such as coal and natural gas. 

Adding that ocean energy technologies are not so far advanced and currently provide small amounts of energy, therefore, he said, if they are developed, they could provide substantial energy in the future. 

“To achieve global climate and sustainable development goals (SDGs), huge amounts of extra RE need to be harnessed very quickly, and this will require simultaneous growth in many of the different renewable sources,” he explained to TMR

Economic Feasibility 

In identifying the main determinants of the development of RE sources, Izyan Munirah said the availability of RE potential may be differentiated in terms of theoretical, practical and technical resources, based on the existing degree of technology. 

“Next, identify the project’s economic feasibility, whether or not it is financially viable. 

“In fact, the primary impediment to pursuing a novel technology or undertaking an expensive test is cost,” she said. 

According to Ashfold, for any type of RE resource there are important questions to consider. 

“Where is the source of energy and is it spread out across a large area? How variable is the source and are variations predictable? 

“How far does energy need to be transported to a consumer, and in what form?” he asked, adding that different renewable sources have different features. 

For solar electricity, for example, there are vast quantities of sunlight globally, but variations in the strength of sunlight mean it is important to consider how energy can be stored to ensure demand is met. 

“Plus, the investment in electricity transmission grids is often needed to manage new and more variable sources of electricity,” he said. 

Impact on Environment 

On whether solar and ocean power generation would have any impact on the environment, Izyan Munirah said we must examine the system “as a whole”, not just the best parts of it. 

She said the carbon footprint created during installation, operation, maintenance and decommissioning remains. Energy storage should also be taken into account. 

“If we use batteries, this means the lifecycle of the battery, the process of mining the rare earth metal and whether or not it is environmentally friendly.” 

Furthermore, Izyan Munirah said analysis reveals that the development of green energy will aid environmental preservation in the long run. 

“True, MRE is at a crossroads of many concerns and interests. While aiming to generate clean electricity with lower carbon emissions, the full potential and impact on our fragile environment is unknown,” she said. 

Ashfold agreed that all energy technologies have environmental impacts, although they vary. 

He said solar energy technology requires various metals, the mining of which has environmental impacts. He also pointed out that to generate a lot of solar electricity may also require a significant amount of land, and thought is needed to ensure other important uses of land are not impacted. 

However, Ashfold also said assessments typically show that overall environmental impacts are smaller for RE sources than for the traditional fossil fuel energy sources, which also rely on mining besides creating pollutant emissions that cause climate change and haze. 

Touching on the economic benefits of RE, Izyan Munirah said at first glance, RE appears to be more expensive than the mature industries of coal, oil and gas.

Yet, she said, when the cost of conventional energy’s environmental impact, as well as the cost of mitigating the damage or carbon capture or storage, are considered, then it begins to make sense. 

Raising Awareness 

As for challenges and problems in the industry, she said there is a lack of awareness and understanding on why we should change to RE, as well as inadequate experience and technological availability. 

There is also a lack of knowledge on sea conditions, which is more challenging to study, as well as the high cost of investment. 

“We must raise awareness and comprehend the true consequences of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study forecasts the risk, climatic hazard, exposure and vulnerability if the world continues to grow without the ability to manage climate change. The world as we know it will perish,” she warned. 

Izyan Munirah believes that once the world recognises that human-caused climate change has resulted in more intense heavy weather, irreversible losses, reduced food and water security, ocean warming and acidification, and impacts on human health, then collective action will be taken more seriously. 

On the plus side, she said the Malaysian government has introduced several schemes to help other players participate in clean energy contribution, such as Feed-in Tariff (FiT). 

The Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) said on its website that the FiT system obliges Distribution Licensees (DLs) to buy from Feed-in Approval Holders (FIAHs) the electricity produced from RE and sets the FiT rate. 

“Malaysia has recognised the importance of RE, however, MRE remains lagging. More emphasis should be placed on the potential and appropriate technology for MRE research,” she said. 

Currently, most countries, the United Nations and energ y agencies such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) are supporting these RE developments. 

Source: The Malaysian Reserve