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Sunday Star, 30 November 2014

focus 25

holders approved under the FIT

Fund to recoup their investment
within a reasonable period of
six to seven years, payments to
these project holders are highly
Hence, only a small number of
RE projects can be approved.

the way forward

in managing rE
rE-new and
Solar panels can
be an excellent
source of renewable
energy in our nation.

on the investment required to

drive our RE initiative,
b) Malaysian expertise in RE
is still at an infancy stage and is
grossly inadequate, and
c) More importantly, it is politically untenable to continue to
collect the RE contribution from
the public without showing real
impact on the ground in the near
The reality is not the inability
of agencies like the Sustainable
Energy Development Authority
(Seda) in handling and managing

the RE Fund. Instead, there is

a mismatch in policy goals and
expectations of the people.
When you collect money from
manufacturers and households,
the payers expect that they can
participate in mini/micro RE
projects (e.g solar PV panels on
roof-tops) with some reasonable
time frame to recoup their RE
However, RE investments are
long-term initiatives that require
pay-back periods of 20 to 30

It is technically impossible to
match the publics expectation for
almost universal participation in
RE projects (with short-term paybacks periods of about five years)
just from their contributions to
the FIT Fund.
Currently, under the FIT
Programme, about 30% of the
nations 8.3 million electricity
consumers (or about 2.6 million
enterprises and individuals) are
required to contribute to the FIT
In order to enable project

First, we must face the fact that

extensive use of RE is a long-term
dream for humankind at this
stage of scientific discovery.
What is technologically achievable in Malaysia is that, with a
transparent system, we may be
able to achieve generation of
2,080MW of RE, or 11% of our
demand by 2020.
However, this can only be
achieved by:
i) A special excise duty on
Independent Power Producers
(IPPs), in lieu of further increases
in contribution from electricity
consumers, for the support of RE
projects, and
ii) Using Net Metering, a system
under which solar PV and other
RE generators are connected to a
public-utility power grid.
The self-generated energy is
consumed internally with the
surplus power (if any) being
transferred onto the grid, selling
to the public-utility at pre-agreed
tariff rates.
With RE production costs
declining and approaching that
of fossil fuel production cost,
Net Metering is really the way
forward especially for a tropical
country like Malaysia.
Although RE currently makes

up only a small portion of the

worlds energy supply, nevertheless it will be the worlds fastest
growing source of electricity
generation over the next two
This is because the growth in
RE production will be supported
by the expected high prices for
fossil fuels and by government
incentives for the development of
alternative energy sources.
Besides that, RE will also help to
cushion the rising cost of electricity in the medium to long-term.
Malaysias average electricity
demand is expected to increase
at the rate of 3.3% per annum
over the next five years. In 2013
alone, Malaysians consumed
16,562MW and this is expected to
rise to 19,000-20,000 MW by 2020,
according to Tenaga Nasional
Bhds projections.
While challenging, it is imperative that Malaysia retains its confidence in RE.
Malaysia is already a major
manufacturer of solar PV cells
and panels for the world market.
Our own success in generating
RE acceptance and usage among
the people will go a long way in
propelling Malaysia into centre
stage of the current fashionable
RE era.
> Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn was
Prof of Applied Economics and
Dean of Faculty of Economics and
Administration, Universiti Malaya.
He served in the Government as
Deputy Minister of Education
(1990-1999) and as Minister of
Human Resources (1999-2008).
Research done by the Centre of
Strategic Engagement (CENSE).

Raise the red flag on apps use of personal data

RECENTLY, reports of Buzzfeed journalist
Johana Bhuiyans allegations that private
car service Uber which launched this
year in Malaysia had, on two occasions,
tracked her without her permission surfaced.
That the company has access to this
information is not surprising. One of the
selling points of car services and taxi apps
are the security features, which include
allowing family or friends to monitor ones
journey, and providing details of the driver.
Bhuiyan claims to have been monitored
by a system dubbed Gods View which,
reports state, allows anyone with access to
it a mass surveillance-like database of journeys logged by the app as well as personal
data of those using it.
It makes sense that such data is being
logged, particularly for business purposes.
This is common practice that Internet users
have for years usually blindly accepted
when signing on for a service.
Whether it is photos on Facebook, location data on Instagram or daily routes on
Waze, data we share privately with the
companies and publicly on these platforms
are often linked to our identities and filed
In most cases, there is an unsaid understanding we share our data with the companies in exchange for free services such
as search facilities and e-mail. To some
degree, there is an element of informed
consent that data can be used in circumstances such as advertising targeting.

The understanding, however, is usually

rooted in the belief that these companies
would protect our data and not misuse it.
Time and again, such companies find
themselves having to reassert their commitment to maintain the privacy of users.
In todays world of assumed publicness, the belief is that only companies
that are transparent in how they operate
and use information we share with them
will see success and longevity in their
Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Google, for
example, release transparency reports regularly, listing request for user information
from institutions such as governments as
well as how they respond to such requests.
This practice is commendable, particularly
in situations where the revealing of information can pose danger to a user.
The accepted wisdom is that if these
companies go as far as to create privacy
policies, constantly affirm their commitment to security and have such ethical
practices, then surely we can trust them.

Betrayal of trust
From a digital technology standpoint,
one issue that has been hotly discussed
over the past few years is the issue of surveillance.
That battle is far from over but, from
a simplistic point of view, there is a solution to this problem. Thanks to the hard
work of civil society, these issues can be
addressed through lobbying and activism.
Whats more, in democratic societies, citizens can vote out Governments they feel
have failed them.

uber has since

responded to the reports
with a commitment that
the idea does not
represent the companys
But what of ethical issues and betrayal of
trust from commercial organisations that
provide services we have embedded so
deeply into our lives?
If anything, the allegations by journalist
Bhuiyan should raise a red flag over what
dangers these companies could potentially
pose on their users.
Bhuiyans allegations appeared following revelations that a Uber executive had
rethorically suggested the possibility of
mobilising their own researchers and
writers to respond to journalists who have
been critical of their services by looking
into the personal lives of the journalists
Uber has since responded to the reports
with a commitment that the idea does not
represent the companys policy and that it
has no intention of putting it into practice.
Still, it begs to be asked what a rogue
executive in any organisation with so much
access to so much personal data about an
individual could do.
It is important that we as users are
aware of these issues because commercial
organisations dont exist the way the State
does we do not have the failsafe of demo-

cratic systems to protect us.

Granted, legislation is slowly being
developed across the world to deal with
these issues. But history has also shown
that the State cannot always be counted
upon to hold large organisations accountable.
The current debate on net neutrality in
the US is a clear example of how a company can influence politics at the expense of
the public.
With this knowledge, users are now
caught in a conundrum with regards to
what to do.
The fact is that many of the services
these companies provide are fantastic
and serve the public in ways never before
What is important here is that the
relationship between user and company
remains not just mutually beneficial but
also trustworthy.
As such, users need to find ways to hold
these companies accountable, not only
when allegations and scandals surface but
also to constantly remind them that companies that would eventually win out are
those who are committed to transparency,
particularly with regards to what they are
doing or not with our data.
It is imperative that we remain vigilant
and proactive in this not only to protect
our basic rights but more importantly, our
own safety.
> Niki Cheong is a writer who lectures and
speaks on issues related to journalism and
digital culture. He blogs at www.nikicheong.
com and is contactable via Facebook at