Large hydroelectric dams only as a 'last resort', says Deputy Energy Minister

KUCHING: Large hydroelectric dams will only be considered as a "last resort" as Malaysia moves towards its 20% renewable energy target by 2020, says deputy Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change minister Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis.


She said the government was aware of the responsibilities that came with growing commercial and industrial energy demands.


"We have to provide enough electricity to prosper, while not neglecting the negative impacts that centralised mega-projects often imply.


"We are interested in working with communities and listening to all stakeholders to create the most effective projects and have reliable energy sources.


"Large dams can only serve as the very last resort after having explored all other options for energy generation," she said when opening the Clean Energy Collaboration conference here Friday (March 15).


Isnaraissah said the government's efforts to boost renewable energy were already underway, such as a renewable energy grid project in Sabah that began last month through a private sector-NGO partnership.


"This grid features a new micro hydro turbine in the Kobulu River to generate an additional 20kW of electricity for Kampung Buayan and Kampung Tiku.


"Most importantly, this project was developed with the engagement and support of the local communities that will benefit from the power," she said.


Welcoming the announcement on large dams as a last resort, clean energy expert Daniel Kammen said this strategy was proven to have worked in California, where renewable energy currently stands at 35%.


"Our goal for 2030 is 60% clean energy and we recently passed a new state law to be 100% clean energy by 2045. We do not count large hydro as clean energy.


"We have existing hydro at 8% of our capacity but the rest is clean," he told a press conference after the opening ceremony.


Kammen, a professor at the University of California's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, said the diversity and decreasing costs of renewable options such as solar, wind, geothermal, micro hydro and energy storage made clean energy cheaper and less destructive than fossil energy and large hydro dams.


However, he said it was critical for governments to have a plan towards achieving clean energy.


"If you don't have a centralised state and national effort to grow the clean economy, to find opportunities that will work for individuals and communities to make the transition, it's very hard to achieve these high goals.


"But we've seen around the world, such as in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nicaragua and California, that having plans enable these low-cost technologies to win," he said.


The two-day conference was organised by Sarawak's Save Rivers, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) and Sabah-based Pacos Trust to discuss renewable energy pathways for Sarawak and Malaysia.


It brought together some 170 participants, including experts, government and industry representatives and people from over 30 villages.