Pengerang solar park project: The pros and cons of the massive endeavour

WITH the RM1.4 bil Sultan Ibrahim Solar Park in Pengerang, Johor in a limbo, two politicians have voiced differing views with regard to the massive solar park project.

Selangor state assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran opined that the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry (Ketsa) and the Energy Commission (EC) should facilitate the establishment of the project.

“This can be done through the New Enhanced Dispatch Arrangement (NEDA+) platform and not a lucrative yet lopsided fixed income power purchase agreement.

 “NEDA+ enables independent power producers, including solar power parks, to sell energy to the grid at an auction price.

“This helps lower down the cost of electricity procurement whilst giving opportunity for expedited private investment into energy plants, especially renewable energy. The liberalisation of this platform, NEDA+, began during Pakatan Harapan’s tenure in Putrajaya,” he said, in a statement.

Rajiv Rishyakaran

Two days ago, Johor Ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar cancelled the ground-breaking ceremony of the Sultan Ibrahim Solar Park project, citing Federal Government’s silence on the project.

“We have a suitable plot for the project, robust growth and development as well as a healthy demand from our neighbour which makes Johor the most strategic location,” the Ruler was reported saying.

Sultan Ibrahim announced the project on Feb 28, saying it would become the biggest solar power storage system in Southeast Asia when it goes fully operational by 2023 with the capacity of generating 450 megawatts (MW) of power.

In support of Sultan Johor, Rajiv said the Federal Government itself had started a pilot project to sell solar and other renewable energy (RE) to Singapore via local grid.

He added that there is great demand from Singapore for clean power due to their land scarcity and the increasing awareness of reducing carbon emissions.

“This is another source of income for the solar park investors and the country. Ketsa and the EC should encourage and facilitate this growth,” noted the Bukit Gasing lawmaker.

Rooftop solar vs solar park

Rajiv said a 450MW solar park will generate approximately 585Gwh of solar power a year. In turn, it will reduce power derived from coal and gas power plants, reducing the carbon emissions in this country by up to 60,000 tonnes a year.

“It will also be the region’s largest solar energy storage system when fully commissioned by 2023. By allowing this to happen, the Government doesn’t have to worry about forking money to spur the economy. 

“This is because the Government will not be putting in a cent into this project, yet there will be massive amounts of engineering works that will be commissioned and paid for by the investor.

“Not only will engineering consultants and contractors’ benefit, there will be a spillover economic impact on other related sectors,” added Rajiv.

However, Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) central committee member Sharan Raj has a different take on the project.

Sharan Raj

“Firstly, we must under that the decision by federal regulators not to allow the solar park to proceed was a technical decision, not political,” he pointed out. “The project did not get the green light from the federal regulators before commencing.”  

On that note, Sharan also said it made more economic sense for the Federal Government to support rooftop solar panel project as opposed to building a solar park.

“Out of the 4,000MW available for solar, 3,500MW had already been allocated, with the balance 500MW reserved for rooftop solar in the event the current rooftop quota gets exhausted earlier,” he justified. 

“So, the only way the Government can green light the solar park project is by touching on the reserve rooftop solar quota, which I disagree.”

On why he supported the rooftop solar project as opposed to a solar park, Sharan said the former was more economical as opposed to the latter which would need a large plot of land and cause environmental damage.

“For the rooftop solar project, households and businesses would only pay for the installation. After that, the electricity generation is free.

“Not only would it help businesses cut cost during this economic downturn, households can also have higher purchasing power due to lower tariffs,” added Sharan. – March 11, 2021.

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