Forget about coal, cleaner options are here, says conservation group

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) executive chairperson Cynthia Ong.

KOTA KINABALU: A conservation group that campaigned against the previous 300MW coal-fired power plant in Sabah has called on the state government to forget about coal and look at cleaner energy options.

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) pointed out the government did not need to look far for reference on cleaner alternatives as the coalition of groups that objected to the coal plant had already produced a report on such options.

LEAP executive chairperson Cynthia Ong said Sabah needed to re-visit the report and shift its attention to renewable and clean energy options.

The report called “Clean Energy Options Report for Sabah” has been widely circulated since 2010, she said.

Commenting on Chief Minister Shafie Apdal saying that coal was among the options being looked at by Sabah for power generation, she urged the government to reconsider this.

“We recommend that the state government focus its time and resources in investing in renewable and cleaner energy options for Sabah, rather than on coal energy — an industry dying all over the world.

“We have lost momentum since the report was produced.

“With the federal government taking steps to further develop renewable energy, this is an opportune time for Sabah to innovate and pioneer the renewable energy industry in Malaysia and the region,” Ong said here today.

Shafie yesterday said the state government was considering all options, including coal, as a source for electricity generation to address Sabah’s power woes.

Commenting on Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s proposal on coal mining in Sabah, Shafie said other options being considered were solar, hydro and gas.

He also drew comparison to Sarawak’s Bakun Dam project, which was initially met with protests but is now able to supply power at a lower rate compared with Sabah.

Ong said palm oil waste also had the potential to address energy needs, create jobs and position the state as a leader in the region’s emerging green industries.

“The report had detailed that biomass waste projects at large palm oil mills could be cost-competitive with coal.”

Ong said transforming palm oil waste to energy to feed the grid system could also attract more support for Sabah’s efforts in supplying global markets with premium certified sustainable palm oil.

The report was commissioned by Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future), a campaign that successfully challenged the federal government’s proposal to build a coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu.

LEAP was among five organisations that formed the coalition in 2009, the others being Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos Trust), Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa), the Malaysian Nature Society Sabah Branch and WWF-Malaysia.

Echoing the call for cleaner energy sources, Tonibung, a fellow conservation group, said the long overdue southern grid should be built to improve electricity distribution.

“It will be possible to develop more hydro power in the south with a new grid system,” said Senator Adrian Lasimbang, the co-founder and director of Tonibung, which is locally known for its community-based micro-hydro work.

“The Trans Sabah Gas Pipeline project that the Malaysian government has paid over 80% for could be reviewed and its scope changed from building a gas pipeline to a southern power grid.”

Ong said LEAP, Tonibung and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as some of those in civil society were willing to assist Sabah to build prototypes using diverse renewable energy sources to showcase what was possible.