Pushing biomass as new source of revenue for Felda settlers

There are three rural townships in Sabah powered by electricity produced from biomass – renewable energy sources managed by Felda Global Ventures (FGV) Holdings Bhd.

The Sahabat Biomass-EFB Power Plant, Baiduri Ayu Biogas Plant, and Umas Biogas Plant provide power to Felda Sahabat, Felda Cenderawasih, and Felda Umas.

But Felda chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said more needs to be done to push the production of biomass, as it is a source of new income for the settlers, and the corporation.

“We should be able to produce biomass,” said Ahmad Shabery, during a recent interview at his office in Menara Felda, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, recently.

“This is what we want to promote at (the upcoming) Hari Peneroka Felda 2024 … this new source of income. It has to be understood by the Felda community themselves.”

Hari Peneroka Felda 2024 will be held from July 12-14 at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang. A long list of activities has been lined up for the three-day affair, which will be attended by some 500,000 visitors nationwide, and beyond. The carnival is also set to showcase the various economic and marketing opportunities Felda and its subsidiaries have to offer.

Ahmad Shabery said there was also a need for the government to push for policies that are friendly to the production of biomass.

“The sector’s full potential will not be realised if the nation does not embrace the policies on circular economy, green economy, or sustainability. If our neighbours fully adopt green economy and we don’t, we will be penalised. No investor would want to come to Malaysia.

“Major multinational corporations are investing in Malaysia and we need to attract them by telling them that our energy sources are clean, instead of relying on fossil fuels and coal. So, we must help come up with new sources of energy for today, and the future. Eighty per cent of biomass energy comes from palm oil.”

He highlighted Thailand’s efforts in producing biomass energy. The Southeast Asian nation took up the bio-circular-green economic model in 2021 to promote new industries stemming from the nation’s agricultural sector – namely rice, sugar cane, and cassava.

“Thailand is the biggest producer of rice but they are no longer looking at producing rice alone. They are also looking at biomass … how other parts of the paddy plant can be turned into energy. Singapore, meanwhile, is very strict in such matters (energy sources that hurt the environment). The Singaporean government does not subsidise fuel in the republic.

“The old economy is linear. Today, we talk about a circular economy. You extract, you use, you repair and you recycle. From palm oil to rubber, there’s so much potential. The settlers can double their income if they can repurpose their waste,” he added.

Ahmad Shabery said such a move was in line with Malaysia’s obligation to help keep the world cleaner by being a signatory of net-zero emissions by 2050. He added Malaysians should know more about carbon credit and why it’s important in the business world.

Carbon credits are like permission slips for emissions. When a company buys carbon credit, usually from the government, they gain permission to generate one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions. With carbon credits, carbon revenue flows vertically from companies to regulators, though companies that end up with excess credit can sell them to other companies.

Regulators set a limit on carbon emissions. It’s called the cap. That cap decreases over time, making it harder for businesses to stay within that cap. Companies are thus incentivised to reduce the emissions of their operations to stay under their caps.

“We can find a lot of ways to gain carbon credits, and the best place to initiate this conversation is at our Hari Peneroka Felda 2024,” added Ahmad Shabery.

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