Penang could become centre for solar energy research


There is no reason why Penang and Malaysia cannot become a centre for research into green energy sources, especially solar energy (Photo credit:

I am dismayed that the Cabinet is seriously looking into nuclear energy as an alternative energy source. This excerpt from the NST:

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Fadillah Yusof said another objective of the paper, which outlined the direction of nuclear power, was to enable further studies and plans on the initiative to be carried out by his ministry and the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry.

Faidilah said while nuclear power would only be a reality after 2020, the foundation of the plan and efforts to create awareness of nuclear power needed to start now.

He said it was important for the public to know that nuclear power was safe, environmentally friendly and more affordable in the long run.

Would you want to live near a nuclear power plant?

Why aren’t they seriously considering solar energy research – starting from now?

It’s not as if the situation is critical and we need more power fast. Last I read, our reserve margin for electricity has crept up from 41 per cent to 47 per cent. And a global recession is looming. Meanwhile, TNB has to bear a heavy burden in making capacity payments to the IPPs for electricity it doesn’t need. These are excerpts from The Star:

KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has posted its first quarterly net loss in four years as its earnings were eroded by higher coal prices, independent power producers’ (IPPs) cost and a weaker ringgit.

It posted a net loss of RM282.9mil in the fourth quarter ended Aug 31 compared with a net profit of RM168.4mil in the previous corresponding period.

And they are facing “challenges” with more power coming on-stream:

On the prospects for FY09, it said there were significant challenges with the commissioning of the 1,400MW Jimah power plant (thereby raising capacity payments and the reserve margin from the current 40.8% to 47%) and rising average coal prices.

So we have a 47 per cent reserve margin and huge capacity payments to the IPPs – and that is before we take into consideration those expensive plans to transmit electricity from Sarawak to the peninsula via RM15 billion undersea cables.

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And now they want to build nuclear plants, which would cost more than RM6 billion each.

Why not use all this money and carry out research into cleaner energy sources especially solar energy? It would be a lot safer for all. If the Pakatan were to take over, what would their national energy policy be like?

No matter who’s in power, we need a national energy policy that is clean, green, safe and sustainable – and one which encourages conservation of non-renewable resources.

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  1. Have you people ever seen the cellphones cooking the egg yet? A lot of science hasn’t been fully explored yet, and we haven’t seen the detrimental effects of a lot of things that are being peddled by companies looking to make good profits. WIFI , WiMax, for example. We should make do with what we have for the time being, as far as i am concerned with internet connectivity. There is plenty of places to get into the internet and getting a dial-up or even broadband is not prohibitively expensive. What Penang really needs now are better schools with bigger compounds where adequate parking can be provided for all the buses, cars and motorcycles that we can see everyday that are littered all over the school entrances, creating traffic congestion EVERY school day.
    The Land Acquisition Act should be used for this purpose. While school grounds (at least i believe most are) are federal property, the state government can still acquire property bordering schools to provide car parks on a immediate basis. The property can be later be used to negotiate with the federal government for other land they hold in the state. Also, the state government can offer other land to these property owners.
    There’s really no need for DAP to push for this WIFI policy, which i think is really Wimax technology. Making the state more accessible by having congestion free roads would be definitely make me happy that i vote to kick out the no seed durian from the helm of this state. State-wide WIFI? Oh, Please. We have a lot of malu things going on in Malaysia. Space tourist we call Astronaut. The step forward for Penang towards progress is call preservation. Not any headlong rush to uneconomical ideas. 1st post ever. Will try to contribute more and in a more comprehensive manner. Thank you for reading.

  2. Solar energy is plenty in Malaysia , if Penang government is not smart enough, then it will prefer nuclear source rather than sun. Seeing those umno gangs relationship with Iranian president ‘s nuclear weapon program, one can understand why federal government want to go into nuclear research.

  3. I AGREE with HI. You’re spot on! When politicians are too weak to take a tough position on public safety matters, innocent citizens suffer while corporations laugh all the way to the bank.

