Energy Conservation & Efficiency – The Hidden Fuel in 21st Century that Needs to be Realized

The greenest light bulb is the one that you switch off. That familiar phrase which i often use to reflect on the need for thoughts on energy conservation and efficiency before one talks about renewable energy. While obviously, it is no happy news for a fuel driven economy to save energy, it is an inevitable approach that needs to be tabled as some have said that the Renewable Energy scene is not doing much to cope up with the forecasted energy demand. According to the Ninth Malaysian Plan (2006-2010) RE was set to achieve 300MW by 2010, but only, a far cry 88MW is achieved.

Energy Forecast vs Reserves

Nuclear as the Base Load?

It is disturbing to know that TNB is supporting the fact that Malaysia has to head for Nuclear because “we have no choice”. The graph above illustrates peninsular’s current demand forecast and reserve margin, while the tabulation is based on the assumption that electricity demand of peninsular will grow 3-5% annually from 2010 until 2020 and there is no new plant scheduled for installation from now until 2015 (TNB). However, some industrial player speculates that the reserve will go up as high as 40% when ST (Energy Commission) is trying to develop the large generating capacity.

What “Hidden Fuel”?

While the intention of nuclear studies has been long ago since 2008, questions arise when there is no news for the nation’s energy efficiency studies. The NEEMP National Energy Efficiency Masterplan has been delayed as long as almost 4 years now! I express agreement towards Dr. Zaini’s (Ex Director of SEDA) concern HERE. There is simply insufficient argument tabled to the parliament or within the public, or the media to question on how much energy we waste in the first place before asking for more.


Referring to a Energy Efficiency Market Report done by IEA International Energy Agency,  a research on 11 developed countries shows the potential of energy efficiency and conservation to avoid unnecessary energy usage as well as improving efficiency. The research puts the point across, that between 1974 and 2010, energy efficiency was the largest energy resource, thus i can’t put the thought away thinking IF Malaysia can have such projections as well.


The largest fuel contribution by far, hypothetically context speaking, is energy efficiency and conservation, by avoiding the energy use. The graph above illustrates the magnitude of energy that can be saved. It contributes 63 exajoules (EJ) of avoided energy use in 2010, larger than the supply of oil (43 EJ) and (22 EJ). IEA also broke down the EE potential by sectors to show the two-thirds of the economic potential to improve energy efficiency remains untapped in the period to 2034.

EE Potential Savings to Industry

While this is just an international studies on developed countries, I am sure it is convincing enough to stir up our thoughts on putting Malaysia in this context. What kind of savings are we probably talking about? I am pretty much sure that energy conservation will play a huge part of savings before we even talk about energy efficiency. But what are the factors that drive energy efficiency? It can be triggered by policies, financing, economy, technology, or even socio-culture factor.


SAVE Sustainability Achieved Via Energy Efficiency

We did have a good program on EE on board. The SAVE programme rebate initiative program is part of the ETP master program, it is aspired to catalyze the energy efficiency market by giving out cash voucher rebate to any application to purchase energy efficient equipment. The RM50.2 million initiative by the government in 2011 has been fruitful, starting from the implementation in July 2011 till august 2012, an estimated energy savings of 179.68GWh and electricity bill savings of RM39.17million was seen. The savings can also be translated into avoiding unnecessary additional power plant by reducing the capacity needed. (More details from Dr Zaini’s blog)

SAVE Article (Credits to Dr Zaini)

SAVE Article (Credits to Dr Zaini)

At a side note, i have identified few energy efficiency advocates in the professional industry. Feel free to follow the LinkedIn Malaysia Green Professional where i notice a couple of interesting insights on the RE,EE scene are being discussed.

Dr Zaini and Ir Lalchand with their views and thoughts at their column at TheHeat

Dr. Zaini and Ir Lalchand with their views and thoughts at their column at TheHeat

Jevons Paradox / Rebound Effect

But today i am writing to draw the attention to the crucial need for energy conservation as much as EE is significant as well. At some point energy efficiency practices can be a false campaign when energy conservation effort goes down the drain. They call this the rebound effect, or jevons paradox when  the rebound effect is greater than 100%, exceeding the original efficiency gains. It’s pretty much the same as supply demand curve, a decrease in the price of good/service will increase the quantity demand. Thus in a way, with a lower price for work, more work will be ‘purchased’.

Credits to Wikipedia

Credits to Wikipedia

Let us put it in perspective with a hybrid car, a lot of times environmentalist try to use the different way of explaining fuel efficiency through monetary benefits. One can save money compared to typical combustion car on a same mileage comparison, then the consumer may then interpret the message that ‘i can drive further with this with the same cost’!


It doesn’t take much to discover how this paradox is right behind our backyard in Malaysia. With cheap electricity now, thanks to EE products, companies are willing to spend more within the same budget allowance, LED is an irrefutable evident of so. Just look at Bangsar with how many potable LED screens with big flashy ads. Lloyd Alter from Treehugger illustrated it well enough in NewYork when a truck is modified with entire LED panels for advertising purpose.

