Renewable Energy Sources In Malaysia


23 Mar 2015 02 Jun 2017

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Today, energy challenge turned out to be a grave threat to sustainable development in developing countries since their energy needs is increasing more quickly than advanced countries. On the other side, fossil fuel combustion cannot maintain longer in the foreseeable future because of the environmental impact and the reduction of resources. Malaysia is experiencing dramatic growth of population and the economy and need to search for options energy sources in support of its inhabitants and business energy needs. Fourth-largest energy source in the world is biomass and was rich in the countries.

Malaysia blessed with the tropical forests and moist climate all the year round which is a wonderful opportunity for full exploitation of agricultural and tropical rain forests possible. Term of waste-to-wealth has been started at the end of 1990, and it has become common. This idea is based on undesirable waste that is converted into useful energy while minimizing waste generation and to increase the economic-impact used primarily for cooking, for heating and electricity. Presently, coordinated attempts and different biomass energy plans are persuaded by the government for growth, commercialization and demonstration.

This study's purpose to this present state and perspectives of the biomass use and strategy promoted to the future development of Malaysia.



Renewable Energy







Malaysia covers a landmass of 329,847 square kilometers which consist of two regions; Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo which are separated by the South China Sea [1]. With its population growth of 1.7% - 1.6% per annum [2], Malaysia is heading to its government's vision to become a "humane industrialized country by year 2020" and with such ambitious vision, the growth of Science and Technology is continuously developing hence contributing to increase need of energy [3].

Malaysia relies on non-renewable energy and is currently venturing into renewable energy. There are a number of identified renewable energy sources ; for example solar power, hydro power, oil palm biomass and waste materials [4] which are being used and further studies are being conducted to improve its quality and performance.

The usage of renewable energy has contributed to reduced pollutions to the environment, cost saving - cheaper source of energy [5], and does not reduce the natural sources [6].

As a developing country, Malaysia's population continues to grow and live increasingly energy dependent lives the future of energy supply is growing. This paper is revised the present potentials of energy resources especially biomass and then the future contributions to the national energy generation in Malaysia.

Information Analysis

Energy crisis is becoming a serious threat to sustainability mainly in developing countries and communities of the last decades. Between 1990 and 2000, the Asia Pacific's developing countries met 27% increase in conventional energy consumption whereas the consumption of world energy was 11% [7]. Growing in the energy demand is predicted to continue in the future. Fossil fuels have been the main source of energy since first sparks of technology appeared in mankind lives, however, depletion of fossil fuel reserves as well as significant environmental impacts, leads the governments and authorities to focus on renewable energy resources. In most recent years, demand for petroleum-derived fuels is increasing as a result of grow in population and economy [8].

The contemporary Malaysian economy is a net energy exporter with 11% of export income in 2004 derived from crude oil, LNG and petroleum products [9]. The final energy demand of Malaysia is expected to grow at 2.9% per year, reaching 69.39 MTOE [1]  in 2020, nearly double the 2002 level. The industry sector will have the highest growth rate of energy demand at 3.38%, followed by transport at 2.74%, residential at 1.86% and commercial at 1.14%, as shown in Fig.1 [10].

Fig.1. Predictions of Malaysian energy demand by sector (1980-2020) [11]

Energy position in Malaysia

Malaysia produces and utilizes both conventional and renewable sources of energy. The largest conventional energy resource found in Malaysia is petroleum (i.e. oil and gas). According to the Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), Malaysia held proven oil reserves of 4 billion barrels as of January 2010, and its oil reserves are reported to be the third highest in the Asia-Pacific region. Malaysia was the world's tenth largest holder of natural gas reserves in 2010 and the second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas after Qatar in 2009. OGJ states that Malaysia held 83 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven natural gas reserves as of January 2010. Coal deposits can also be found in Malaysia. However, only a small percentage is being mined [12].

Malaysia is a significant oil and natural gas producer and is strategically located amid important routes for the seaborne energy trade. Malaysia's oil reserves are the third highest in the Asia-Pacific region after China and India.

