The Borneo Project works with local partners to support the development of small scale renewables in Malaysian Borneo.
The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), an independent energy research facility at the University of California, Berkeley, recently conducted an in-depth analysis exploring the potential of clean energy solutions for the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo.
The study finds that the least cost options for energy services can come from a mixture of locally managed small-scale renewable energy systems and accompanying batteries where necessary. Specifically:
- Micro-hydro turbines are often the least cost generator, given the abundant river resources in close proximity to village communities.
- Small scale biogasification is also technically feasible for rice-farming villages where rice husk waste is readily available, though maintenance can be costly.
- The main drawback of renewable systems is reliability, especially during the dry season. To ensure zero energy shortage, batteries often become necessary.
- Diesel, even at the subsidized government retail rate, is the most expensive form of electric production for Baram villages given the recurrent fuel costs.
The study highlights the potential of villages in rural Sarawak to satisfy their own energy access needs with local and sustainable resources at affordable costs.
The development of large scale dams with high voltage transmission from rural areas rarely translates into electricity access for affected or upland river communities. The contrast of pursuing micro-hydro in the face of inundation provides a powerful symbolism of resistance and inspiration to surrounding villages. The RAEL study emphasizes the potential of bottom-up energy solutions in contributing to the energy agenda and their larger role in social movements and paradigm change.
Photo courtesy TONIBUNG