Rapid economic growth sustained in Southeast Asia throughout the new millennium has led to a surge in large-scale infrastructure projects to facilitate industrial productivity and consumption. The state of Sarawak, located along the northern coast of the island of Borneo, is the poorest and most rural state in Malaysia but has long been a focal point for large-scale hydroelectric power. At least six dams were scheduled to be completed in Sarawak by 2020 as part of a high hydro potential corridor in central Sarawak. These forests have undisputed global and local significance ecologically, biologically and culturally.
My academic advisers for this work were: Professor Daniel Kammen, Professor Duncan Callaway and Professor Nancy Peluso. In collaboration with local grass roots renewable project developers and river protection groups, we explored the potential for clean energy alternatives in the state through an integration of modeling tools that I prepared:
- I model long-term utility scale electricity generation alternatives in East Malaysia to determine trade-offs across different technologies using an optimization and simulation modeling program;
- I explore the potential for rural communities in dam affected areas to satisfy energy access needs using local resources by modeling micro-grid potential;
- I demonstrate a rapid assessment method for estimating the impact of mega-projects on biodiversity using a Spatial Modeling approach.
Each of these studies provided information useful to the discussion of alternatives and furthers the analysis of green economy costs and benefits. Our published findings directly influenced policy discussions at the Ministerial level and a moratorium against the Baram Dam was announced in 2015.