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The generation of biogas in Malaysia – chance or risk?

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​The new Minister for Energy and Environment of Malaysia, Yeo Bee Yin, has declared that 20 per cent of the energy demand of the country should be covered by renewable energy by 2025. To reach this target, significant efforts are necessary as the country is currently generating only 2 per cent of its electricity by exploiting renewable sources. Alongside solar power, renewable energy produced out of biomass or biogas can play a major role in the future.

 

As a tropical country Malaysia can benefit from an abundance of biomass resources. Particularly the palm oil sector can be regarded as one of the most important contributors to the biomass resources available. Approximately 5.75 million hectares – an area almost equalling the state territory of Croatia – are used for palm tree plantations resulting in Malaysia ranking second in the global palm oil production. Apart from residues generated in the palm oil industry, plenty of biomass can be sourced from the production of sugar cane, rice, maize, kenaf and coconuts as well as municipal waste and manure from the animal breeding industry.

 

Promotion of the biogas sector in Malaysia

To benefit from these resources and make use of an estimated biogas potential of more than 500 MW in Malaysia, the government decided to accelerate the development of the biogas sector. A concrete example for its ambitions is the target to equip all palm oil mills with a biogas plant until 2020 under the EPP5 programme. By means of this measure the contamination of the environment by the disposal of sewage generated in the palm oil production shall decrease. Additionally, all owners of palm oil mills aiming to enlarge their business by adding new mills are obligated to install a biogas plant. So far only 35 per cent of palm oil mills are equipped with such a plant. Moreover, the generation of biogas can benefit the palm oil producer as it might facilitate receiving the certification for sustainably produced palm oil. For instance, in Europe the possession of this certificate has been introduced in 2009 as a requirement in order to be eligible for government subsidies for plant-based oils utilised in energy generation.

 

A concrete tool to foster the development of the biomass and biogas sector is the feed-in-tariff (FiT) enabling a producer of renewable energy to feed in the generated renewable energy into the network of the national grid operator TNB (or SESB in Sabah/ Borneo) for 16 years applying a fixed tariff for the remuneration of the producer.

 

 Recent feed-in-tariffs for biogas in Malaysia (RM = Malaysian Ringgit), source: SEDA Malaysia

 

 

 

 

 

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