I'm sad to report however, that they only decided to take a miniscule step forward instead.
That came in the form of an increase in the renewable energy tariff from 21 sen to 46 sen for converting waste to energy. Even though that sounds like a substantial increase, those who are already working in resource recovery say it's still not high enough to really induce companies into this sector and it's a lot less than the incentives the government have bestowed on the IPPs and those involved in the oil and gas industry over the years.
It's also interesting to note that the new tariff is less than many neighbouring governments have set for renewable energy: Indonesia - 60sen, Thailand - 65sen, Singapore - 70sen Cambodia - 48sen. When it came to setting the tariff for solar energy however, the government showed, quite clearly, that they are not really that interested in this free and limitless source of energy. At only 20 sen per KW hour, I can't imagine there will be to many companies falling over each other to compete in this arena because at this price, it will be unsustainable.
When it came to the decision on whether to adopt the waste to energy concept nationwide they opted to do a study instead.
Hello! If you know that it's possible to convert garbage into electricity and you don't leap at that, and if you think that dumping it all on landfills is okay, what is your problem?
Part of the problem is that the government has already committed a lot of public money to landfill management companies and although they are talking about harnessing bio gas from the dumps, only a handfull of landfills have actually been designed and built to do this. Most of our landfills are not even lined properly and are leaking leachate into the water system.
So why does the government seem so reluctant to change? From what I can see, it's because all the people who benefit from the present system have a lot to loose if the old system is transformed. The municipal solid waste business runs like a cartel and the main players see the introduction of the waste to energy concept as being a threat to the status quo; the end to all the mutual back-scratching and pocket-lining that has been going on undisturbed for years.
Waste to energy is a tried and tested technology that converts a large proportion of household waste into RDF (refuse derived fuel) which is then used as replacement fuel in cement kilns and steam turbines. When this is integrated with mechanical and biological processes, more than 80 percent of raw household waste can be recovered, recycled and reused. Recycle Energy Sdn Bhd, who daily process 700 tons of Kajang's waste, are currently supplying a large cement factory with this renewable green fuel and generating 8MW of electricity as well as making compost and recycling plastics and metals. At a conservative estimate of 18,000 tons of waste per day from the whole country, we could be producing about 206 MWs of electricity. This would have three major benefits:
1. It would reduce dependence on timber and fossil fuel.
2. It would eliminate landfills and
3. It would reduce our carbon footprint
All very pertinent things to be doing post Copenhagen I should have thought. Wrong again! there are plans afoot right now to build huge coal power plants in Sabah and Sarawak and the whole issue of nuclear energy is still in contention.
Of course processing garbage isn't going to be able to supply all the power needs for the nation, but it can make a significant contribution. What's required here is a down-sized holistic approach so that instead of thinking about garbage and power on a national scale, we start to think about it more from a local perspective; smaller plants serving smaller populations and using a combination of technologies in line with BATNEC (best available technology at no excessive cost)
The government could have taken a giant leap forward to improve our environment and general well-being this week - but they didn't!