    Tobacco is a good example. The tobacco industry’s connection with governments everywhere and their financial influence over the media (via advertising revenues) maintains the publicity and demand – and hence, profits – for cigarettes. That’s how the industry controls people’s purse strings – and destroys lives.

    I DISAGREE with wira. Your analysis on Wi-fi is too simplistic and your conclusion is incorrect. Your arguments: 1) there’s far less radiation from a Wifi computer than from a handphone; and 2) handphones have been in use a long time (and so, it must be safe).

    Common sense alone will tell you that both assumptions are way off mark. Here’s why.

    1) Just because a Wi-fi computer has a weak signal strength does not mean that users are safe. One is exposed to microwave radiation not only from the computer, but also from the Wi-fi antenna. Wi-fi antennas are not placed on tall towers; usually, they are placed on street lamps or on the side of buildings. Our proximity to the antennas increases our exposure.
    Also, your assumption of no-harm is based on only one user. What if many Wi-fi computers are switched on in a confined space – like in a classroom, office or restaurant? In Britain, where Wi-fi networks have been widely installed in schools, it has been found that the maximum signal strength was 3 times higher than that of a typical mobile phone mast.

    2) Just because handphones have been in use for many years, and are still in use today, is also no guarantee of safety. Cigarettes have been around for decades. Does that mean they pose no harm? They’re tragically destroying people’s health today because once upon a time gullible segments of society and imprudent government authorities fell for cigarette companies’ claims and did not see through their game.
    History could be repeating itself with the blind push for Wi-fi today – no thanks to negligent naysayers, like wira!

  4. Anil,
    Our leaders are trained to be more idealistic and not wisely.
    The technology in the world are looking into Solar energy but our leaders still backward. That is the typical difference between highly knowledge and least knowledge leaders.

  5. solar solution is expensive, as any other renewable solutions now. But what other choices of energy source that Malaysia can rely on if the oil & gas getting more expensive and Malaysia is no more the net exporter of oil & gas.

    Malaysia must have an energy long term plan to prepare for the next 5 to 10 years and the next 20 to 50 years. What’s the energy source it will rely on.

    I believe the long term viable option is very limited. nuclear ? solar ? wind? biomass ? biodiesel ? I guess we need all of them. We need to have mixture of energy sources. But government must put the ball rolling, so by the time we are running out of oil, we have something to rely on.

    Stop the petty political bickering.

    check out

  6. Would agree that it would be far much better for all Malaysians and the environment that we all share and live in to go the solar enegry way. It is ridiculous to head towards the nuklear power just to show that “Malaysia Boleh” — like the astronaut thing. Total waste of public funds. The risk of having such energy is still being studied by the Russians and the Americans.

    It would be better for all, that we do with what God has given us naturally, wind and solar power. If they can build a car to race with solar power, why not use the abundant energy source that we have naturally – cleaner too.

  7. Again on safety of wi fi.
    The strength of a electro magnetic radiation is inversely proportion to the square of the distance between the source of the radiation and the target.

    That means to say if you hold a radiating PC/AP 0.3 metres away from your body, the signal hitting you will be 900 times weaker than a handphone which is held 1 cm away from your brain assuming that the strength of the source of radiation is the same.

    It is also well known that the strength of radiation of a handphone is many times (several kms reach) than that of a wireless access point (100 meters).

    So if you do a simple calculation, you will find a handphone having 18,000 times more radiation hitting the brain than a AP or a Wifi PC/notebook in normal usage.
    It’s like comparing a category 8 earthquake with a category 5.5 one, just to get a feel of the intensity.

    Handphone has been around the past 12 years.
    Now go figure, CAP.

  8. Koolgeek, your comments are stupid and offensive.

    Penang going wireless is not an issue about me being a *** hypocrite or you being a *** koolgeek.

    It is about the usual unimaginative and not so knowledgeable politicians falling for the trappings of businesses who woo them with one sided facts and fancies. Plus there is the “Kam Ceng” between certain persons in power and their business kakis that automatically blinds the good sighted.

