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Today, Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) has sent letter to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet on the possible energy crunch situation and the steps that Malaysia must take to ensure we can minimise cost impact due to global energy price spike. Issues that we have raised and our suggestions to the Prime Minister and his cabinet are as below.

Many factor will aggravate the demand-supply situation that will lead to a global energy crunch. Below are some of the dominant factors:

1. Winter and Russia

Napoleon war, World War 2 and annexation of Crimea has proven that winter was on Russia’s favour and it still does. Russia has continued to allow European Union (EU) to be dependent to its energy resources. Even after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, EU was slow in its energy independence from Russia. The recently concluded G7 summit decided to cap the prices of energy resources from Russia so that it does not give huge returns to Russia to fund the war against Ukraine. On the other hand, Russia has responded that it will stop selling energy resources to countries that imposed price cap. Now, what if Russia shuts all energy supply to EU just like what it had done before to reduce the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) stockpile leading towards 2022 winter and its impact on 2023 winter preparation with reduced or no stockpile situation? If the war prolongs, the energy crunch in 2023 winter will be far greater due to limited and insufficient LNG handling infrastructures in EU.

2. Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC+

In early September, OPEC and OPEC+ have agreed to cut oil output from October 2022 so that crude oil price can maintain at their desired price. This situation coupled with sanctions on Russia will only aggravate the winter energy crunch situation that will hit the global market due to EU’s own energy insecurity. Increase in crude oil price will impact prices of natural gas and coal. Thus, creating second wave of cost impacts.

3. Crude Oil, Natural Gas and Coal Combo

Crude oil price spike will push Natural Gas and Coal prices to spike as well. This is a trend that we have observed since the rebalancing of electricity generation’s energy mix post 2011 where coal thermal power generation plant up increased to rebalance cost impacts from natural gas thermal plants. At the moment, EU cannot immediately replace natural gas dependence with Russia as regasification infrastructures need time to be built in order to bring in more LNG from other nations. Even if EU starts to source more non-Russian energy resources, there must be sufficient infrastructures and at palatable cost. Some EU nations are already issuing statement that their neighbours may have to find their own heat during winter. At the moment, there is a possible severe energy crunch globally during the upcoming winter with the assumption that the coal productions are not logistically affected like what happened during 2021 winter due to monsoon rains.


Solution 1. Malaysia May Take India’s and Few Other Nation’s Position on Energy Security

While sanctions have been imposed on Russia, EU is still relying on Russian energy and the recent G7 meeting is also looking into arm-twisting Russia to reduce its energy resources price via workable sanctions. This situation will only be favourable to EU if all nations bite the bullet of high energy prices globally and impose sanctions against Russia. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had made its stand not to take sides during the cold war. Malaysia is a member country of NAM. Now, should Malaysia continue our NAM stand like India and other Asian and African nations? Malaysia’s main objective is we must ensure we are able to continue to increase our energy security and reduce cost input of energy resources as well as some downstream outputs like fertilisers. The arm-twisting done using sanctions are to protect the interest of EU’s citizen and its economy. Thus, Malaysia has the same right to protect our people and our economy.

Solution 2. Increase Hydroelectric Plant’s Load Factor

Previous experience has shown that during rainy season, increased hydroelectric plant operation reduces fossil fuel utilisation and overall fuel cost for electricity generation. To make this a successful cost reduction solution, flood modeling must be done to ensure the increased operation of hydroelectric dams does not increase flood occurrence probability during rainy seasons. The reduction in fossil fuel consumption will reduce fuel cost input via ICPT mechanism. On top of that, the government via Suruhanjaya Tenaga (ST) can impose profit cap for the increased load factor for hydroelectric dams that is above the agreed or planned load factor so that more saving can be passed to electricity tariff.

Solution 3. Wrongdoers Must Be Punished for Causing High Reserve Margin

The projected reserve margin jumped from 32% in 2020 to a 52% in 2021 and to be at 51% in 2022 based on reports published by ST. The reserve margin is projected to be above 40% until 2027. Since 2014, when ST begun a number of direct negotiation of power plant awards beginning with Track 4A (Pasir Gudang), AWER has warned high reserve margin situation back then. The last direct negotiation power plant project was awarded in 2019. Higher reserve margin will pass higher system cost to electricity tariff. Moreover, based on ST’s report in 2013, JPPPET criteria for reserve margin is Loss of Load Equivalent (LOLE) at <= 1 day. This is equivalent to 22% reserve margin benchmark to developing economies. Thus, 52% is equivalent to 2.4 times of the benchmark value.

High reserve margin situation for electricity supply in Peninsular Malaysia was due to wrong implementation by the government agencies themselves. While the government is urging members of public and businesses to share the burden of high energy prices globally, the government must also take action against the relevant officers over their failure in ensuring reserve margin is at optimal level which is 22%. Therefore, we urge the Prime Minister to be fair and take action against former ministers, officers and commissioners of ST and energy ministry that has caused this blunder. We have warned numerous times that direct negotiations on planting up new power plants ahead of the need will increase levelised cost and reserve margin. If people and businesses need to swallow this bitter pill due to inane steps by government officers, then these officers must be made responsible for their mistake and severe actions must be taken immediately.

Solution 4. Impose Strict Irreversible Foreign Equity Cap in Energy and Electricity Sector

The government already has 49% foreign equity cap policy for electricity sector. The Russia-European Union energy dependence is a clear example why we must protect our national strategic assets. ST and relevant ministries have failed to do this few years ago by allowing a foreign company to take over ownerships of few power plants in Malaysia and this has breached the 49% foreign equity cap policy. Similarly, ST and relevant ministries have also allowed sale of project award to this foreign company. Project awards are not items that can be sold based on existing government policy. Thus, it is imperative that the government take action against ST and relevant ministries that caused energy insecurity. The government must also implement irreversible foreign equity cap in energy and electricity sector as well as banning sales of project awards of national strategic assets such as power plant to prevent such incidents from repeating.

Solution 5. Postpone New Plant Up to Prevent Higher Reserve Margin

The last step that can be implemented is the postponement of new plant-up. This option was implemented in the past to ensure reserve margin is at optimal level. Thus, the government must also revisit all awarded power plant projects and negotiate with the respective companies to delay financial close as well as Commercial Operation Date (COD).

On top of this, the volatile currency exchange situation will also impact the electricity sector due to the 100% coal import situation. We hope that the Prime Minister will act swiftly to ensure Malaysia's energy security is secured and energy price cost escalations are minimised by implementing our suggestions.

Piarapakaran S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

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