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IEEE 2013 Tencon - Spring

Public acceptance of solar energy: The case of


Peninsular Malaysia
K.H. Solangi1, A. Badarudin 1, S.N. Kazi 1 , T.N.W. Lwin 2 and M. M. Aman 3
1
Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur
2
Faculty of Economics, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur
3
Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur
solangi.quest@gmail.com, salimnewaz@um.edu.my, abdrn@yahoo.com, ms.sueni@gmail.com, mohsinaman@gmail.com

Abstract- Social acceptability is a determinant factor in failure or photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation is a form of renewable
success of the government decisions about which electricity energy (RE) which is clean, non-depleting and does not emit
generation sources will satisfy the growing demand for energy. any greenhouse gases (GHGs) since it generates energy
Drawing from research interviews and the academic literature, directly from the sun by means of PV effect. The solar PV
this paper explores the factors influencing the social acceptance market has been booming over the last decade and the trend is
of solar energy in Peninsular Malaysia, and conceptualizes the forecasted to accelerate in the coming years. By the end of
conditions that promote investor confidence. This paper adopts a 2008, the global cumulative capacity for PV power was
quantitative approach to investigate the social acceptance of solar approaching 15 GW as depicted in. Europe is leading the way
energy technologies from user’s perspective. In this research with more than 9 GW, representing over 65% of the global
door to door data was collected from 400 respondents, and cumulative PV installed capacity with Germany and Spain
analysed by the software SPSS 16. Interestingly, the survey collectively accounting for more than 90% of the continent's
results show that there is still a huge lack of awareness and total capacity. Japan accounted for 2.1 GW and US 1.2 GW,
proper knowledge on solar energy in many levels of society. This representing 15% and 8%, respectively, of the global
study finds out that high cost of the solar panels is dragging cumulative PV power installed [9]. Between 2009 and 2030,
consumers to use electricity generated by fuels. This also provides the global primary energy consumption is expected to rise by
useful references for policy makers to further promote the 1.6% annually and Malaysia's electricity demand is expected
utilization of solar energy in Malaysia. to reach 18,947 MW in 2020 and 23,092 MW in 2030 which
Keywords: energy; solar; Malaysia is 35% increment from 14,007 MW in 2008. Currently,
Malaysia's electricity capacity through RE stands at 50 MW
I. INTRODUCTION and it is expected to reach about 2000 MW by 2020. The
outlook beyond 2020 is that solar energy is predicted to
Balancing demand for and supply of energy consumption surpass all other forms of RE in Malaysia. Despite knowing
has become a global issue. Energy is essential to economic this imminent scenario, the Government of Malaysia (GoM) is
and social development and has improved the quality of life of still lack to institute a RE policy in serious manner. [9].
human beings. Among energy sources, solar energy is being
seriously considered to significantly satisfy energy demand in
Malaysia and the world [1] [2, 3]. The issue of energy II. SOLAR ENERGY IMPORTANCE
sustainability has been tackled in a few ways. The 8th Solar energy sources are an important and potential
Malaysia Plan specified a new five-fuel strategy, in which RE candidate as they are clean energies to overcome the
is the fifth fuel and the one targeted for 5% (600 MW) increasing concerns for greenhouse effects on global warming
contribution to the 2005 electricity mix. The 9th Malaysia and gradual depletion of fossil fuels [10 and 11]. No release of
Plan (2006-2010) targeted the 5% contribution [4-6], but a pollutant, low maintenance and high reliability, with life span
decade after announcement of the five-fuel policy, RE expectation of 20–30 years made solar power a favorable
contribution still only is 1%. Besides, Malaysia’s energy source of energy to be used in the future. There are enormous
policy so far encompasses only supply, usage, and applications of photovoltaic technology such as solar water
environmental objectives; there is no particular solar-energy heating, solar drying and solar PV; however, solar applications
policy [5, 7]. Post-2020 in Malaysia, solar energy is predicted were first introduced for rural electrification and
to surpass all other REs in cumulative installed capacity. By telecommunication [12]. Solar energy has a great potential for
2050, solar PV alone will contribute more than a third of the electricity generation, which is more environmental-friendly
annual total for electricity generation [8]. as it has an important role in providing modern energy access
Malaysia is a country in the Southern Asia which to the billions of people in developing countries where
comprises Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak (both of traditional energy sources are still mainly depended [13].
which make up East Malaysia) separated by the South China Malaysia’s tropical climate, with abundant sunshine averaging
Sea. It has a total area of 329,847 km2. The tropical climatic 1643 kWh/m2 in annual irradiance, favors solar-energy
condition in Malaysia is favourable for the development of development. Malaysia's electricity demand is expected to
solar energy due to abundant sunshine with the average reach 18,947 MW in 2020 and 23,092 MW in 2030, the latter
irradiance per year of 1643 kWh/m2. Solar energy or solar a 35% increase from 14,007 MW in 2008 [14]. Malaysia's RE

