Malaysian government reaffirms renewables research support in 'Smart Villages' project

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The Malaysian government has reaffirmed its support of research into off-grid renewable technologies to benefit remote village dwellers.

The ongoing support will be facilitated through the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI), and will follow on from the 1,542 research and development projects already undertaken to a value of RM 847.7M (US$233.4m).

The projects will be split among pv, micro hydropower systems, wind turbines, wind-solar hybrid systems, and biomass.

The announcement came at the launch of the ‘Smart Village Initiative and Workshop’ in the state of Sarawak. There, the official state news agency for Malaysia reported minister Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin as saying, “A significant proportion of the funding was specifically allocated to undertaking research in sustainable energy and related research in elevating the economic status of rural communities.”

Dr Ebin added, “Sustainable development isn’t an indulgence, but can be a precursor for success. Smart cities and smart communities that link culture with sustainable development are not impossible. I am therefore delighted to learn that the Academy of Science Malaysia has already taken an initiative to take a comprehensive look at the construction of smart communities beyond 2050. Indeed, we need to change our lifestyle if we are to develop towards a sustainable path.”

The minister’s remarks came at the launch of the ‘Smart Village Initiatvie and Workshop’, which took place at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. The initiative began in 2014 and was implemented by the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust and the European Academies Science Advisory Council.

According to a statement from MOSTI, “The initiative aims to look at technical, entrepreneurial and policy solutions to provide sustainable energy for development in off-grid rural communities. This endeavour was created for rural communities to enable them to effort technological developments.” The initiative will initially take the form of workshops organised in six regions throughout the world, with the next to be held in India and Bolivia, followed by West Africa and Central American in 2016.

Details about the potential smart villages were scarce, although a report from Bernama, the national news agency of Malaysia, quoted Dr Ebin as saying that each vllage would differ according to the needs of its population. Dr Ebin was also quoted as saying that the use of off-grid solar, complemented by other renewables, would enable community halls, resource centres, places of worship, playgrounds, and educational facilities.

Malaysia has long been a hotbed of off-grid solar activity. In August, Suntech announced a 7.5 MW project in the country under the Rural Solar Hybrid Electricity Project for Villages and Schools, funded by the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development. The country has also been punching above its weight in terms of production, with facilities slated for building by Comtec Solar Systems, GT Advanced Technology, and Tenage Nasional Bhd.