Malaysia has devoted to reduce its carbon emissions up to 45% by 2030 and to achieve 50% of RE in the energy mix by 2050, by utilizing biomass as one of the energy resources in the power plant. Therefore, this new venture project is aim for renewable energy (RE) generation in which supports Malaysia’s direction to increase RE capacity in the fuel mix as well as production of biochar products. Biomass has been identified as one of the pillars for Kedah state economic growth. Hence, this project will become the first ever RE biomass plant in Kedah through the SEDA FiT approved at 4 MW capacity with bamboo become the feed-stock for fuel.
Recent global shift towards “Circular Economy” acknowledged that biomass conversion is one of its important components. Recycling biomass wastes encouragement and how the wastes being recycled are observed in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) no. 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”. The use of energy gasification plant in this project promotes an innovative way of treating the biomasses while generates electricity, rather than the traditional methods such as incinerator as in-line with SDG no. 9 which supports “Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure” via new clean and efficient technology for biochar production. This is also in-line with the global mega-trends 2025 “Future of Energy” addressing the global energy demand with new technologies. With the new technology, the multiple benefits can be realized to many parties.
SDG no.15 which addresses “Life on Land” pledged the nation to take urgent action to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity. While 15% of land is protected, biodiversity is still at risk. Thus, utilizing highly renewable sources for biochar such as bamboo biomass which is sustainably produced can help to reduce the dependency of unsustainable source such as mangrove, saw dust, timber, coconut shell, etc, while preserving the biodiversity. Bamboo is the fastest growing trees known, where it grows to maturity within 2-3 years. Many countries adopt bamboo cultivation as a climate change strategy which serves to fulfil both commercial and environmental objectives in one go. Bamboo is often considered to be a replacement of wood and industrial raw materials in both modern industrial and traditional cottage sectors.
With the abundance of bamboo supply, exceeding 2000 hectares in the northern state of Kedah, it would be desirable to tap on the natural resources using sustainable exploitation while the outcome would be a significant socio-economic gain for the poor population in the area and as well as the emerging entrepreneurs in bamboo-related industries. With bamboo biomass as feed input for the RE plant, this effort will help the Kedah state to realize and foster the agenda of bamboo that is gradually making its mark at the national level, in line with new policies and initiatives from the Malaysian government such as one of the frameworks which is in developing stage, “Pelan Tindakan Pembangunan Industri Buluh Malaysia 2021-2030” by MTIB.
Biochar is a stable solid, rich in carbon, and can endure in soil for thousands of years. Like most charcoal, biochar is made from biomass or agricultural source via burning process of pyrolysis. Bamboo biochar is known to many industrial players as one of the best charcoal products, making them favourites for application in domestic and industrial use. Bamboo biochar is also a preferred raw material for the production of activated carbon. The market for activated carbon is set to thrive in the coming years due to its increasing usage in various applications such as bad odor removal, air purification plants, water filter treatment, medical, cosmetics and food and beverages.
Moreover, biochar is regarded as alternative green fuel to fossil fuel and in-line with SDG no.13 which supports “Climate Action”. Biochar has high energy content reflected by its high calorific value (energy content) and high carbon content. Due to the reduction of volatile matters during the biochar production process, biochar itself become less smoke compared to the wood charcoal or coal. This makes it as a good and green heating source. Hence, biochar improves our air and environment.
In terms of agriculture, this sector need innovative technological boost to enhance yield, productivity, socioeconomic benefits and safety. Thus agriculture sector finds new pathway towards better sustainability via biochar utilization for soil enrichment and remediation for farming and agricultural use. Due to biochar’s high surface area and porosity, it has strong ability to absorb and retain moistures, soil nutrients, fertilizers and soil bacteria. It is also a stable form of carbon, which acts as carbon sequester that can help sequester soil. With this, it helps to boost crops’ yield and remediate infertile or degraded soil. In-line with SD Goal no. 2 which supports “Zero Hunger”, biochar promotes agricultural sector by remediation of infertile soil, boost crops’ growth up to 5 times, and hence helping in food security.
The major recommendation to retain youths in the rural area is the economic development driven by private sector investment which involves a lot of creativity. New industries that emphasize green technologies could help re-populate the countryside by allowing young people to work where the energy is produced (solar and wind farms, biomass facilities, etc.). For this project, a structured business model has been established throughout the value chain, and therefore the employment of youths is necessary to back up on the operation. Unlike the conventional jobs such as farmers, rubber tappers and laborers, under this strategic plan, more attractive scheme (manufacturing concept) will be introduced to them.