Fig.2. The electric power generated by different sectors in Malaysia (in 2009) (Source: trading economics) [13]

It is evident that Malaysia is still very much dependent on fossil fuels in all its commercial energy demand and electricity generation (Table 2).

Table2. Percentage of electricity generation based on fuel types [14]


Coal (%)

Petroleum (%)

Gas (%)

Hydro (%)





















The most important sources supplies were crude oil and petroleum products and then followed by the natural gas. It can be stated that the total supply of energy is increased gradually from 1978 to 2013 (Fig.3). In 2013, the percentage of crude oil and petroleum products descending to under 10 % but the percentage of natural gas is ascending to just over 62 %. Although crude oil and petroleum had contributed the largest percentage of total amount supply, an increase in the usage of coal and coke had reduced the annual growth rate of oil supply. The contribution of the other sources whereas had remained the same.

The cost effective, quality, reliability, and security supply need to be considered to produce optimal energy mix from domestic sources. The international market price of crude oil is projected to remain high so that alternative approaches need to be make to reduce the dependency on petroleum products.

Fig.3. Fuel mix trend in power generation in Malaysia [15]

Renewable energy resources

The most important sources of renewable energy in Malaysia are biomass and solar and sustainable use of energy has been emphasized in the country's development plans and supported by Government initiatives. Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the Government will be introducing the feed-in tariff (FiT) of 1% to be incorporated into the electricity tariffs of consumers to support the development of renewable energy (Fig.4).

330 MW




Solar PV

Solid Waste

100 MW

290 MW

65 MW

200 MW


23 X



5.5 %

<1 %

% of total electricity generated

Planned increase in renewable energy capacity

Fig.4. Moving towards renewable energy replaces the need for fossil-fuel power plants [16]

Solar power

The RE sector is fast gaining ground as a new growth area for many countries with the potential it presents environmentally and economically. It plays a major role in meeting energy needs, making it possible for businesses to reap energy cost savings while combating global warming. Currently, Malaysia is world the third largest producer of solar cells after China and Germany (Fig.5). Malaysia already has companies across the entire value chain, from silicon production to solar cell manufacturing and module assembly.

With the committed amount of fund for the rolling out of the first FiT incentive for 2012 - 2014, Malaysia is on the right direction to achieve a targeted revenue of at least RM70 billion from the private sector by 2020.

Fig.5. Predicted solar manufacturing from 2006 to 2020 by different regions [17]

Predicted to be a clean energy of the future, solar energy has been at the forefront of power development in the developed countries and a possible source of energy for developing countries similar to Malaysia. This paper introduces Malaysia's solar energy or solar photovoltaic development prospects. The study was carried out by first searching in the country's energy policy linked to solar power. Key players in solar power development as government organizations are presented. Initial solar energy programs and key projects entitled Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic (MBIPV) and the successful initiatives will be submitted. Measures that adopted by the government of Malaysia include appealing incentives to promote solar photovoltaic development, solar energy potentials of the country, foreign investment and the future direction and the feed-in tariff plan will be submitted with a length provide a wide range of solar power development in Malaysia. The prospects were positive and the country was actively promoting solar as alternative energy sources and aware of the benefits it bring for economy development in future [18].


Hydropower is the only renewable energy technology that is presently commercially viable on a large scale. It has four major advantages, namely it is renewable, it produces negligible amounts of greenhouse gases, it is the least costly way of storing large amounts of electricity, and it can easily adjust the amount of electricity produced to the amount demanded by consumers.

Hydropower accounts for about 17% of global generation capacity and about 20% of the energy produced each year [19].

Malaysia has a total land mass of 332,000 km2 and its mean elevation is about 300m. The average rainfall is slightly more than 2,600mm per year. The total gross hydro potential is 414,000 GWh/year, of which about 85,000 GWh/year is available in Peninsular Malaysia. Hence, whilst Peninsular Malaysia has 39% of the land area, its share of hydropower resources is only slightly more than 20% [20].

