KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has been urged to focus its time and resources on renewable and cleaner energy options, rather than the potential of coal energy.
Non-governmental organisation Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Executive Chairperson Cynthia Ong said coal energy was a dying industry all over the world, and it was not feasible for Sabah.
She said Sabah is leading the way through some of its decisions that safeguard habitats and preserve livelihoods.
"This includes the state's commitment to improve palm oil practices by deploying certification processes and standards.
"Transforming palm oil waste to energy to feed into the grid system could also attract more support for Sabah's efforts in supplying global markets with premium certified sustainable palm oil," she said.
However, Ong felt that Sabah seems to be taking a step backward in its efforts to go greener to even consider coal power.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal recently welcomed Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's remark to source coal from East Malaysia, and said that the proposal should at least be studied.
A comparison to Sarawak, which had previously opposed the Bakun Dam, but is now able to supply power at a lower rate compared to Sabah, was also drawn.
In this respect, Ong said Malaysian and international energy experts, including Sabah's Tonibung, which is known for its community-based micro-hydro work and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, were willing to assist the state to build a suite of prototypes using diverse renewable energy sources.
She said a widely circulated Clean Energy Options Report for Sabah, which had in 2010 stated the availability of locally sustainable power supply options, should be revisited.
"This report holds even more relevance today with Malaysia making commitments to promote renewable energy and reduce its carbon emissions," she said.
The 2010 report had detailed that biomass waste projects at large palm oil mills could be cost-competitive with coal, which was at that time proposed as an energy source, and that 700 Megawatts (MW) of theoretical base load capacity would be available from mill waste by 2020 with over 400 MW of this economically feasible and logistically available, should the Sabah government support such industrialisation.
The report, commissioned by Green Surf (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future), a campaign that successfully challenged the federal government's proposal to build a 300 MW coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu, had stated that a selection of renewable energy options, including from palm oil waste, had the potential to address energy needs, create jobs and position the state as a leader in the region's emerging green industries.
In echoing the call for cleaner energy sources, Tonibung co-founder and director Senator Adrian Lasimbang said the long overdue southern grid should be built to improve electricity distribution.
"It will be possible to develop more hydro power in the south with a new grid system," he said.
"The Trans Sabah Gas Pipeline project that the Malaysian Government has paid over 80 per cent for could be reviewed and its scope changed from building a gas pipeline to a southern grid," Lasimbang said.
Before this, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin was quoted as saying that Malaysia has set a target of 20 per cent of the country's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2030, an increase from two per cent currently.
She also said the government would help green technology and renewable energy players to access better funding, and that her ministry would meet with Bank Negara Malaysia, banking institutions and investment banks this month to discuss the matter.