978-1-4673-6349-5/13/$31.00 ©2013 IEEE 540


IEEE 2013 Tencon - Spring

electricity capacity now is 50 MW, which is expected to reach


about 2000 MW by 2020. Beyond 2020, solar energy could
surpass all other forms of RE in Malaysia [15]. Other
renewable source of energies has also benefit too. Author in
[16] has presented wind as a source for balancing demand and
supply gap in Pakistan.

III. METHODOLOGY AND DATA COLLECTION


In order to explore the social acceptance regarding to solar
energy sector and to investigate the social acceptance issues of
solar energy in Malaysia, this research was conducted in
survey method, and door to door data was collected from 400
respondents in Peninsular Malaysia. The questionnaire was
developed based on literature review and has been followed by
a pilot testing. In order to compare the perceptions, the
respondents covered from all areas of the Peninsular Malaysia.
The survey firstly aims to find the hindrances and
difficulties faced by the customers and the general public in Figure 1: Public interest in solar energy
buying and installing solar energy appliances. The second
purpose of conducting survey is to get the public opinions and TABLE 2. REDUCED SUBSIDIES FOR FOSSIL FUEL ARE PRE-REQUISITE TO
awareness regarding to solar energy usage and its benefits in DEVELOPMENT OF SOLAR ENERGY TECHNOLOGY AND ITS MARKET
Peninsular Malaysia. And the last reason is to help boost the Frequency Percent Valid percent
Yes 193 48.2 48.2
use of solar energy technology in. The survey was distributed
No 99 24.8 24.8
to the general public (such as workers, shoppers, business No opinion 108 27.0 27.0
people, employers, and employees) from different states of the Total 400 100.0 100.0
peninsular Malaysia. All data collected from this survey were
analysed by using SPSS software 16 version.

IV. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS


The results show that there is a considerable high level of
social acceptance. Only around 42% respondents know
something about RE technologies, and 80% are interested to
use solar energy but have neither the knowledge nor the
financial means to do so (Figure 1). Therefore, 88.8%
respondents agreed that government should increase subsidy
on solar energy appliances so that prices would become more
buyer-friendly (Table 1). When examining the question that
the reduced subsidies for fossil fuel were pre-requisite to
development of solar energy technology and its market, 48.2%
respondents agreed with that (Table 2) as the major proportion
to the energy in Malaysia was produced by fossil fuels. Figure
2 shows that to develop solar energy to a significant level,
Figure 2. Public Opinion On Factors Contributing To Successful Solar Energy
around 91% respondents think that public knowledge and Policy Development In Malaysia
awareness levels on Malaysia’s solar-energy policy
development are important, 83% think the mass media is
important, and 81% think that subsidies and incentives are TABLE 3. CAN WE INCREASE OUR OWN USE OF SOLAR POWER VIA
important. Furthermore, 81.5% respondents in this survey COLLABORATION WITH DEVELOPED COUNTRIES?
Valid Cumulative
indicated their opinions to increase collaborations with Frequency Percent Percent Percent
developed countries regarding solar energy technology and its Yes 326 81.5 81.5 81.5
use (Table 3). No 23 5.8 5.8 87.2
TABLE 1. GOVERNMENT SHOULD INCREASE SUBSIDY ON SOLAR ENERGY No opinion 51 12.8 12.8 100.0
APPLIANCES SO PRICES ARE MORE BUYER-FRIENDLY Total 400 100.0 100.0
Frequency Percent Valid Percent
Agree 355 88.8 88.8
Disagree 16 4.0 4.0 In Table 4, the respondents were asked their interest in
No opinion 29 7.2 7.2 environmental issues. About 58% shows their interest to the
Total 400 100 100 current environmental issues and global warming. For these
same question 35% respondents said, their interest is only
passing. These results are showing the lack of information of

