I attended the International Conference and Exhibition on Waste Management meeting in Kuala Lumpur for three days from 24th to 26th September 2019. There was a first session on the 24th about biogas in Malaysia whilst the other days were dedicated more widely to waste management.
This is a country of 36 million people with a growing population and economy. It is heavily dependent upon fossils fuels for its energy needs- coal makes up 30% of the mix, plus oil and gas, both of which Malaysia exports too. A new Government was elected last year and after decades there are new policies and new faces running the country. The period of my visit saw the last days of the incredible pollution drifting over from Indonesia where the forests are burning underlining how we are all connected when it comes to environmental issues.
Regarding biogas there are mixed signals and prospects. On the one hand there are incentives for renewable energy and new rules on palm oil mills- any new mill is obliged to have a biogas recovery for the effluent whilst older plants will have to install them over the next 15 years- perhaps this could have been a shorter time scale but it is in any case a positive development. Developers from around the region are attempting to do business in Malaysia and we were able to discuss their initiatives and challenges. Government has a target of producing 20% of electricity from renewables by 2025 with most emphasis put upon solar, hydro and biomass but biogas has its role to play and is included in the mix. Currently the country has achieved around 6% so there is a long way to go.
On the other hand this is one of the many countries that still gives subsidies to fossil fuels and it is difficult to ween the population and the economy off of these. Further, whilst waste volumes grow and are generally sent to landfill and open dumps (in the more remote areas) there are no initiatives to collect and treat organic waste, yet this represents 45% of the MSW stream. And installations in sewage facilities have yet to be developed.
One speaker from Indonesia illustrated development there too. Indonesia has a target of 23% of total energy (not just electricity) from renewables by 2025 including a mandate for fuels to contain 20% biodiesel. There is a general consensus that biogas could substitute most imported LPG by 2030 but the country also suffers from artificially low energy prices due to subsidies.
Speaking to representatives of non-Malaysian countries and companies represented at the conference, there is reason for optimism because they consider Malaysia to be a stable nation and one that takes its international commitments seriously.
Should WBA members wish to make contact with potential Malaysian partners they are invited to get in touch with us.
President, World Biogas Association