By Saleh Shadman, Christina Chin M.M. and Novita Sakundarini.

Energy security is one of the main concerns that lurks behind almost every country’s energy policy. The question to be answered is how these countries are dealing with the energy security crisis, and to what extent it affects their economy, environment and people.

It is crucial for Malaysia to maintain a balance in the fuel mix, while it is currently still heavily dependent on coal and natural gas.

As one of the largest countries and economies in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is a good case study around which to analyse the energy security scenario. First, a definition of ‘energy security’ is needed, since this is of the utmost importance for energy policy-making in the twenty-first century. Energy security can be defined as ‘the sufficient and uninterrupted supply of energy at an affordable price’. Thus, in the context of this definition, let us look at how Malaysia is coping with the energy security challenges it is facing.

Energy security issues in Malaysia

According to authors E.J.M. Sahid, C.Ch. Siang and L.Y. Peng, the two main energy security issues in Malaysia are an ‘over-dependence on fossil fuel’ and ‘increasing energy import dependency’, both of which threaten the country’s future development.

The need for energy is continuously increasing in Malaysia, yet the supply is not meeting the demand. Current power production and demand trends show that the country has a reserve margin that will only last for the next few years. In order to meet this ever-increasing energy demand, Malaysia requires additional investment, research and development in its power sector. Furthermore, the government’s diversification policy and power sector expansion plan emphasises the need to incorporate renewable energy sources (RES) and other sources with lower CO2 emissions – such as nuclear power – into the national energy mix.

The government has been introducing various initiatives over a number of years. These include, for example, the National Energy Policy of 1979, the Four Fuel Diversification Policy of 1981, the Fifth Fuel Policy in the 8th and 9th Malaysia Plans (2001–2005 and 2006–2010), and setting up a new energy model in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011–2015). The most recent initiative is the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016–2020), under which achieving sustainability through cleaner energy sources has been prioritised. Additionally, Malaysia has included renewable energy as its fifth fuel in the ‘Fifth Fuel Policy’; but is the policy being utilised as planned? The answer is no.

Figures show that while the 8th Malaysia Plan had a target of generating 500MW out of a total 20,000MW of generating capacity using renewables, only 41.5MW had been achieved by the end of 2010. In the most recent 11th Malaysia Plan, the target is to achieve renewable energy capacity of 2,080MW by 2020, contributing to 7.8 per cent of total installed capacity in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah. Thus, it is crucial for Malaysia to maintain a balance in the fuel mix, even while it is still heavily dependent on coal and natural gas.

Mitigation plans

Some of the mitigation plans for increased sustainable energy usage and security listed in the 11th Malaysia Plan include:

1. Strengthening stakeholder coordination and collaboration in the energy sector:
– fostering greater institutional collaboration on energy planning;
– engaging end-users in efficient energy consumption.

2. Ensuring the security of supply and reliability for the oil and gas sub-sector within a market-based approach:
– ensuring security of supply for gas.

3. Enabling growth in the oil and gas sub-sector:
– supporting the development of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex;
– moving towards third-party access for gas supply to allow new entrants;
– implementation of clean fuel in the transportation sector.

4. Managing supply diversity for the security of the electricity sub-sector:
– ensuring electricity supply security through better management of resources;
– augmenting rural electrification.

Future scenarios

It is crucial to identify what can be done to mitigate the current problems of energy security. Therefore, if the 11th Malaysia Plan can be achieved by the year 2020, the country will most likely overcome its current energy security crisis and move towards a more sustainable energy future.

However, a few of the strategies listed will probably take longer to implement than planned. For example, rural electrification will likely take more time than expected, given that almost one-third of the population live in rural areas. The implementation of cleaner fuel for the transportation sector will also require a substantial amount of time to implement. Additionally, plans such as ‘engaging end-users in efficient energy consumption’ will require significant research into consumers’ energy efficiency, as well as time for educating the community about the importance of conserving energy.

Despite this, other initiatives could be introduced with immediate effect, providing a boost to the energy security situation in Malaysia. Nonetheless, these will only be achievable and realistic if the appropriate budget allocation and infrastructure are also provided.

At present, the mitigation plans for energy security issues in Malaysia are feasible with the government’s current emphasis on the consequences of not taking action. However, concerns remain regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of the plans to mitigate energy security issues sustainably for the future.

Saleh Shadman is a PhD student investigating the energy security of Malaysia using System Dynamics, Christina Chin M.M. is an Assistant Professor whose research focuses on engineering projects and energy management, and Novita Sakundarini is an Associate Professor who focuses on the development of tools and methods for sustainable design and manufacturing. All three authors are from the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Nottingham Malaysia. Image Credit: CC Wikimedia Commons.

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