    End Result? We get people who cannot read but speak loudly for a project that is detrimental for the health and economic well-being of the people especially the young and the weak in Penang.

    The government can either call black black OR it can always call black white. We will see.

    Syabas CAP!

  9. I am totally dumbfounded on why Tenaga intends to concentrate on Nuclear Power, when most developed countries like Germany is opting for Solar Technology due to it’s environment friendliness. These further studies that Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Fadillah Yusof is doing is unnecessary, why not concentrate their studies on Solar Energy. This is like buying second hand goods like War Ships and Planes. Considering our Geographical location, we can produce more solar energy than Germany. Also you dont need many employees, 1 man and two dogs can run the place. See link:

  10. Rajan, your comments are ridiculous. The reasons stated in CAP’s statement is as clear as the light of day and the evidence is there for all to see. If only you care to READ.

    And CAP = Telekom Malaysia? Who are you kidding! That’s the most laughable thing anyone has said in this blog. Read and digest these 4 words: You are dead wrong. Having closely followed CAP’s work on various consumer issues for over 2 decades, I can safely say that there is no such link.

    CAP treads where angels fear to tread and they spare no one. As far as I know, they have lambasted not only the present Penang state government but also the previous BN-led state government; and corporate firms like TNB, Telekom, Indah Water and other companies have not been spared when wrongdoings that affect people take place. Ask Koh Tsu Koon, Chua Jui Meng or the present leaders in the various ministries. Ask the CEOs or top guns of multinationals and other companies in Malaysia.

    Bravo, CAP! Keep up the good work. Rajan doesn’t speak for all Penangites. We need more real NGOs like CAP around.

    And Rajan, just a helpful hint … better retract your “2 + 2 = 5” theory on CAP-Telekom before you get sued by either CAP or Telekom. In fact, in all fairness, YOU should be the one to state your reasons clearly for this skewed equation.

  11. Mr Rajan, I have just read Idris’ statement very carefully. It looks to me like he has very clearly provided scientific evidences and various authoritative viewpoints to support his claims.

    You mean to say he is bluffing and has some secret agenda? Why do you say CAP = Telekom Malaysia?

  12. Save the talking CAP. I am sick and tired of your arguments. Anyway, if you have any constructive evidence, please show. Otherwise (I could conclude) CAP = Telekom Malaysia…..state your reasons clearly.

  13. Penang should not only lead in solar power research but also be a pioneer in the usage of wind power. The seaside at mukahead is an ideal place for farming the wind power.

    Not only the wind/solar pwr can bring us sustainable energy but it also can generate extra income through green tourism.

  14. Anil,

    There are people who don’t know how to read anything beyond three sentences of advertising message.

    Could you help to highlight the captions etc. of SM Mohamad Idris’ long piece which appeared in Malaysia Kini please? Thanks!

  15. Like someone said earlier, Penang is so early and getting more polluted by the day, just look at the dirty eating stalls where the hygiene is questionable… why worry about any possible side effects of WiFi. More will probably die from food poisoning should it hit Penang. Its not whether it will, it is a question of when?

  16. OK, if currently reserve margin stands at 47%, what will it be post Bakun or with the other plants hydro plants mentioned in the media last week? Who actually does the planning for these things?

  17. I’m looking for a total solar energy solutions (not hybrid with TNB grid) and had made some inquiries on the price available in Malaysia and what i found is, it’s too expensive.. imagine to have a 100 watts of power – to support 1 notebook or other equipments and 5 energy saver DC bulb.. the cost is around RM3000 with car battery.. and if i want to use it’s deep cycle battery.. another RM1000 is needed… So I think the only barrier of the solar energy is the price… This is because most of the equipments are from overseas (germany for most).. what we need to do is to have our own plant producing solar solutions especially when many are getting involve in agro/aqua business which many of them is located far from the grid

  18. Do we need to ask why when the answer is as plain as the noses on on our faces?

    Has any mega project here in the past been about need??

