The Road to a Sustainable and Just Energy Transition

By Ir Dr Viknesh Andiappan“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – A profound and notable quote from an inaugural address delivered by John F. Kennedy. It was one of his …

The Road to a Sustainable and Just Energy Transition

By Ir Dr Viknesh Andiappan

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – A profound and notable quote from an inaugural address delivered by John F. Kennedy. It was one of his ceaseless efforts as President of the United States of America, to inspire his citizens to understand the importance of taking civil action and getting involved in public service.

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Such a quote still carries significant relevance in today’s context. Rising global emissions have prompted us to pose the same argument as John F. Kennedy did in the past, but with a more contextualised premise: Ask not what your planet can do for you, ask what you can do for the planet.

As we stand at the cusp of a technological revolution, we must rethink innovative energy initiatives for a sustainable future. It is now time to aggressively transition to cleaner energy. The rapid evolution of technology offers a pathway to address both the urgent environmental challenges and social inequalities that our world faces today.  

A Model For Just Energy Transition

Sarawak has led by example in the pursuit of cleaner energy generation. The state has the highest renewable and clean energy deployment in Malaysia, mainly consisting of hydropower and solar power. These infrastructures were built to support growing demands in both rural and urban areas of the state. In addition, the state has invested in green technology development, focusing on energy storage solutions, grid management and sustainable transportation options.

An example of these investments includes hydrogen technology. The state is venturing into the hydrogen economy, with several projects put in place to drive this forward. Sarawak also aspires to become a leading supplier of hydrogen in the ASEAN region. This will be accomplished through its Post-COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030), which underpins renewable energy and the hydrogen economy as key developmental areas for Sarawak’s future growth and sustainability. PCDS puts out timely strategies and aligns well with Malaysia’s recently formulated National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR). With the nation embarking on its energy transition journey through its progressive policies and roadmaps, it is necessary to enumerate the key ingredients for a successful energy transition.  

What Makes A Just Energy Transition Successful?

This energy transition will offer great potential for a cleaner, more sustainable future. However, it is crucial to emphasise the importance of a just energy transition. Just energy transition ensures that the benefits and burdens of this transformation are equitably distributed.

In other words, it means that the energy transition must be executed fairly and inclusively, without compromising the welfare of the community. Its focus will be on generating new economic opportunities on a grand scale. The clean and renewable energy sector is expected to create new jobs, spanning from manufacturing and installation to research and development. As this sector expands, it should continue to stimulate economic growth by attracting new (foreign and local) business investments into the state, foster innovation, and diversify its economy. New start-up businesses offering technical solutions within the state are also expected to grow out of this transition.      

Inclusive Decision-Making for a Just Transition

Acknowledging that the transition may disrupt some jobs in the fossil fuel sector, a just energy transition involves comprehensive support for affected workers. This includes retraining and reskilling programs to facilitate their transition into the growing clean energy workforce. This approach minimises the negative economic impact due to the loss of jobs in one sector on affected communities and ensures a fair transition into another sector.

Aside from this, accessibility to clean energy should be a fundamental aspect of a just transition. Low-income households often face energy poverty, struggling to pay their energy bills and living in energy-inefficient homes. A just transition seeks to address these inequalities by making clean energy affordable and accessible to all, reducing energy costs and environmental impacts on disadvantaged communities. Sarawak is a proud champion of this cause, as the state dedicated efforts to rural electrification projects. These projects serve as worthy case studies for increasing the accessibility and affordability of clean energy within the entire nation.  

For a successful tech-driven energy transition, inclusive decision-making processes is crucial. It actively engages with all stakeholders, including indigenous communities, workers, and environmental advocates. Transparency and collaboration are essential to ensure that transition policies are equitable and reflect the diverse needs and aspirations of society. Thus, policymakers, researchers, industry practitioners, and community leaders must work together hand-in-hand to achieve a just energy transition.

This may involve public awareness and education engagements to inform citizens about the benefits of clean energy and sustainable practices. This is also an opportunity to gauge the challenges faced by various communities and look for more targeted solutions.   

A Leader in Clean Energy Innovation

Sarawak’s energy transition initiatives are not just about sustainability; they are a testament to the State’s commitment to technological innovation, diversifying its energy sources, and enhancing energy security. These efforts align with global goals to combat climate change and promote sustainable development. While there are challenges to overcome, Sarawak’s proactive approach to energy transition positions it as a leader in clean energy innovation within the region.