Maximizing Biomass Use for A More Circular Malaysia

As Malaysia becomes increasingly industrialized, the demand for energy is growing. Currently, Malaysia’s energy consists dominantely of fossil fuels which can be broken down into: 53.3% natural gas, 30.5% coal, 2.8% fuel oil, and 1.8% diesel. Malaysia is the 4th biggest exporter of natural gas and the 12th biggest importer of natural gas. It imports natural gas mainly from Australia, Brunei, Nigeria, and Singapore. In particular, Malaysia imports 80% of its coal from Australia, China, and Russia.

Meanwhile, the world’s trend is shifting in favor of renewable energy and gradually reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. Renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass energy is more sustainable and produces much fewer polluting emissions. It is also abundant on earth and does not require extraction that harms the environment. Therefore, the use of renewable energy is recommended and promoted across the world.

The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Malaysia is committed to reaching the 31% target of renewable energy in its total national energy share by 2025, 3 years from now. In order to make that target achievable, Malaysia possesses a “Malaysia Renewable Energy Roadmap” to support the decarbonization of the electricity sector. It is an effort to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), as Malaysia has also pledged to become a Net Zero nation by 2050. Together with Singapore, Malaysia is a leader within the Southeast Asian region in its commitment to reduce GHG emissions while other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries are still reluctant.

What else can be done to accelerate Malaysia’s commitment to increase renewable energy usage by 2025 and achieve Net Zero by 2050? The answer may lay in the initiative to make Malaysia a biomass hub. Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob voiced his wish to make Malaysia a biomass hub. According to him, the plan makes perfect sense since Malaysia is the second largest palm oil producer and biggest biomass industry contributor. The plan to make Malaysia a biomass hub is a step towards implementing a circular economy in Malaysia by reducing the use of raw materials and reusing already existing resources.

This idea raises optimism regarding Malaysia’s commitment towards a more sustainable planet. Maximizing the use of biomass will reduce dependency on other countries regarding energy resources that are fragile. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how global supply chains are interconnected and at the same time vulnerable. This can also lead to a path towards more renewable energy use.

Biomass gains popularity around the world as it can address the disposal of waste and at the same time serve as a source of energy that is renewable. Maximizing biomass use can also lead to new job creation representing a win-win solution for the economy. Food waste is known to be among the significant contributors to GHG and Malaysia produces 17,000 tons of food waste daily. By transforming its food waste into biomass, it can open up many new opportunities for job creation, energy generation, carbon reduction, and additional economic contributions.