Is Malaysia Self Sufficient In Energy?

Malaysia is a fast growing Southeast Asian nation that has seen rapid economic development over the past few decades. This growth has led to increasing energy needs, and questions around whether Malaysia can meet its own energy demands domestically or relies on imports. Malaysia has a diverse energy mix, producing oil, natural gas, coal and renewable sources like hydropower, solar and biomass. However, demand continues to rise driven by population growth, urbanization and industrialization. This article provides an overview of Malaysia’s energy landscape, production, consumption and energy policy to evaluate its self-sufficiency and energy security.

Oil and Gas

Malaysia has long relied on oil and gas to meet its energy needs. The country has over 5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and over 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Oil and gas account for over 40% of Malaysia’s total primary energy supply. Malaysia is the world’s third largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Petronas, the national oil company, dominates the upstream oil and gas sector in Malaysia. Petronas operates over 90% of the country’s oil fields and accounts for around 30% of government revenues. While Malaysia was previously a net exporter of oil and gas, domestic consumption has been rising steadily. Malaysia became a net importer of crude oil and condensates in 2014.

Moving forward, Malaysia aims to optimize exploitation of maturing domestic hydrocarbon resources through enhanced oil recovery. However, production from existing fields is projected to decline. This means Malaysia will likely rely more on imported energy to meet domestic demand in the coming years.


Malaysia has proven coal reserves of approximately 1.9 billion tonnes, mostly located in Sarawak. Coal only accounts for a small percentage of Malaysia’s energy mix at around 10-15%. However, coal-fired power plants generate around 40% of electricity in Peninsular Malaysia.

Major coal mining areas in Malaysia include Merit Pila in Sarawak, and Maliau Basin in Sabah. Coal production was around 2.9 million tonnes in 2020. Most of Malaysia’s coal is low in sulfur and ash, so it burns cleanly compared to coal from other countries.

While coal provides steady baseload power and Malaysia has good reserves, coal power is carbon-intensive. burning coal releases pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and heavy metals that can contaminate air and water resources. Malaysia plans to reduce reliance on coal over the long-term to meet climate goals.

Renewable Energy

Malaysia has been slowly increasing its adoption of renewable energy, particularly hydro, solar and biomass/biofuels. Hydroelectricity is the most significant renewable energy source, providing around 12% of Malaysia’s electricity generation capacity as of 2020. Large hydro plants like the Bakun dam provide the bulk of this capacity. However, environmental concerns around building large dams have limited growth in this area.

Solar energy is growing rapidly, with total PV capacity reaching 2.2 GW by the end of 2021. The government has set targets for rooftop solar to reach 3.4 GW by 2025. Solar is especially attractive for remote areas without grid access. Malaysia also has reasonable solar resources, averaging 4-5 kWh/m2/day.

Biomass from agricultural waste provides around 2% of Malaysia’s energy supply. Palm oil biomass is especially abundant and can be used for heat and power generation. The National Biomass Strategy 2020 aims to double biomass energy generation by 2030. Other sources like municipal solid waste are also being leveraged for waste-to-energy plants.

Overall, renewables have good potential for higher contributions to Malaysia’s energy mix. But growth has been held back by lack of funding support and policy incentives compared to fossil fuels. Clear renewable energy targets, feed-in tariffs and financing can help drive higher adoption going forward.

Nuclear Energy

Malaysia currently does not have any nuclear power plants. However, nuclear energy has been considered as a potential option to meet Malaysia’s growing energy needs and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

In 2010, the Malaysian government announced plans to build 2 nuclear power plants by 2021, each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. However, those plans were postponed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, which raised concerns about nuclear safety.

While nuclear power could provide steady baseload electricity supply, its feasibility and public acceptance in Malaysia remain questionable. Cost is a major factor, with nuclear power requiring very high upfront investments. There are also concerns about disposing of nuclear waste, risks of accidents, and securing nuclear facilities from terrorist attacks.

Public opinion on nuclear power in Malaysia is cautious. Surveys indicate limited public support of around 30-40%. The government has ruled out developing nuclear power plants until public concerns are addressed. More awareness campaigns and steps to build public trust in nuclear safety regulation would be needed before nuclear power adoption can gain wider acceptance in Malaysia.

Energy Efficiency

Malaysia has made efforts to improve energy efficiency and conservation in recent years. The government has implemented various policies and initiatives to reduce the country’s energy intensity, which is a measure of total energy consumption per unit of GDP. Some key efforts include:

Rolling out energy efficient lighting and appliances. Malaysia has phased out incandescent bulbs in favor of more efficient LED lighting. There have also been minimum energy performance standards implemented for air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances.

