It gives me great pleasure to be here today to officiate the Malaysia Green Building Council (MGBC) Northern Chapter Day 2020 with the theme “Renewable Energy in Penang”. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the organisers, MGBC Northern Chapter, for playing their role as the driving force towards promoting a sustainable built environment in Malaysia through active collaboration with government and industry.
Today, MGBC has put together this gathering of nearly a hundred industry players, including engineering consultants, academics, builders, developers and local planning authorities who will discuss various green building technologies, programmes, design practices as well as other sustainable measures that would bring benefit not only to the industry but to the environment as well.
The topic for today’s discussion is most appropriate given that there is now an acute realisation for the need to deal with climate change. Already in Penang we are experiencing first-hand the repercussions of this phenomenon. Based on historical data at our rain stations, total rainfall in Penang has increased by 200mm over the last few decades.
However, the increase in total rainfall itself is not critical were it not for the fact that the intensity of rain has also experienced a dramatic surge. In the 1990s, the average rainfall intensity in Penang was 31mm/hour. From 2000 to 2009, it increased to 146mm/hour. From 2010 until now, the average rainfall recorded has jumped up to 180mm/hour. This represents a six-fold increase in the space of thirty years and its consequences are what you may expect – flash flooding – as our drainage systems have obviously not been built to cater for such high intensity of rain.
Solar as the renewable energy of choice
Thus, it is clear that there is a need to pivot towards more sustainable approaches in planning and development in order to mitigate for climate change. As population increases so too does energy demand. Coupled with the fact that non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels are finite and depleting, not to mention environmentally harmful in its production, the case for investing in renewable energy, meaning to say energy from unlimited or sustainable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydropower, is now clearer than ever.
One particular form of renewable energy that is now technologically mature and relatively easy to implement is solar energy. In fact, out of all renewable energy capacity installed globally in 2018, about 55% or approximately 100GW came from solar photovoltaics (PV). This is simply due to economies of scale, as the technology cost has reduced by more than 70% over the last decade, making it affordable not only to commercial business owners but also to residential homeowners.
Malaysia’s push towards renewable energy
The Malaysian Government has in the last 21 months focused on the dual objectives of lowering greenhouse gas emissions as well as reducing reliance on fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal. Part of the efforts towards this includes setting a renewable energy (RE) mix target of 20% by 2025 compared to merely 2% in 2018.
Fortunately, the solar energy ecosystem is fast evolving and becoming more robust. This has led to many new policy initiatives such as the enhanced net metering (NEM) scheme under the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA). Under this scheme, solar energy produced will first be utilised for self-consumption and any excess is sold to the TNB grid at a one-to-one offset. In 2019 alone, there was a total application for 102MW of solar energy, which is 3.7 times more than what was achieved between 2016-2018. Other plans in the pipeline include a pilot run of peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading and the revision of power purchase agreements.
In order to encourage the business community to adopt solar energy, the Federal Government also agreed to extend the Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) and Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE) programmes until 2023. Through this, building owners will be able to claim double tax deductions up to 48% for the installation of solar PV panels.
With all these incentives, it is hoped that Malaysia can make inroads into the renewable energy sector. Although still a fledgling industry in the region, it must be noted that some of our neighbours are already way ahead. Vietnam for example is currently the leader among Southeast Asian countries with a total of 5.5GW of installed solar PV capacity, a feat that they achieved in just two years from a mere 134MW in 2018.
Penang’s commitment towards sustainability
The Government of Penang is committed to sustainability. In the state’s Penang 2030 vision, one of the key themes is to “invest in the built environment to improve resilience”. This is all the more important given Penang’ susceptibility to climate change as I have already noted earlier.
Penang aims to lead the nation by developing the first climate adaptation plan in the country. We also intend to incentivise all new developments to achieve Green Building Index (GBI) certification from 2020 onwards. The state has also recently set up a task force to study and propose a renewable energy strategy. Initiatives towards this objective are already underway with the state water company and the two city councils in the process of installing solar PV systems on suitable assets.
Together with the cooperation of both the private and public sectors, as well as all Penangites who aspire for a more sustainable environment, I am certain that we can achieve our ambitions of becoming a “family-focused green and smart state that inspires the nation”.
NB: Opening speech at the Malaysia Green Building Council Northern Chapter Day 2020 on 7 March 2020 in George Town, Penang.