2023 Volume 11 Pages 54-75
The effort of electrifying Sarawak also comes with challenges mainly caused by geographic and demographic factors. Sarawak’s population scatters over a wide spatial area, where families inhabit small villages located in areas of challenging terrains and thick jungles. As a result, electrification through grid connection becomes infeasible and uneconomic. Biogas has immense potential to contribute to energy supply, especially in rural areas. It not only reduces waste but can also be used in generating electricity and subsequently reduces the dependency on fossil fuels. Approximately 993,000 hectares of Sarawak land were planted with oil palm in 2019. The predicted biogas generation from palm oil mill effluent (POME) could create enough electricity to power nearly 2 million rural Sarawak households, in which the Sarawak population in 2020 was 2.9 million. The lagoon system and continuous stirred tank reactor are common technologies used in biogas production. Other technologies used in biogas production are the fixed dome reactor from the Chinese model and the floating dome reactor from the Indian model. The standard technology involves the combustion of biogas in a heat engine called an internal combustion engine to produce heat to generate steam that drives a turbine for electricity generation. This work studied a new biogas utilisation method, fuel cell technology. Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) has high efficiency of up to 60% and is generally more prominent than conventional combustion of biogas in a gas engine to generate electricity. With the continual development of biogas fuel cells, a great prospect is predicted for rural areas of Sarawak in biogas production and utilisation. Thus, biogas could contribute a larger role in contributing to a higher renewable energy mix and rural electrification in Sarawak.