Malaysia's first geothermal plant to be developed in Sabah

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 5): Sabah will soon be home to the country's first geothermal power plant which will be developed by Tawau Green Technology Sdn Bhd (TGE) at a proposed site in Apas Kiri, Tawau.

Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) today revealed that the plant is set to export 30 Megawatt (MW) to the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) grid under the Feed-In-Tariff (FiT) scheme.

"The geothermal energy technology is considered as both very green with extremely low carbon footprints and has very high availability and reliability rate as clearly demonstrated in other operating plants worldwide," said SEDA in statement.

Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA) Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, accompanied by SEDA Malaysia chairman Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, announced the development of the plant today following a site inspection by the minister and some KeTTHA officers recently.

After extensive research, followed by geology, geophysics and geochemistry analysis and modelling by GeothermEx Inc, USA and Jacobs New Zealand, they indicated the existence of an active geothermal system centred around the flanks of Mt Maria on Apas Kiri.

"We are pleased to learn that the drilling had reached a depth of 1,449 metres and even at such shallow depth, the temperature recorded had already exceeded 200°C.

"This result confirmed an earlier magnetotelluric (MT) study on the technical potential of geothermal in Apas Kiri that was conducted earlier both by TGE geologist as well as by the Mineral and Geoscience Department Malaysia," said Ongkili.

In 2015, geothermal made history in the country when SEDA gazetted the resource as the fifth renewable energy under the FiT portfolio. TGE secured feed-in approval the same year.

As of today, two geothermal well pads are completed and the third well pad is under construction.

The geothermal power plant is scheduled to achieve commercial operation by June 2018. If this scheduled operation is achieved, Malaysia will rank 16th in the world in geothermal energy generation.

"The continuous growth of renewable energy in Sabah has the potential to enhance electricity supply and at the same time, promote our commitment as a country towards achieving our pledge in carbon emission reduction of 45% by 2030 that was made in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21)," Ongkili said.

He further said that geothermal has an important role to play in the renewable energy mix.

"Geothermal has the potential to contribute to the energy balancing market and this will be important when variable renewable energy (such as solar and wind) increases in the energy mix," said Ongkili.

As of June this year, SEDA has approved a total of 9,570 FiT applications with a total capacity of 1,308.55 MW. In the same period, 6,201 FiT applications have achieved commercial operation with a total capacity of 364.02 MW.

By the end of 2020, the 11th Malaysia Plan estimates renewable energy installed capacity to reach 2,080 MW or 7.8 % of total generating capacity in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.