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IEEE 2013 Tencon - Spring

renewable and non-renewable energy sources and there use in importance of the PV/Solar Thermal energy and solar thermal
the public. In Table 5, the respondents were asked if they energy for Malaysia energy supply balancing.
would use solar generated electricity in case the cost of solar
generated electricity increased up to 20% more than fossil fuel Public acceptance is recognized as an important issue
generated electricity. 32% only showed their interest to use shaping the widespread implementation of renewable energy
while 29% respondents were not agreed. technologies and the achievement of energy policy targets.
Since, this study reviewed some initial and emerging research
TABLE 4. INTEREST IN ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES on public responses to renewable energy, this research made a
Valid number of key factors apparent, which influenced support and
Frequency Percent
Percent
Yes, I take an
awareness, and established that these factors can be
231 57.8 57.8 understood and accounted for. Therefore, it implies that the
active interest
Yes, but my development must take account of these factors, allow people
interest in them is 140 35 35 to express their views in a meaningful way and listen to them.
only in passing
No 29 7.2 7.2 Besides, the most important outcome of this survey is the
Total 400 100 100 main barriers of solar energy technology adoption that publics
were not willing to install it until they knew more information
TABLE 5. WOULD YOU USE SOLAR-GENERATED ELECTRICITY IF IT COSTS about solar energy system/appliances (how those appliances
YOU 10%-20% MORE THAN DOES (FOSSIL FUELS) GAS/COAL/OIL worked, how they saved electricity bill, how low its cost and
GENERATED ENERGY? what other users experience was). Since electricity is so easy
Frequency Percent
Valid and cheap to use, it is hard to notice the existence of power
Percent grid. For instance, the respondents were asked their opinion if
Yes 128 32 32
they would like to use solar-generated electricity if it costs
No 119 29.8 29.8
Unsure 153 38.2 38.2
them from 10% to 20% more than the cost of fossil fuels. In
Total 400 100 100 this sense, it should be noticed that in this survey only 32% of
the respondents thought that they better used solar energy
Moreover, the key message regarding "public acceptance" electricity while almost 30% stated they did not need to use
is the evidence of very high levels of public support for solar solar energy, whereas around 38% (Table 5) were not sure to
energy development, and the fact that this favourable general decide to use or not. Therefore, it is questionable for the public
condition directly related to the installed solar capacity. Table that why customer should choose a complicated product that
6 shows that almost 79% of respondents supported the might help them to save money.

TABLE 6. HOW IMPORTANT TO MALAYSIA ARE THREE FROM THE FOLLOWING


Stream Solar Thermal
PV Energy Wind Energy
Energy Energy
Freq. (%) Freq. (%) Freq. (%) Freq. (%)
N/A 57 14.2 66 16.5 72 18.0 48 12.0
Important 317 79 269 67.2 223 55.7 319 79
Unimportant 29 7.2 65 16.2 105 26.2 33 8.2
Total 400 100 400 100 400 100 400 100

The conducted survey in this paper therefore provided an public use of solar energy as high cost of solar-generated
empirical data for Malaysian citizens about solar energy electricity seemed too costly for them. On the other
concept understanding, revealed the contemporary significant hand, reducing the current subsidies for fossil fuels also
results, and explored the extent of knowledge and awareness seems an option to boost the public use of renewable
related with the solar energy concept among Malaysian public. energy source.
3) As more than half of the respondents had concerns on
V. SUGGESTED POLICIES environmental issues, this suggests that there is a huge
1) Government should help the public increase their potential market on solar energy for the investors.
awareness and knowledge on solar energy as the majority 4) Therefore in doing so, Development of R&D
of the respondents were seriously interested in this infrastructure could be emphasized, and encouraged
energy source. This awareness programs on the benefits through partnerships between the government and private
of solar energy can be done through mediums such as businesses.
magazine, television, and regional campaigns.
VI. CONCLUSION
2) Effective financial support by the government is
essential. Such support could include tax credits and Solar energy, being abundant, clean, and safe, is the best
better financing terms such as subsidy (investment option for RE. Its technologies enable rural and remote
subsidies, product subsidies, and consumer subsidies) communities to access energy. Its security and climate-change
and pricing policies. By doing so, it will initiate the mitigation capability will lower worldwide carbon emissions.

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IEEE 2013 Tencon - Spring

As it is elsewhere for sustainable development and climate basic-level encouragement, lacks regional-level innovation,
change mitigation, so is solar energy principal to Malaysia. faces an unhealthy and incomplete financing and investment
Her RE policies have come about through laws and system, and lacks adequate investment in technical R&D.
regulations, economic encouragement, technical research, and Therefore, public support and target achievement must be
developments to solar energy. There has yet to be one that sought for balanced production and consumption of RE. This
benefits both the public and the government. Malaysia is study strongly suggests the government to take the reins in
aiming for 5.5% of her energy mix in 2015 to be RE. In this finding ways to do so.
paper surveyed selected sections of Peninsular Malaysia’s
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