What really push for Energy Conservation Practices? Monetary? Social?

I agree with the thought that the approach of saving the environment by raising peoples awareness is a long lost battle. Let’s face it that almost all of us have heard about global warming and the need to save energy but almost none give it a care, unless the person is one who does not demand any incentive in return but purely by the good will of social responsibility. And thus, i think that the only way to deal with it is monetary and social factors. Our economy system today does not justify the cost to environment, and only when new financial scheme such as carbon crediting comes in (ok i am novice to that topic) , then we can see a balance in environmental economics.

The Raise of Electricity Tariff?

Speaking of Monetary approach, then that was a good example I thought about. During December last year 2013, electricity tariff was set to be up by an average of 15% effectively by this year 2014. However, this does not affect domestic users between 0-300kWh usage. Then the next thing you get is complaints from the industry or commercial sector such as the Malaysians Employers Federation as electricity accounts for 6% to 15% of their business cost. I think it is great! then only then you will think of how to save your energy usage!

Series of events after raise in electricity tariff. Screen dump of TheStar.

Series of events after raising in electricity tariff. Screen dump of TheStar.

Then, series of measures follow up. With the hope that this raise of electricity tariff will make people think twice on their energy expenditure, the Malaysian Associate for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management is advising its 400-odd members nationwide to set their air-conditioning at t 23°C or 24°C. To me, that’s the easiest and most energy saving approach that can be done. So easily! Just by raising the tariff and such measure is taken.

This made me think about the possible implications on several similar fields, such as waste disposal. Malaysia has one of the cheapest sanitary landfill tipping fee,RM28.80 and RM36 per ton, compared to Germany, which charges between RM1,000 and RM1,400; Australia, RM215; and China, RM60 to RM75. This perhaps explained well enough why our effort to recycle is low! people just do not think twice about reducing their waste because there is no monetary disincentive to it. Perhaps soon we shall increase our disposal fare as well?

Social Behavioral Science affects Energy Conservation

Besides monetary measures, the other way for energy conservation is to mobilize the power of social pressure, or social behavioral science. Alex Laskey made an energy software to make end users aware of their energy expenditure, not only that, and compare it with their neighbors! If you are thinking it’s just small deal, the large-scale reductions in energy usage are no joke. Since its launch in 2008, it has cumulatively saved utility customers more than $200 million and 2 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy — enough to power a city of more than a quarter million people. It’s all through a powerful combination of behavioral science, data analytics and good marketing.


There are a variety of methods to put this social behavioral science across many fields. I can recall in Japan where many basic good environmental practices are not enforced by policies or regulations however by the upbringing of the community, or just a part of their culture. Energy conservation, however, is still a topic not much talked about in Malaysia, media is part to be blamed perhaps?

JKR Block F – Simple Energy Conservation Measures

This project is a good example of addressing necessary energy conservation before we talk about energy efficiency. This project, which won the ASEAN Energy Awards 2010 was started in July 2008 with 744 occupants but the number increased significantly to 836 by the end of December 2009. The energy saving measures carried out were of the no cost and low cost with an investment of RM30,000 for submetering and posters. The payback period is just 3.29months!

Graph illustrating the drop in kWh/per person/year as the measures are taken

There is a 9.83% of kWh saving from the baseline which translates into 570,308kWh. The BEI kWh/person/year results in 16.39% savings from the baseline. The baseline BEI is established at 203.50kWh/m2/year, and this was seen to be brought down to 183.49kWh/m2/year after all the measures taken. A conventional office building has a BEI of around 210kWh/m2/year. The measures are relatively simple!


As you can see, these are just basic best practices, which again, points back to the potential of tackling energy conservation via social behavioral science. I cannot help but express my frustration whenever there are windows opened from office buildings that clearly adds to a huge air infiltration which poses unnecessary energy demand to counter it.  I attach the full picture here for your convenience of reference. (pic credit to Khim Bok, IEN Consultants).



Think Twice Again, Think with the Energy Pyramid In Mind

So, the question here is rather, what are the immediate steps that you can take to adopt energy conservation and energy efficiency measures?

Before thinking about switching to energy efficient fan, think of whether fans are necessary in the specific area in the first place, or do you just need a small task fan if you are working with your laptop?

Before thinking about switching to LED, think about personalized task light if you are doing laptop work, you certainly do not need the whole room to be light up when you just need a task area to be illuminated.

Before thinking about buying an energy efficient fridge, ask what capacity of fridge do you really need first?

If you ask me, Air cond for residential, is just really unnecessary.

Think critically about energy conservation again, then talk about energy efficiency, and ONLY talk about Renewable Energy the last. That’s the way forward for our energy security concern which no policy makers are questioning about!

I shall end the post with a good illustration chart of the energy pyramid. (Credit to