Tenaga Nasional Berhad operates three hydroelectric schemes in the peninsular with an installed generating capacity of 1,911 megawatts (MW). They are the Sungai Perak (1249 MW), Terengganu (400 MW) and Cameron Highlands (262 MW) hydroelectric schemes with 21 dams in operation. A number of Independent Power Producers also own and operate several small hydro plants. At present, hydro power is the only renewable energy source in Malaysia that is considered to be economically viable on a large scale.

As for future hydro development in Peninsular Malaysia, several projects have been identified and studied at feasibility and pre-feasibility levels. These potential projects have to compete with alternative energy sources such as coal and gas in terms of economic viability.


The potential for wind energy generation in Malaysia depend on the availability of wind resource that varies with location. Understanding the site specific nature of wind is a crucial step in planning wind energy project. Detailed knowledge of wind on site is needed to estimate the performance of wind energy project. Average wind speeds are low in Malaysia and harnessing wind energy is only practical on remote islands or east coast states of peninsular Malaysia where the wind may reach 30 knots or more during periods of strong surges of cold air from the north. 30 knots is equivalent to about 15.4 m/s, which is about 55 km/h. However, application of wind energy at Malaysia can be used widely if the turbine can operate in country average wind speed which is 3-5 m/s. There was some study [21] done successfully to produce the electricity that suitable with wind condition of Malaysia, classified as low wind speed wind turbine.

The northwest coast of Sabah and Sarawak region also potential to application of wind energy due to strength wind that reach 20 knot or more [22]. Due to maximum wind can be obtained during monsoon season which is between Octobers to March, the hybrid system of wind energy is feasible to compliment electricity supply during monsoon season. The first wind farm in Malaysia was set up on Terumbu Layang-Layang Island, Sabah. A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia study in 2005 has shown that the use of 150 kW turbine on the island has shown a good degree of success [23]. This study mentioned that Terumbu Layang-Layang Island has the largest wind energy potential compared to other places in Malaysia.

Tidal energy is also promising renewable energy source available in Malaysia. Until recently, a preliminary study was carried out to explore the potential of ocean energy for electricity generation in Malaysia [24]. Study by Ref. [25], identified that Pulau Jambangan, Kota Belud and Sibu are the locations with great potential for tidal energy extraction. The total amount of electricity that can be generated on those locations is about 14.5 GWh/year.


Nowadays, biomass is regarded as one of the primary sources of energy in the developing and developed countries. Malaysia with a large quantity of biomass waste as a source of power generation is considered as one of the possible countries in this area [26].

Oil palm is one of the main economic plants in the large number of countries. Malaysia alone generates about 47% of the global palm-oil supplies and can be regarded as the world's leading manufacturer and exporter of oil palm. Malaysia also produces great quantities the oil palm biomass as oil coconut stems, oil palm leaves, blank product bundles, shells and fibres as waste from palm-oil product harvesting and oil extraction treatment. At now there is a constantly growing interest in the use the oil palm biomass of the source of cleaner energy. One of the main interests is hydrogen fuel from oil palm biomass. Hydrogen from biomass is clean and effective source of energy and is expected to make a major role in the future energy needs because of the raw material availability [27]. There are different types of thermo-chemical processing to convert the oil palm biomass to hydrogen wealthy petrol.

Fig. 6 shows the cultivated area for oil palm in Malaysia (divided into three categories, i.e. Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak) within 34 years. The total oil palm planted area in the country increased by 4.5% to 4.69 million ha in 2009 [28]. In Sabah and Sarawak, the drastic increase in the 1990s can be attributed to the government policy in the intensification of palm oil industries in East Malaysia [29]. Malaysia produces about 15 million metric tonnes of palm oil per year. One tonne produces about 414 kg of biodiesel. With a caloric value of about 40,000 kJ/kg, this results in a total energy supply of about 7.8 GW/year from palm oil.

