Kota Marudu Member of Parliament

700MW from biogas and biomass possible

KIMANIS: Palm oil mills in the State have the potential to generate up to 700MW of electricity using biogas and biomass produced from palm oil mill effluent (Pome) which could effectively address some of the State's continuous power problem.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said, however, the government's effort to encourage the 128 palm oil mills in the State to generate renewable energy through biogas and biomass had not been received with much enthusiasm from the mill owners. 

"They said, their first love is to plant oil palm, press the oil and get the oil. It is nice and easy. Why bother gathering the effluent and convert it into gas? 

"Unless of course if the government made it a condition to issue milling licences, then this thing will kick off. That's why we are talking to the Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB). This will also go a long way into reducing 40 per cent of carbon dioxide," he said. 

He said this after officiating the newly commissioned Kimanis Main Intake Substation and 132kV transmission line here. 

Ongkili highlighted that one of the problems why the suggestion may not be attractive to mill owners right now is because they are located far away from the Sabah grid and any attempt to make the line in order for them to sell the generated power to SESB is hampered by the high cost needed to reach the grid. 

That is why, he said, there is a need for his ministry to discuss the matter with the Rural and Regional Development Ministry so that during the planning stage, the transmission line will be built as near to palm oil mills as possible. 

"We are also reviewing the feed-in tariff with respect to encouraging mills and plantations to consume their own renewable energy. 

"Right now, you will only get paid if you sell your energy to SESB or TNB. You do not get paid for contributing to the reduction of carbon dioxide. 

"In order to encourage this practise, we are currently looking at some incentives for example, reducing interest rates for those who want to buy turbines or do their own power generation," he said, adding that at the moment, renewable energy accounts to merely three per cent of the State's source of energy. 

Meanwhile, Ongkili said the Ministry is targeting renewable energy generation of 50MW per year for the next four years to be built in Sabah through a large-scale solar generation utility. 

He said, the project, which will be undertaken by the private sector, is part of the government's plan to convert 10 per cent of the country's energy to renewable energy by 2025. 

So far, the Ministry had received many applications from interested parties who would like to undertake the ambitious idea and Ongkili said the Ministry is currently updating the bidding process and further discussion with both SESB and TNB. 

"This is intermittent power. Only four or five hours of maximum power generation. At night, it will be taken over by normally-generated power. So i