Power sector in 2030
Renewable energy accounted for 17% of the power mix in 2019. To be 1.5°C compatible, renewables need to take a 73-77% share of the power generation mix by 2030 and around 100% by 2040.
The power sector needs to phase out fossil fuels. Coal accounted for 46% of the power mix in 2019. Coal generation in the power sector has grown 86% between 2010 and 2018.5 The Generation Development Plan (2021-2039) intends to reduce coal capacity by 4.2 GW by 2029 although there is 2.8 GW of new coal fired capacity in the pipeline.4 To be 1.5°C compatible, Malaysia would need to phase out coal by 2035, requiring new planned plants to be scrapped, and current capacity retired within 14 years.
Gas represented 37% of the power mix in 2019. Gas would need to be phased out by 2035-2038 to be 1.5°C compatible. However, the Generation Development Plan plans to bring new gas plants online by 2029, four more plants by 2030, and more still post 2030.4
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
The power sector could be fully decarbonised by around 2040. In 2019, the power emissions intensity was 660 gCO₂/kWh. A 1.5°C pathway would see this reduced to 140-170 gCO₂/kWh by 2030 and net negative up to -30 gCO₂/kWh by 2050.23
The decarbonisation of the power sector would be driven by the acceleration of renewable energy, as renewables would represent 100% of the power mix by 2040.
Focusing on renewable energy in the power sector would reduce the need to rely on negative emissions technology which are unproven at scale and costly.
A rapid acceleration of renewable energy uptake would require Malaysia to cancel gas plans and focus on scaling up the renewable energy and solar targets. As other sectors are electrified, demand side management in a whole of system approach can support the management of grid stability.
An additional option would be to upgrade the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia interconnection to leverage renewable energy from other countries and support power system stability. The interconnection represents 1% of the capacity mix in 2021.4
1 The Edge Markets. Environment ministry to develop LT-LEDS for UNFCCC consideration. The Edge Markets. (2021).
2 Global Forest Watch. Malaysia Interactive Forest Map & Tree Cover Change Data. (2021).
3 WWF. Deforestation Fronts, Drivers and Responses in a Changing World. (WWF, 2021).
4 Malaysia Government. Report on Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020 (2021 – 2039). (2021).
5 IEA. Malaysia. International Energy Agency. (2021).
6 Ministry of Environment and Water. Malaysia Third Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC. (2020).
7 Greenpeace. Southeast Asia Power Sector Scorecard.(2020).
8 British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. BMCC Sector Report 2018/2019: oil, Gas & Energy. (2018).
9 Susskind, L. et al. Breaking Out of Carbon Lock-In: Malaysia’s Path to Decarbonization. Front. Built Environ. 6, 21 (2020).
10 KeTTHA. Green Technology Master Plan Malaysia 2017-2030. (2017).
11 Mustapa, S. I. & Bekhet, H. A. Analysis of CO2 emissions reduction in the Malaysian transportation sector: An optimisation approach. Energy Policy 89, 171–183 (2016).
12 Shaikh, P. H. et al. Building energy for sustainable development in Malaysia: A review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 75, 1392–1403 (2017).
13 Suruhanjaya Tenaga (Energy Commission). Malaysia Energy Statistics Handbook 2019. (2019).
14 PIK. The PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series. (2021).
15 Lee, J. Affordable EVs in Malaysia – how cheap can electric cars be priced with zero import, excise and road tax? (2021).
16 Malaysia Government. Malaysia Third National Communication and Second Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC. (2018).
17 Using Global Warming Potential AR4.
18 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.
19 LULUCF emissions are projected to be -227 MtCO₂e in 2030 following a business-as-usual scenario reported in Malaysia’s Second Biennial Report.
20 As stated in the NDC. However, Malaysia participated in the Clean Development Mechanism and Voluntary Carbon Market, but these are not accounted as national mitigation actions as noted in the Biennial Report 3.
21 Fuel-efficient vehicles is defined as hybrid, electric vehicles and alternatively fuelled vehicles such as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen and fuel cell.
22 The total financial support required totals USD 71,900,000, in additional to technical and capacity building support.
23 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
Malaysiaʼs power mix
terawatt-hour per year
- Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
- Unabated fossil
- Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
- Renewables incl. biomass
Malaysiaʼs power sector emissions and carbon intensity
- Historical emissions
- High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
- Low energy demand
- SSP1 High CDR reliance
- SSP1 Low CDR reliance
1.5°C compatible power sector benchmarks
Carbon intensity, renewable generation share, and fossil fuel generation share from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for Malaysia
Decarbonised power sector by
Carbon intensity of power
140 to 170
−30 to 0
Relative to reference year in %
−79 to −74%
−104 to −100%
Year of phase-out
Share of unabated coal
7 to 11
Share of unabated gas
12 to 14
2035 to 2038
Share of renewable energy
73 to 77
99 to 100
Share of unabated fossil fuel
23 to 27
0 to 1
Demand shifting towards the power sector
Across the set of 1.5°C pathways that we have analysed, annual investments in renewable energy excluding BECCS increase in Malaysia to be on the order of USD 3 to 17 billion by 2030 and 5 to 30 billion by 2040 depending on the scenario considered. . The ‘high energy demand, low CDR reliance’ pathway shows a particularly high increase in renewable capacity investments, which could be driven by an increase of electrification of end-use sectors, growing energy demand, and expansion of electricity access. Other modelled pathways have relatively lower investments in renewables and rely to varying degrees on other technologies and measures such as energy efficiency and negative emissions technologies, of which the latter can require high up-front investments.
Malaysiaʼs renewable electricity investments
Billion USD / yr
Yearly investment requirements in renewable energy
The 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed here tend to show a strong increase in power generation and installed capacities across time. This is because end-use sectors (such as transport, buildings or industry) are increasingly electrified under 1.5°C compatible pathways, shifting energy demand to the power sector. Globally, the “high energy demand” pathway entails a particularly high degree of renewable energy-based electrification across the various sectors, and sees a considerable increase in renewable energy capacities over time. See the power section for capacities deployment under the various models.