  19. Everyday, every utterance, every action from these xxxx lords of the land read xxxx the stupid rakyats, so now they are telling us we need nuclear energy konon nya! XXXXXX!!!

  20. Wi-Fi fallacies endangering public health
    SM Mohamed Idris | Oct 20, 08 3:34pm

    We refer to the letters Focus on the real ‘killers’ in Penang, Don’t throw Wi-Fi baby out with bath water, CAP, stop harping on Penang’s Wi-Fi move, Wi-Fi – Penang gov’t doing the right thing and Wi-Fi has more pros than cons.

    There is no room for misjudgment, bias and empty rhetoric in an important matter like Wi-Fi, where right thinking is crucial in protecting society from impending and unnecessary harm. Frivolous polemics and faulty thinking are no solution to the matter and only serve to bend the truth and distort the real picture on Wi-Fi.

    A rational and socially beneficial discourse on the matter must thus centre on good research, and must involve a thorough analysis of the evidence at hand, with public health and safety in mind – something the above writers have failed to deliver.

    They should invest some time studying the Wi-Fi issue in a serious way instead of delivering bad scientific and shallow arguments on the matter. Their actions will not only confuse the public, but also erode their own credibility.

    Allow us to put some of the erroneous contentions on Wi-Fi raised into proper perspective in order to clear the fog generated over the issue.

    Fallacy 1: There is no conclusive evidence of Wi-Fi threat, so we don’t need to be cautious with the technology – ie, the precautionary principle is not necessary.

    Fact: Recent scientific evidence based on more than 2,000 studies, presented in the Bio-Initiative Report (Aug 31, 2007), by many world experts from the fields of cancer, immunology, public health and environmental policy, indicate otherwise.

    According to the report (for which the European Environmental Agency, Europe’s top environmental watchdog, has issued a statement of support), although the effects of long-term exposure to wireless technologies are still not conclusively known, ‘the body of evidence at hand suggests that bio-effects and health impacts can and do occur at exquisitely low exposure levels’.

    This finding alone warrants caution with Wi-Fi technology. But there are other logical reasons for taking precautions. According to the UK’s Institute of Science in Society, a non-profit organisation that promotes social accountability and ecological sustainability in science:

    ‘The precautionary principle is actually part and parcel of sound science. Science is an active knowledge system in which new discoveries are made almost every day. Scientific knowledge is always incomplete and uncertain. The responsible use of scientific evidence, therefore, is to set precaution.’

    Dr Peter Saunders, professor of Applied Mathematics at King’s College London, has written an article (‘Use and Abuse of the Precautionary Principle’) which shows how the precautionary principle is codified common sense that people have accepted in courts of law, and mathematicians have adopted in the proper use of statistics.

    According to him, what the precautionary principle amounts to is this: ‘If one is embarking on something new, one should think very carefully about whether it is safe or not, and not go ahead until reasonably convinced it is. It is just common sense.’

    The precautionary principle, he explains, is also not a new idea. ‘It already appears in national legislation in many countries (eg, the US) and in international agreements’ on some public safety matters.’

    Unfortunately, in the case of the Penang Wi-Fi project, to borrow Professor Saunders’ words: ‘Too many of those who fail to understand or to accept the precautionary principle are pushing forward with untested, inadequately researched technologies, and insisting that it is up to the rest of us to prove them dangerous before they can be stopped.’

    Fallacy 2: Wi-Fi hazards would be minimal compared to other devices like mobile phones, TV or radio.

    Fact: According to Canadian scientist Magda Havas, a leading researcher on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields, ‘If we compare Wi-Fi antennas to cell phone or broadcast antennas, Wi-Fi has the weakest signal and the shortest range of coverage (generally less than 500 feet) and if they were placed on top of tall towers our exposure would be minimal.

