IN the face of persistent economic volatility, Malaysians seem to be constantly tightening their fiscal purse strings even as costs of basic necessities soar ever higher with no end in sight.
Under these current conditions, few people in their right minds would set their pay cheques on fire or flush the contents of their wallets down the toilet.
Yet, as consumers, we are figuratively casting millions of our hard-earned ringgit to the wind every year without realising it’s due to wasteful energy consumption habits and energy inefficient household appliances.
If Malaysians were to continue consuming energy the way they presently do, the future could be very bleak for our country indeed, according to Zaini Abdul Wahab, head of the Sustainability Achieved Via Energy Efficiency (SAVE) Rebate Programme, under the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water.
Compared to neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Singapore and China, Malaysia is quite far behind in terms of energy efficiency.
“It’s not that we haven’t done anything. We have done a lot,” Zaini said.
“Millions have been spent on awareness campaigns and so on – just that we lack a structured approach.”
During the early 1980s when attention was focused on developing Malaysia into an industrialised nation, the primary policy objective was to provide secure, reliable, adequate and affordable energy supply necessary to fuel economic development activities and the growth of various industries. To accomplish this, subsidies were introduced to ensure a steady supply of cheap energy.
In present times, with the earlier mentioned objective achieved, the government’s focus has turned towards efficient energy utilisation and protecting the environment.
The SAVE rebate programme and other initiatives are meant to pave the way for the eventual removal of subsidies and to wean the Malaysian public off cheap energy.
“As a country, we can’t afford not to be efficient. Efficiency is now no longer an option,” Zaini emphasised.
“In many countries now, everyone can use the same technology and have the same sources. But what makes each country different is that some countries make the same product but use less energy which makes them more competitive. If we can’t keep up, we are losing out.”
In certain countries such as Thailand, industries and manufacturers can be punished for not adhering to energy efficiency requirements.
Zaini pointed out that Malaysian businesses that were unable to manage their energy usage could be prevented from setting up production in these countries because they are unable to meet these said requirements.
“Malaysia doesn’t manage its demand properly,” Zaini told thesundaypost during an exclusive interview to promote the SAVE Rebate programme which entitles consumers who purchase new 5-star rated energy efficient (EE) refrigerators and air-conditioners to receive rebates.
As the time of interview, about 32,000 rebate coupons had been downloaded from the website but only 25,000 had been redeemed nationwide.
The take-up is a little slower than expected but Zaini is not surprised.
“This indicates that Malaysians’ awareness and thinking towards energy efficiency is still very low. That’s expected – I’m not surprised. Of course, we expected a bigger take-up when we sat down with the manufacturers and retailers. The momentum is picking up but it’s a little bit slower than we expected which is why we need to create more awareness.”
He also attributes the slow take-up to the relatively low electricity tariffs which Malaysians are currently paying and our averseness to think in terms of long-term benefits.
“People always think we can afford to pay, no problem. So being energy-efficient is not at the top of their priority list,” he noted.
Zaini pointed out that many people wouldn’t think twice about paying an additional RM30 per month to subscribe to certain television packages but would balk at the thought of spending an extra two or three hundred ringgit to buy a 5-star rated energy efficient refrigerator or air-conditioner even though the latter purchases would result in substantial cost savings versus a non-5 star rated EE equivalent in the long-run.
Looming energy crisis
It’s no secret that Malaysia is on its way to becoming a net importer of petroleum-based fuels despite deriving a sizeable chunk of its national income from the oil and gas industry. Projections from leading global oil and gas producers show that the world’s demand for energy will significantly outpace global supplies by as early as 2030, pushing energy prices higher and out of the reach of developing countries.
Malaysia will not be spared the forecasted energy crunch.
Many local power producers rely on oil and gas to fuel power generators which supply electricity throughout the country. The government has said it is unfeasible to continue to subsidise oil and gas prices and is gradually reducing these subsidies.
This means electricity tariff rates are likely to increase significantly within the next few years.
It’s clear Malaysia’s current energy consumption trends are not sustainable or financially viable in the long run. The primary energy users are transportation (40 per cent), industry (30 per cent) and commercial (15 to 25 per cent).
The SAVE rebate programme targets households and domestic users which, comparatively, appears not to be much but with about six to seven million domestic users, it is still quite significant. Getting this group to reduce their energy consumption can substantially help to ease the pressure on energy supply as well as on electricity tariffs.
It has been proven that
5-star rated appliances are 25 per cent more energy-efficient than average 3-star rated appliances.
The big question: how much could you actually shave off your electricity bill by switching to energy-efficient appliances? The answer depends on the type of electrical appliance one has.
Say you’re looking to replace your 2.0 – 2.4 HP non-5 star rated EE air-conditioner with a 5-star rated one. Based on current electricity tariffs with a minimum rate at RM0.218/kWh for six hours a day, the Savings Calculator on the SAVE website estimates you could save RM10.98 per month or RM131.73 per year. Assuming your new air-conditioner has a life-span of seven years, this translates into total savings of RM922.11.
Definitely far from small change.
Based on estimated figures provided by the government, the savings could be even more generous.
Appliances which are eligible for the rebate must be 5-star rated certified by the Energy Commission with refrigerators having net capacity of up to 400 litres while air conditioners up to 2.5 HP (wall-mounted split unit type).
Save energy, money
The biggest challenge facing Malaysia’s push towards implementing sustainable and energy-efficient programmes is transforming the way people think about energy.
Under the Entry Point Project 9: Energy Efficiency for Oil, Gas and Energy Sector in the Economic Transformation Program (EPP9), the government plans to tackle five key areas through initiatives aimed at inculcating energy saving habits and mindsets.
The first is the SAVE Rebate initiative which kicked off in July this year. A subsidy totalling RM41.22 million was allocated for consumer purchases of new appliances to give retailers incentives on sales of small capacity appliances to increase sales of energy efficient goods amongst low middle-income households. The subsidy covers 100,000 refrigerator units, 65,000 air-conditioner units and 72,000 chiller units throughout Malaysia.
Through this programme, customers who purchase 5-star rated EE refrigerators and air-conditioners are eligible for rebates of RM200 and RM100 respectively per unit.
Rebate vouchers can be printed from the SAVE website at www.saveenergy.gov.my. The vouchers are one-off and valid for redemption within one month after printing.
Commercial organisations and building owners who purchase new or replacement chillers are also entitled for rebates, depending on the capacity of the chillers.
Zaini urged Sarawakians not to wait to redeem the vouchers as rebates will be given on a “first come, first served” basis. Although the state has initially been allocated a certain quota of rebates to dispense, Zaini disclosed if the response from Sarawak were strong, unutilised rebates allocated to other states could be channelled here to cater to demand.