Scope for growth in Malaysia renewables: report

A lineman works on an electricity power transmission line in Ampang in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A lineman works on an electricity power transmission line in Ampang in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2019 - 4:16 PM

THERE is increasing scope for Malaysia's non-hydro renewable energy sector -- particularly solar energy -- to grow, with strengthening government support and rising investor interest in the past two years, Fitch Solutions Macro Research said in a Sept 13 report, identifying "substantial untapped ... potential" in that area.

Government support

The report noted recent and upcoming moves that increase government support for the sector, in light of which there is "an upside risk" to Fitch Solutions' forecast for the sector.

  • Ministry restructuring. Following the 2018 elections, the government restructured parts of ministries to form the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change, indicating a shift in focus toward energy and environmental sustainability.
  • Incentives. Regulations have been put in place to encourage investment in the renewables sector, including feed-in tariffs, tax incentives, and renewable energy auctions.
  • Green financing support. The government is looking to introduce more financing incentives for the sector, as well as enhancing green energy trading in the private sector.
  • Renewable Energy Transition Roadmap. The government plans to launch a Renewable Energy Transition Roadmap 2035, aiming to raise the share of renewables in Malaysia's power mix to 20 per cent by 2025. Expected to be launched by end-2019, the roadmap may include strategies such as peer-to-peer electricity trading or transitioning toward a mandatory renewable energy certificate market, said the report.

Fitch Solutions' current forecast is for net non-hydro renewables capacity growth of over 1 gigawatt (GW) over the coming decade, taking total installed non-hydro renewables capacity to 3.1 GW by 2028. But this will likely be revised upwards upon "more concrete announcements and developments" in the coming quarters, said the report.

Solar potential

The report highlighted the solar sector as being "particularly well poised for more growth", not least given the success of recent capacity tenders.

Besides relatively high solar irradiance levels, Malaysia has an established solar manufacturing sector. Although most of the output is currently for export, this domestic manufacturing base will ensure a reliable and low-cost supply chain for local project developers.

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"We believe that this will be a key supportive factor to the Malaysian solar industry over the coming year, as greater numbers of manufacturers set up in the country," said the report.

After significant oversubscription of solar auctions in their first two capacity tenders, the Energy Commission of Malaysia issued a request for proposal for the development of large-scale photovoltaic power plants with a targeted capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) at the start of 2019, which closed in August 2019.

As of September 2019, Malaysia has launched 365 MW. Bid prices went to a record low of RM0.1777/kWh (kilowatt-hour), lower than the price for gas-fired power. The government has since announced plans to host more bids for large-scale solar projects.

Improving investment environment

There are also government efforts to further liberalise the power sector, creating a more favourable investment environment and encouraging private participation.

  • Retail market. The Malaysia Energy Supply Industry 2.0 initiative, which includes the liberalisation of the electricity retail market, is expected to be launched in late 2019. "The issue is still being studied at present and we believe that the government may seek to emulate the success with countries such as Singapore and Japan by first introducing a wholesale market," said the report.
  • Restructuring of state-owned energy company. In July 2019, majority state-owned Tenaga Nasional Berhad proposed an internal restructuring of their generation, transmission, and retail divisions. This is expected to be completed by Q3 2020, with the transfer of legal assets and liability to begin in H1 2020. "The increasing liberalisation bodes well for private investments, and could improve competition and investments in the sector," said Fitch Solutions.

Malaysia already performs better than the world average on the Fitch Solutions Power Risk/Reward Index, although its renewables sector is below the world average. Said Fitch Solutions: "This reflects a continued preference for thermal sources in the country, but shows the amount of scope the renewables sector could still grow in should the government improve investor environment and procure more capacity."