    ‘But these antennas are placed on street lamps and on the side of buildings and our proximity increases our exposure. Since the effects of exposure to microwave radiation are likely to be cumulative, this does not bode well for the future when most cities will be Wi-Fi zones

    Professor Havas, who is an Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, also warns that: ‘Those who live or work near Wi-Fi antennas may develop E-sensitivity (electrohypersensitivity) in high Wi-Fi traffic zones and possibly cancer.’(Source: ‘A Tale of Two Pollutants: Dirty Electricity and Wi-Fi’).

    Electrohypersensitivity is a genuine health condition, which according to the WHO, affects 1.5-3% of populations. In Sweden, where about 3% of the population has the condition, it is recognised as a disability. In the UK, where up to 5% of the population suffers from it, the authorities have acknowledged it to be a real syndrome. In Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has approved a policy on Environmental Sensitivity which includes electro- hypersensitivity as a disability.

    Fallacy 3: Major cities of the world now use wireless, as such it’s a trend worth emulating.

    Fact: Wireless may be the craze in many countries of the world today, but it is foolhardy to blindly follow suit in light of increasing world concern over the dubious technology, and without proper consideration of its potential threats to health.

    Firstly, it should be remembered that electromagnetic radiation (which wireless technologies also contribute to) is one of the most pervasive environmental exposures in industrialised countries today. We don’t need to create the same hazardous scenario here.

    Secondly, and for the record, even technologically-advanced countries are viewing the technology with extreme caution. Germany, which has about 9,000 public wireless hot-spots, advocates returning to basics – the German government has recently advised its citizens to use wired Internet connection instead of Wi-Fi (and landlines instead of mobile phones). (Source: The Independent, UK, Sept 9, 2007)

    For an ethical rationale for not jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon, one need look no further than this recent statement issued by the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (Icems), a scientific organisation composed of concerned scientists worldwide: ‘

    For the past several years, the entire world has been transformed by the new ‘information age’ that increasingly relies upon wireless communications for voice, data and media transmissions. However, in spite of the clear economic and social benefits these technological innovations offer, government and industry has yet to provide the assurances, through independent sustained research programs, that wireless technologies are safe.’ (Source: Icems press release, June 6, 2008)

    Fallacy 4: Wireless technology equals progress and development.

    Fact: ‘Progress’ and ‘development’ are controversial catchwords in the context of large-scale Wi-Fi implementation in Penang. Overall socio-economic development is basically a primary determinant of health development. Hence for the Wi-Fi technology to translate into real development for the state, public health should be an integral part of the equation.

    In the Penang Wi-Fi situation, the aspect of public health is totally obliterated from this process of ‘development’. While there may be good economic, social – and political – reasons to implement state-wide Wi-Fi in Penang, this does not annul the more important questions: How safe is the technology for everyone? What assurance is there that it will not pose harm to the public?

    According to the Bio-Initiative Report, ‘The evidence reasonably points to the potential for serious public health consequences (and economic costs), which will be of global concern with the widespread public use of, and exposure to such emissions.

    ‘Even a small increase in disease incidence or functional loss of cognition related to new wireless exposures would have a large public health, societal and economic consequences. Epidemiological studies can report harm to health only after decades of exposure, and where large effects can be seen across ‘average’ populations; so these early warnings of possible harm should be taken seriously now by decision-makers.’

    True development is development that brings mutually beneficial long-term gains for both the state and its citizens, and results in real improvement in quality of life. Such development, or sustainable development, requires well-researched and cautious planning – a sorely missing feature in the current managing of the Penang Wi-Fi project.

    British scholar and novelist CS Lewis says it well: ‘We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in this case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.’

    In retrospect, change is not always growth just as movement is not always progress, as the wise saying goes.

    From the above facts, it is clear that there is a propensity for harm where wireless technology is concerned. Given this, the suggestion that CAP ‘should work to educate and inform consumers on how to make use of conveniences (including Wi-Fi) in ways which won’t harm them’ is totally null and void.

    The admonition that CAP should not be ‘bickering over something as inconsequential and unproven as the health risks of Wi-Fi’ doesn’t hold water in the light of all the stark facts and expert recommendations stated above. What is inconsequential is petty nit-picking which doesn’t benefit the public at all.


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