Promotinggreen building development. Tax incentives and other programs encourage developers and businesses to obtainGreen Building Index certification for new constructions.

Upgrading industrial equipment. The government has provided subsidies and loans to help industries invest in more energy efficient machinery and technologies.

Awareness campaigns. Initiatives like the Malaysia Energy Efficiency Improvement Program work to educate the public and industries on reducing energy usage.

Transportation improvements. Upgrading to more fuel efficient vehicles, biofuels and better public transportation helps decrease energy needs in the transport sector.

Overall, strong government support and private sector participation have driven progress in energy efficiency. But continued efforts will be needed for Malaysia to keep lowering its energy intensity as economic growth continues.

Energy Subsidies

Malaysia has historically provided extensive subsidies for fuel and electricity to support economic growth and help low-income households. Subsidized fuels include petrol, diesel, and liquified petroleum gas (LPG). Electricity tariffs are also subsidized for all customer groups, including domestic, commercial, and industrial users.

These subsidies impose a heavy fiscal burden on the government, costing over RM 20 billion annually. Critics argue the subsidies disproportionately benefit wealthier households who consume more energy. The subsidies also distort market pricing signals and encourage overconsumption.

To address these issues, Malaysia has undertaken several reforms. In 2010, the government rationalized gasoline and diesel subsidies by implementing a tiered pricing system indexed to global crude oil prices. For LPG, subsidy reductions were introduced in several stages. The government has also raised electricity tariffs, with plans for tariffs to eventually reflect market costs.

While these reforms have reduced subsidy costs, fuel and electricity prices in Malaysia remain below market rates. There are ongoing efforts to further reform energy subsidies to target low-income groups more precisely. Managing the impacts on inflation and living costs remains a challenge.

Energy Security

Malaysia relies heavily on imports for its energy needs, especially oil and gas. In 2018, Malaysia imported around 80% of its crude oil demand and 60% of its natural gas demand. This leaves Malaysia vulnerable to global price shocks and supply disruptions. Diversifying Malaysia’s energy mix with more renewable sources can improve energy security by reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Malaysia has made some progress in diversifying its energy resources beyond oil and gas. In recent years, coal has increased its share in power generation to around 40% in 2020. Renewables like solar, hydro and biomass supply around 8% of electricity. But there is still significant potential to scale up renewables and enhance energy security.

The government has set a target for renewables to reach 31% of installed capacity by 2025. This will require accelerating solar, hydro and bioenergy projects. The potential is there, especially for solar energy. With supportive policies, reduced costs and technological advances, Malaysia can tap its abundant solar resources to bolster energy security.

Electricity Generation

Malaysia’s electricity generation has grown steadily in recent years to meet rising demand. The country had about 30 GW of installed generation capacity in 2020, with thermal plants (gas, coal) accounting for over 70% of capacity. Hydroelectricity makes up about 19% of capacity.

Electricity demand is projected to continue growing around 3-5% annually through 2030, driven by industrialization, urbanization, population growth and rising living standards. Peak demand could reach about 45 GW by 2030.

To meet future demand, Malaysia is expanding generation capacity and diversifying its energy mix. The government has set targets to install over 20 GW of additional renewable capacity from solar, hydro, biomass and other sources by 2030. New combined cycle gas turbine plants are also being built.

Even with capacity expansion plans, Malaysia’s power reserves margins are projected to tighten from over 30% currently to around 20% by 2030. Ensuring sufficient generation capacity and reserves to meet peak demand during periods of high economic growth remains an important issue for policymakers.


Overall, Malaysia has made significant progress in working towards energy self-sufficiency, but still faces some key challenges. The country is a net exporter of oil and gas and has ample reserves of coal to meet domestic needs. However, Malaysia imports some refined petroleum products and is reliant on imports for the vast majority of its natural gas supply.

In recent years, Malaysia has invested heavily in renewable energy sources like solar, hydro and biomass. But renewables still only account for a small percentage of overall energy generation. Nuclear energy is currently not utilized in Malaysia.

While Malaysia has undertaken efforts to improve energy efficiency and reform fossil fuel subsidies, more work can be done to optimize energy usage across economic sectors. Energy security also remains an issue, as Malaysia depends heavily on maritime routes for imported fuel.

Going forward, boosting renewable energy capacity, enhancing efficiency, diversifying the energy mix and strengthening regional energy ties will be crucial for Malaysia to achieve greater self-sufficiency. Policymakers may consider additional incentives for renewables, minimum efficiency standards, demand-side management and upgrades to energy infrastructure.

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