Biomass in Malaysia

There is wealth in waste, and Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are holding the key to uncovering such green opportunities.

It is with this understanding that the EU-Malaysia Biomass Sustainable Production Initiative (Biomass-SP) was initiated. A development cooperation project funded by the European Union (EU) under the SWITCH-Asia Programme, the project aims to develop the biomass industry in Malaysia based on the principles of sustainable consumption and production (SCP).

In general, SCP practices involve concerted efforts of business, government, communities, and household individuals in enhancing environmental quality through efficient production and use of natural resources, waste minimization and recycling, and design of environmental-friendly products and services.

The market of biomass for energy is growing rapidly worldwide in parallel with the global climate mitigation efforts. As countries began to put an increased target for renewable resources in their energy mix, biomass has been identified as one of the major resources for energy which meets these growing ‘green’ aspirations.

In Europe alone, biomass accounts for almost 70% of all renewable energy and this is further supported by 800 solid biomass power plants already in place across the region in 2010.

A similar pattern is also found in other region rich with biomass resources such as Brazil, Canada, and China, India, Indonesia and Thailand where investments are heavily made in biomass renewables such as non-energy crops, agricultural waste, forestry residues, municipal solid waste (MSW), industrial waste, etc.

In addition to energy, non-energy use of biomass is also growing in importance. Especially since the economic potential of biomass for industrial production tend to fetch higher value than the utilization of biomass for electricity generation alone. For example, the carbohydrate fraction of biomass empty fruit bunches (EFB) or palm oil mill effluent (POME) can be turned into sugars for fermentation into high value chemicals and materials, while cellulosic biomass such as wood chips, oil palm trunks (OPT) and oil palm fronds (OPF) can be converted into paper and wood pulp, eco-friendly packaging or green building materials.

In Malaysia, the biomass industry is gaining attraction, but at a steady rate. Being the second largest producer of palm oil, it is widely recognised that the country has what it takes to accelerate the conversion of its readily available biomass feedstock into green products.