Saturday May 1, 2010
Mindset change needed to reap benefits of green technology
By EUGENE MAHALINGAM
GREEN technology, which is the know-how or equipment that reduces the impact on the environment, has been identified by the Government as a major growth area.
However, many companies are still unwilling to make that leap of faith and reap its benefits.
According to Council for Water and Green Technology Professionals (Proatek) council member Mohamad Adan Yusuf, there were still many “old school managers” that were not keen to change their business strategies.
“For companies to reap the benefits of green technology, there needs to be a mindset change. There has to be a deeper understanding of how it all works.
“It also takes education and awareness for the benefits to be realised,” he says.
For many, adopting a new kind of technology to conduct your business simply means one thing – added cost. But Mohamad Adan says companies should look at the long-term benefits of applying green technology in its day-to-day operations.
“Yes, it is expensive but companies must be able to make that capital investment and try to look at it from a long-term perspective. But if you look at it from an environmental point of view, than you’re winning hands down.”
Centre for Environment Technology and Department Malaysia chairman Gurmit Singh says going green does not have to be expensive.
“Green technology need not be high-tech. It can be simple technology but still saves energy or creates very little environmental impact and can be easily used.
“But it’s not just unwilling companies that pose an issue to develop Malaysia as a hub for green technology, as even local banks are reluctant to fund investments relating to green technology.”
Earlier this week at the launch of the Malaysia Green Forum 2010, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said commercial banks were reluctant to disburse loans for green technology-related projects in Malaysia due to the possible lack of confidence in such ventures.
Mohamad Adan acknowledges that the reluctance of banks to fund green technology-based projects was a problem.
The banks’ perception is “if the company has been doing its business successfully all this while, why go into something that’s new and might not work?”
He reckons it is the Government that should initiate a large-scale green technology project and kick off the interest from the private sector.
“Because green technology projects are still not bankable, the Government needs to step in and push for large-scale initiatives to create awareness of its benefits,” he says.
Proatek secretary-general Mohmad Asari Daud says that if a project were big enough, it would attract foreign direct investments.
“This would create confidence for local corporations to take up the challenge to take part in green initiatives.”
At Budget 2010 last year, the Government announced at was allocating RM1.5bil and several other initiatives to push the green technology agenda.
Earlier, in July 2009, the Government had launched the National Green Technology Policy (NGTP) to provide direction towards the management of green technology activities.
The institutional framework for the implementation of the NGTP was further strengthened with the setting up of the National Green Technology Council (NGTC) (chaired by the Prime Minister himself) and the restructuring of the National Energy Centre to the National Green Technology Centre.
Gurmit feels there needs to be more transparency about the Government’s green initiatives, especially on the NGTC and what it hopes to accomplish.
“We don’t know who the members (of the NGTC) are and whether the private sector is represented. As as far as I know, no NGOs (non-Government organisations) are represented yet.
“The NGTP has piqued interest levels but I’m not sure if it has attracted FDI (foreign direct investments). In terms of tangible projects, we’ve yet to see anything yet,” he says.
Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin revealed in a report in December that seven countries had expressed interests in helping Malaysia develop green technology.
In the report, he said Germany, France, Britain, Italy, South Korea, Japan and China had stated their intention through their respective ambassadors.
Gurmit says the FDI should be able to benefit the local economy.
“In Malaysia, there is a solar industry but there is little money going into it because solar manufacturers are foreign investors – they’re all manufacturing here to export and not supplying the local market.
“Other than purchasing the land to set up their factories and employing a few thousand employees, how does the country benefit?”
So far, Malaysia has managed to attract a few large firms like solar panel makers First Solar, Q-Cells and Sunpower.
According to reports, the solar industry has been targeted as Malaysia’s priority project to generate clean energy and new growth areas in high value-added manufacturing.
Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the Government expects to generate 215MW from solar energy, thereby increasing its solar contribution from 0.0013% to 1.5%.
In a report in March, Malaysia Industrial Development Authority director-general Datuk Jalilah Baba said that as a high technology-driven industry, solar manufacturing had the potential to contribute up to 4% of the country’s gross domestic product this year.