Trailblazing Sustainable Energy: Milestones on the Sabah Roadmap

By: Leona Wai, Malaysia Program Coordinator, Green Empowerment 

Overview of the Sabah Roadmap

The Sabah Renewable Energy Rural Electrification Roadmap (SabahRE2) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to achieve universal energy access in Sabah, Malaysia, through renewable mini-grids, fostering equity, livelihoods, and overall well-being. In a region where 72% of rural Malaysians lack electricity access, SabahRE2 confronts the challenge of powering communities situated far from the state grid, prompting the exploration of renewable energy solutions. Led by Forever Sabah, TONIBUNG, PACOS Trust, Green Empowerment, and ENACT, SabahRE2 launched its mission in August 2021.

State Government Embraces the Roadmap

Two years after the initiation of SabahRE2, the project gained the full support of the State. In September 2023, the Energy Commission of Sabah (ECoS) released the Sabah Energy Roadmap & Master Plan 2040 (SE-RAMP 2040), aiming for 100% clean electrification by 2040 and 100% rural electrification for Sabah by the end of 2030, with SabahRE2 integrated as a crucial component.

The state’s comprehensive strategy outlines pathways to ensure that Sabah attains reliable, affordable, and clean energy, prioritizing the transition to renewable sources like solar and wind power. It also represents a notable advancement in integrating rural and indigenous communities into climate change solutions, potentially setting a precedent for other states to follow.

Pilot Project: Dagat, Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia

Situated within the boundary of Tabin Wildlife Reserve and oil palm plantations, the remote village of Dagat is home to the Tidung community, comprising 243 residents and 20 houses. Their livelihood revolves around gathering forest, river, and sea products. Relying previously on fossil-fueled generators for electricity, the community faced limitations, running the generator for only a few hours a day. However, with the introduction of solar PV systems, a transformative shift has occurred.

TONIBUNG, Forever Sabah, PNB, Yayasan Hijau iscussed the plan for the solar PV system, the work plan and timeline of the project with the Dagat community.

Capacity Building

In March 2023, site surveys and community engagement initiated the groundwork for installing solar PV systems and socio-econogy center in Dagat. With active community involvement, TONIBUNG and Forever Sabah led implementation and project management, while PACOS Trust oversaw community organizing and training. Green Empowerment provided technical expertise through Smart Grid monitoring device installation, demand tool testing, and financial modeling.

Despite their daily responsibilities, community members actively engaged in every aspect of the project, from construction to training on system maintenance and operation. Training sessions covered the installation of transmission and distribution lines, house meters, and wiring. Community members with electrical backgrounds, who worked outside the village, returned to provide additional training and assistance. Moreover, a renewable energy committee was established, with members undergoing comprehensive training in leadership, management, financial, and technical aspects. This capacity-building effort was crucial to enable the community to effectively manage and operate their solar PV system.

Left: Construction of the socio-economy center were done together with the community through communal work. Right: Community members were trained to installed transmission and distribution line, as well as house meter and wiring.

The official handover of the solar PV system and socio-economic center to the Dagat community in October 2023 marked a significant milestone in their journey towards sustainable development.

Empowering Economic Ventures

LEAP Spiral could only support a 5kW solar array charging 10kWh of battery storage, but thanks to the Dagat community’s resilience and dedication, they managed to fundraise an additional RM20,000, doubling the system’s storage capacity to 20kWh. This amazing effort has motivated and empowered nearby unelectrified communities like Pitas Laut to take on the community renewable energy project.

Today, the 20-kW solar PV system in Dagat powers 20 houses (243 Residents), a mosque, a community hall, and a cold storage facility, providing round-the-clock clean and affordable energy. The cold storage unit has transformed the fishing industry by allowing fishermen to store their catch for longer, saving them money on ice purchases. Additionally, revenue from selling ice blocks, ice cream, and cold drinks to nearby villages and tourists has increased the community’s income, especially the women’s group. With 24/7 electricity, the women’s group aspires to venture into new seafood products and attend more training on food processing and marketing to expand their business.

Left: The five chest freezers in the socio-economy centre. Right: The women’s group were discussing business plans for their potential products.

Community-Driven Sustainability: Illuminating Sabah’s Path to Clean Energy

The success of Dagat and inspiration to surrounding communities highlights the state of Sabah’s ambitious energy vision in the SE-RAMP 2040. In the Sabah Roadmap Project, Dagat is just one of seven pilot projects that the Sabah Roadmap team is working on in phase one of the roadmap. The 10-year Roadmap looks forward to 203 more of similar community-led renewable energy systems. With positive impacts on livelihoods, economic empowerment, and environmental sustainability, it’s evident that the journey towards 100% clean electrification in Sabah begins with grassroots initiatives. 

As stakeholders, Green Empowerment proudly supports Sabah’s commitment to inclusive development and looks forward to replicating Dagat’s success statewide. Through community engagement, capacity building, and collaboration, we aim to ensure every corner of Sabah enjoys reliable, affordable, and clean energy benefits.

Solar PV system handing over ceremony with Dagat community

Leave a Comment

Search Our Archives

Countries & Services