Pandemic accelerates awareness on RE, sustainability

by AUFA MARDHIAH / pic source: Sarawak Biodiversity Centre

THE pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of energy prices, consequently accelerating demands for renewable energy (RE) and sustainability practices in the Asean region, industry players said.

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) Renewables Sdn Bhd MD Mohd Yusrizal Mohd Yusof said the electricity supply system needs to be balanced to include economic (affordability of energy prices), reliability of supply, as well as the availability of the energy reservoir.

“Asean countries are looking at balancing all these three elements, which is good. In the near future, talking about the contribution of energy storage will become more important in balancing this vulnerability in the system,” he said at Malayan Banking Bhd’s “Invest Asean 2022 ESG Conversations: Renewables, Energy Security & The Low Carbon Economy” webinar on Tuesday.

On carbon capture, Yusrizal said there are few studies conducted within the TNB group in capturing carbon, especially from thermal plants.

“One of the studies was utilising carbon for algae cultivation. The large amount of carbon emission that comes relatively large from thermal plants are resulting in this utilisation. There will also be technological advancement and hopefully, few other applications can be identified for utilisation of carbon capture,” he said.

The webinar was attended by industry experts across Asean, including Sarawak Energy Bhd sustainability head Mohamad Irwan Aman, India’s Adani Green Energy Ltd business development head Raj Kumar Jain and Global Power Synergy Public Co Ltd CFO Thitipong Jurapornsiridee.

The Malaysian government has set a goal of reducing carbon intensity by 2030 which includes a comprehensive national energy policy being introduced and cleaner energy generators to be implemented via several gas power plants.

Mohamad Irwan added that it is important for the country to adopt international best practices towards sustainable energy.

Citing Sarawak Energy as an example, he said the company is adopting international hydropower association standards in its development and operation.

“In the future, Sarawak Energy plans to have another driver to push through in adaptation of other technology. For instance, we also have pilot projects (solar battery storage, hydrogens, electric vehicles and net metering in the fleet) to scale up in the future to become South-East Asia’s battery, which is in line with Sarawak Energy’s vision — already exported to Kalimantan…will be exporting to Brunei and Sabah next,” he added.

Meanwhile, Raj said it is important to understand the affordability and availability of RE for each country and it may require a shift in mindset for its adoption.

On the potential of having nuclear energy, Raj said it will take some time for it to be fully accepted in the region due to World War 2 history involving nuclear bombs in Japan.

“It will take significant time before people start to forget about the old story — in Asia, Japan was supposed to be much safer in the adoption of nuclear energy, but the reluctance comes from the public. However, technology is actually evolving to make nuclear adoption much safer,” he added.

Meanwhile, Thitipong opined that there is a need to explore the options in the market to achieve ESG (environmental, social, and governance) target, saying, “In the long-term, there is consideration to be taken before adopting nuclear technology, for instance the perception, technology and the legislation framework.”

Amid the energy crisis due to war in Ukraine and geopolitical tensions in the region, European countries are switching on coal plants to ensure energy security. Thitipong opined that the situation may slow down the adaptation of green energy. However, investment in the renewable space and the competition for the renewable market are still intense.

On the other hand, Irwan believed that net-zero will definitely stay despite the geopolitical tension.

“Each country has its own target to achieve and the geopolitical tension going on currently is just one event disrupting the carbon market. However, in the long term, the objective is to achieve net-zero,” he said.