GEORGE TOWN, September 7 – Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) applauds the Prime Minister’s launch of Phase 2 of the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) on August 29, 2023, aimed at steering Malaysia towards a low-carbon economy. While SAM acknowledges the government’s proactive efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, it raises concerns about certain proposals within the NETR, including hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies.
SAM emphasizes the importance of in-depth assessments and public debate before accepting these solutions as appropriate. One key concern revolves around the use of grey hydrogen until 2050 as outlined in the NETR. Grey hydrogen, derived from the fossil fuel industry, contributes to climate change due to methane emissions during its production and life cycle. SAM highlights that the potential warming effects of hydrogen may have been underestimated and calls for further research to address this issue.
Blue Hydrogen, which involves carbon capture and storage (CCS) in addition to grey hydrogen production, has been criticized for higher fugitive methane emissions. A Cornell University study suggests that the greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen surpasses that of burning natural gas, coal, or diesel oil for heating, raising doubts about its climate benefits. Green hydrogen, while considered environmentally friendly, places immense pressure on water resources and demands vast amounts of renewable electricity, making it inefficient.
SAM stresses that the pursuit of a hydrogen economy must consider water sustainability and its impact on the climate crisis. The NETR’s proposal to explore hydrogen co-firing with coal and ammonia co-firing is also questioned. Ammonia co-firing can lead to increased lifecycle emissions and the release of toxic nitrogen oxides, while handling hydrogen can pose fire and explosion risks. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, although acknowledged as high risk and costly in the NETR, faces criticism. A report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) points out that many large-scale CCS projects have failed or underperformed, with most captured carbon dioxide used for enhanced oil recovery, potentially counteracting climate goals.
Furthermore, CCS presents significant health, safety, and environmental risks, including pipeline leaks and ruptures, hazardous carbon dioxide releases, and the potential for asphyxiation. Reports indicate subsurface uncertainties that could undermine CCS benefits. SAM also expresses concern over the potential reliance on nuclear energy, as new small modular reactors (SMRs) may generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuclear plants, posing challenges for waste management.
In conclusion, SAM calls for comprehensive environmental, social, and economic assessments of these technologies and emphasizes the need for meaningful consultations with civil society and the public. The energy transition should prioritize solutions that effectively address the climate crisis without creating new, unmanageable problems.