Cultivated areas for oil palm in Malaysia.jpg

Fig.6. Cultivated areas for oil palm in Malaysia, 1975-2009 [22]

While the total energy available from residues and landfill gas has been estimated as 3.1 GW [30]. Major agriculture crop in Malaysia are oil palm (43.67%), rubber (30.56%), rice (12.68%),

cocoa (6.75%) and coconut (6.34%). These provide Malaysia huge of biomass resources. In fact, government of Malaysia has announced the 5th Fuel Policy that states "To supplement the conventional supply of energy, new sources such as renewable energy will be encouraged and biomass resources such as oil palm and wood waste as well as rice husks, will be used on a wider basis mainly for electricity generation" [31]. Currently, residue from agriculture crops like paddy, rubber and sugar are use as fuel for generation of electricity in Malaysia using the cogeneration system. However, the percentage of using this residue for electricity generation is still low. Biomass residues are the main source of energy input to the mills using cogeneration system. It has been estimated the total biomass energy potential is equivalent to 2-3% of total power production in the country [32]. Report from [33], about 14 mills already used agriculture waste for energy demand, both for steam and electricity with total capacity amount 1567.2 MW. The increasing amount of paddy production make highly potential in CHP technology to convert the paddy husk residue for energy purpose.

Around 20% of paddy is husk, rice husk in turn contains 16-22% ash, and 90-96% of the ash is composed of silica (silicon dioxide, SiO2). According to [34], by 2020 Malaysia will produce 768,290 tonnes of rice husk. As refer to [35], 1.5 kg of rice husk can generate 1 kWh, this mean by 2020 Malaysia can produce 512 TWh using rice husk residue. Some example of cogeneration project based on rice husk installed in Pendang Kedah Darulaman, which uses a steam boiler, 6.5 tonnes/h, 30 bar, saturated, connected to a 450 kW back pressure turbine and heat exchanger [36]. Electricity produces use for their owned consumption. Other example of rice husk project cogeneration that connected to system grid is installed at Titi Serong Rice Mill [37].

In Malaysia, the annual production of sugarcane bagasse reaches a number of million tonnes [38]. Nearly 30% of that number will turn into bagasse when it is crushed in a sugar factory [39]. Sugarcane baggase is the fibrous waste that remains after recovery of sugar juice via crushing and extraction. A ton of bagasse (50% mill-wet basis) is equal to 1.6 barrels of fuel oil on energy basis. The total of sugarcane energy content on dry basis, excluding ash (around 2-3% of weight) can be divided into three main parts. Malaysia produces 274,620 tonnes of sugarcane for 2009, with a moisture content of 50%. This means we can get 150,000 tonnes of dry bagasse annually.

The caloric value for dry bagasse comes to be 17.33 MJ/kg, which make to total energy potential of 0.421 million boe per year. At the time, all the bagasse is being used as boiler fuels in sugar mills operating in the country. Most agriculture crops in Malaysia can be used to generate electricity. If all crops are fully utilize can help reduce the dependency on fossil fuel sources.


Biomass could be Remarkable as a stable and suitable replacement for fossil energy in Malaysia that cover appropriates 76% of land by thick and compact kind of tropical agricultural and forest.

Currently, high motivation of biomass consumption in order to generate energy, sustainability of bio-sources, economic impact and environmental aspects are considered. Therefore, improving technologies related to bio-power and bio-fuel is continued. Recycling and using residues of forest and agriculture are valued in order to convert to useful energy and by product. Establishing biomass projects such as CDM by Malaysian Government is prominent in order to allocate subsidy to this kind of projects.

Allocated subsidy is one common way of support biomass project. However, still there are many obstacles such as , knowledge development of biomass in Malaysia, risky situation for applying new technology, cost-benefit with financial indicators in comparison with conventional energy, energy demand in market place, speed of commercialization, feasibility of knowledge transferring, and the policies of government still are not successful to persuade and encourage industries to use biomass and efficient communication and negotiation with suitable strategy including integration, alignment and balancing situation between government and industries concern based on win-win is considered.

Outlook of using biomass depends on the total cost of producing biomass energy in compared with fossil fuels. Using biomass instead of fossil energy with the decreasing cost of biomass is achievable and it can respect to environment.


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