Centre For Environment, Technology And Development Malaysia

Renewable Energy (RE)

It is Malaysia's Goal by 2005 to generate 5% of its electricity from renewable resources. Malaysia introduced renewable energy as the country's fifth (5th) fuel source.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy includes resources that are constantly present, which never run out, like the energy we get from the sun or energy from wind. Types of renewable energy are;

(i) Solar: The Earths' surface receives so much solar energy from the sun everyday, that if this energy is harnessed for even just 60 seconds, it would be enough to power the world's total energy requirements for a year. Even though solar energy is a free and unlimited resource, it is hardly utilised because of oil which is cheap and easy to produce. Solar energy is currently most used for water heating. It can be directly converted to electricity through solar cells. These non-polluting solar cells, known as photovoltaic cells use no fuel, mechanical turbine or a generator. Solar energy has enormous potential as a resource of clean and unlimited electricity around the world and with the increasing demand for energy coupled with increasing environmental pollution from the burning of fossil fuel, its time to tap into this. In Malaysia, installation of solar PV cells is done mainly in rural areas, where there is difficulty setting up electricity cables or it is used by individuals (private homes).

(ii) Hydroelectric: Hydroelectric power is the leading source of renewable energy. It provides about 97% of all electricity generated by renewable energy sources worldwide. Water is a precious resource and can be found in abundance. When it is harnessed for hydroelectric energy, it can power the lighting for entire cities. The only time a hydropower facility is polluting is during its construction. Once it has been built, it does not need fuel to produce electricity. But the idea or use of hydropower is a highly debatable topic and remains a controversial issue. Despite being a source of clean electricity, the damage caused by dams during its construction and through its operation often gives rise to it construction being protested (refers mainly to large dams). When done right however, small run-of-the-river hydropower can be a sustainable and nonpolluting power source. Here in Malaysia, hydropower is used for water supply, flood control, irrigation and recreation purposes. Malaysia has abundant hydropower potential with a total potential capacity of 29,000 MW (with 70% in Sarawak).

(iii) Wind: Wind energy is captured by wind turbines. Studies done in Malaysia indicated that only a few places in the East Coast have sufficient wind energy for utilization. Malaysia has wind turbines installed in remote areas in Sabah and Sarawak.

(iv) Biomass: Biomass consists of organic matter that makes up plants. Biomass energy can be used for generating electricity, transportation fuels and chemicals. The type of biomass material considered to have potential as renewable energy sources here in Malaysia include residues from palm oil, rice mills and wood mills.

(v) Hydrogen: Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth. It does not occur naturally as gas and needs to be first separated from other elements before it can be burned as fuel or converted to electricity.

(vi) Geothermal: Geothermal energy taps Earth's internal heat for electric power production and for the heating and cooling of buildings. Geothermal energy is produced when groundwater (from Earth's surface) meets molten magma. Most of this groundwater remains deep underground, trapped in cracks and porous rock while some water does escape back to the surface forming hot springs and geysers. The portion that remains underground exists as geothermal reservoirs close to the surface and can be easily tapped for power generation.

Why is it important?

The energy we use today comes mainly from non-renewable sources such as coal, oil, natural gas and uranium, all of which are finite resources and will be depleted. Additionally, the use of these types of fuel are damaging to our health and to the environment. Renewable energy on the other hand has the potential to produce clean energy for our use, for all time for everyone. Renewable energy systems help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are being recognised as a major source of energy for the 21st century and beyond.


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