Friday, January 24, 2014

Mini hydro solution to Sabah’s power woes

KOTA KINABALU: The shocking statewide blackout on Jan 17 which affected 500,000 consumers has made it imperative for Sabah to accelerate its renewable energy policy and engage in quick and practical solutions.

Local renewable energy practitioners believe the best solution now for Sabah is to look at mini hydro, biomass and solar as renewable energy source.
Giving renewable energy the thumbs-up, Adrian Banie Lasimbang, a well known advocate here said the government should just focus on small hydro projects.

“There’s no need to waste money to do more research. The government should consider mini hydros.
“Small Hydro should be supported by providing tech transfer program to companies that have been working on community based micro hydro system for rural electrification.
“State (government) should introduce smart subsidy for Solar PV (photovoltaic) system to reduce the equipment cost and tax incentives for houses that use solar power to encourage more household to install solar power on their own roof, reducing the stress on the SESB (Sabah Electrical Sdn Bhd) grid,” he said.
He was quick to dismiss federal Science Technology and Innovation Minister Ebin Ewon’s view that renewable energy from solar and wind turbine were excellent power alternatives which could revolutionize electricity generation in Sabah.
Ewon had last month reportedly said: “Operational cost for power generation is extremely high and power producers like SESB face a great challenge and the problem has been further aggravated by the inconsistent hike in fuel prices.”
Dismissing the merits of harnessing wind, Lasimbang said  research showed the potential of using wind was small in Sabah.
“Wind energy is limited to only northern Sabah. There is a reason why they call Sabah the land below the wind.
“The state government should direct all resources towards developing technologies and mechanism to harness the potential of biomass energy. It is most sensible.
“Policy related to biomass processing especially from oil palm waste and agro forestry waste need to be established”, he said.
Feed-in-tariff must benefit all
Sabah Environmental Trust chief executive officer Rahimatsah Amat agreed with  Lasimbang.

“Renewable energy as power generation should be encourage even though we may not have the best answers.
“While there has been plenty of good intentions, one needs to look at the “feed-in-tariff” so that it is promising and yet beneficial to the population and not just a few” he said alluding to commonly held views that approved projects generally involved government cronies.
Meanwhile local political observers see the State Government’s enthusiasm over renewable energy as “mere sweet talk” to gain popularity among the growing green conscious community.
One observer pointed out that the state government had failed to engage with local renewable energy practitioners and was arbitrarily charting out its own policies which were “in most cases not sustainable”.
“They don’t really care. It’s mere sweet talk…to be green compliant is now a fad among politicians,” said the observer.
The observer pointed out that if the state government was committed to renewable energy it would utilize the huge amounts of  palm oil waste and empty fruits bunch as source to generate power for local use.
“If the state government and SESB build more biomass power generator plant and allowed those local mills power to connect to the main grid, the power crisis in east cost will be solved.
“Instead, of wasting their money over technology that still need years and money for  research. This money can be put into improving the power transfer and management utilities” the observer said.
Meanwhile the federal government aims to achieve 11%  renewable energy usage by individual consumers and the industrial sector by 2020.
Deputy Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Mahdzir Khalid said in Terengganu said that currently the usage of renewable energy generated by solar, biogas and biomass in the country was at 1.5 per cent and hoped this percentage could be increased every year.

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