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2010 Nov 29 - Malaysia: A Coal Plant in Paradise

Malaysia: A Coal Plant in Paradise

Nov 29, 2010: There are worse places to be than in the eco-paradise of Sabah, a state on the northeast tip of Malaysian Borneo. To one side is the Coral Triangle, home to the world's richest ocean diversity; to the other is the Heart of Borneo, a 22-million-hectare rain forest. In the middle is a vast swath of 1,100 palm plantations. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Sabah to explore its marvels of biodiversity, hiking elephant paths, spotting shy orangutans and scuba diving with hammerhead sharks.

It's hard to imagine a worse place for a brand new 300 MW coal-fired power plant than here. But it will be a real challenge for Sabah to get by otherwise. And there, in a Southern Pacific garden spot, are all the world's eco-tensions writ small.

Malaysia has taken clear steps to make environmental health a national priority. In the fall of 2009, Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen that his country, already a Kyoto Protocol signatory, would reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by 2020. It is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia with renewable energy standards, despite the fact that it has reliable stores of conventional fuels; its oil, gas and energy sectors accounted for 10% of the country's GDP in 2009.

But Malaysia is also a land of pressing energy needs, and Sabah tells that story better than most places. Officials anticipate a 7.7% annual energy demand increase through 2020, which Sabah Electricity, the state power company, has proposed meeting by adding seven new energy facilities to the 17 already in existence. Most are fueled by natural gas, followed by hydropower and diesel. One of those new facilities, promised by Razak just months before his pledge in Copenhagen, is slated for the Sabah palm plantation region. And this one will be fired by coal Sabah's first such plant.

Twice before in the last three years, the local electricity utility, a subsidiary of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), which owns 80% of Malaysia's power generation, had lobbied to build a coal-fired plant. Both times the plans were shot down by the federal Department of Environment (DOE) and local opposition.

This latest plant, however, is different. Not only is it slated for federally owned land, it also has the backing of the prime minister. Sabah's environmental groups formed a coalition to fight the plant, but they kept hearing the same thing over and over again: Ini Najib mau. Najib wants this.

Still, what Najib wants is not necessarily what the rest of his government wants, and in August, the DOE once again stepped in, rejecting a detailed environmental impact assessment for the plant. TNB is expected to submit a revised statement early next year and when the company does, environmentalists fear the jig could be up; this time a coal plant may actually get built.

It doesn't have to be this way, environmentalists say. Some 60% of Malaysia is rain forest, the vast majority of it found in Sabah and its neighbor state, Sarawak. Though renewables currently account for only 1% of the country's energy production, mostly from hydropower, Sabah's abundant sunshine, geothermal sources, extensive network of strong rivers and a long coastline give it the potential to make Malaysia a regional leader in clean energy.

These resources are underdeveloped, however, and until the renewables sector can get itself ginned up, the threat of a coal-fired plant looms. One stopgap for Sabah would be to build the power plants it needs but fuel them with palm oil production waste. Sabah currently produces about 30% of Malaysia's palm oil, which combined with Indonesia's, constitutes 90% of the world's palm oil exports. A palm waste biomass plant could readily meet the 300-MW target Razak promised, according to one recent energy analysis.

Of course, palm plantations and their waste do their own serious environmental damage. In Southeast Asia, slash-and-burn land clearing has destroyed vast forest regions to make way for monocrops like palms, a practice that has been strongly implicated in global warming. That hardly makes this region a good place to do more burning. Still, even greens concede that palm burning is a step up from coal, if only because it provides something to do with the 70 million tons of palm production waste the country generates each year, most of which is dumped in mill ponds or illegally burned in open pits.

Despite these problems, Malaysia still heads into the 2010 climate talks in Cancun on Nov. 29 as one of the world's better-intentioned environmental citizens. But it remains to be seen how these good impulses will play out in Sabah's fragile and beautiful ecosystem.

Read more:,8599,2031862,00.html#ixzz16asnkmT0

SAPP Policies

SAPP's 17 point Manifesto - Sabah deserves better in terms of more equitable distribution of opportunities, in social, economic and infrastructural development and a better quality of life. [BM][Chinese]

SAPP's Economic Plan for Sabah - SAPP aims to achieve economic prosperity and financial self-reliance for Sabah. Version in [BM] [Chinese]

SAPP's Land Reform Policy - To promote and protect the rights and interests of local natives and other citizens in Sabah [BM][Chinese]

On Oil Royalty - SAPP is not giving up its struggle for more oil royalty payment for Sabah.

SAPP's Eight (8) Points Declaration - Whereas our mission is to establish a trustworthy govt and a progressive ...

SAPP's 14 point memo in 2006 - Time for Direct Preventive Actions

SAPP Constitution (booklet)

Our Sabah..

Books on ....
RCI Report on Immigrants in Sabah
The Birth of Malaysia
Malaysia Agreement Article 1-11
The Original Agreement of Malaysia
Heroes of Kinabalu 神山美烈誌
Schedule 9 of the Federal Constitution

more on ...
Twenty points safeguard
20 Perkara
Illegals & IC issues
Bernas Monopoly
No to coal-fired plant
Sabah Gas pipeline
3 million acres oil blocks ceded
The Formation of Msia & Devt in Sabah
Proclamation of Msia 1963...details
Restore Sabah's right to appoint JCs,
Ex-minister: Review 20-point
Supply Sarawak power to Sabah...
Sedition Act 1948
Continental Shelf Act 83 (1966)
Petroleum Development Act 144 (1974)
Petroleum Oil Agreement (1976)


SAPP bid to discuss Sabah claim rejected
Take action against anti-Malaysia elements
Call for Philippines Consulate in Sabah
Get the RM1 billion and solve the QEH debacle
SAPP's objection of coal-fired plants in Sabah
SAPP: Explain the RM 601 loan to KL company
The missing billion ringgit "special grant"
SAPP on SEDIA Bill 2009
SAPP supports the call for the abolishment of Cabotage Policy
Probe illegals having Mykad also
Political Autonomy for Sabah
Sabah Schools still awaiting share of RM30 million
Special fund: Eric wants ACA probe
Oil royalty: SAPP not giving up
Scrap Bernas monopoly on rice
More News in Search Archive.....

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