Potential for pumped hydro energy storage in Malaysia

Group of people standing in front of the camera
Professor Andrew Blakers (centre) from ANU with H.E. Dr. Justin Lee, Australian Ambassador to Malaysia, and participants at the Pumped Hydro Energy Storage workshop in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia is exploring the use of pumped hydro energy storage and drawing on Australian expertise to support its energy transition.

A series of three workshops have been delivered by Professor Andrew Blakers from the Australian National University (ANU) to build the capacity of Malaysian energy professionals on pumped hydro energy storage (PHES). The final workshop was held in Kuala Lumpur on 2 March 2023 and brought together representatives from Malaysian energy agencies and academia.

H.E. Dr. Justin Lee, Australian Ambassador to Malaysia, delivered opening remarks and commended the sharing of knowledge between the two countries to advance the region’s path to net-zero.

“Our region and people benefit when our two countries work together,” Ambassador Lees said.

“Today’s workshop brings together technical specialists from the clean energy ecosystem to learn how pumped hydro energy can help solve a very important component of the region’s clean energy transformation, which is the storage of green energy.”

The workshops were initiated following a request for Australian support from Malaysian electricity utility, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), to conduct research into the potential of PHES in Malaysia and support its Sustainability Pathway 2050. The Australian Government, through Partnerships for Infrastructure, provided a grant to the ANU to undertake the study in collaboration with TNB Research.

Speaking on BFM radio during his visit, Professor Blakers outlined the potential for Malaysia to adopt more renewable energy, such as solar and wind, combined with pumped hydro energy storage. 

“Malaysia has vast numbers of pumped hydro reservoir sites,” he said. “Pumped hydro is the technology of choice – about 95% of all energy storage is pumped hydro, mostly based on rivers. However, there are about 4,000 potential sites in Malaysia for off-river pumped hydro.” 

Professor Blakers is considered an expert in PHES and a recent recipient of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for the invention and development of Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell solar photovoltaic technology. He is part of a team of ANU researchers who have identified more than 600,000 potential sites across the world for low-cost PHES to support future renewable energy needs.

Australia already has three river-based pumped hydro energy storage facilities, with construction of the large-scale Snowy 2.0 Pumped Hydro Project currently underway in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales.

With increases in variable renewable electricity generation, there is a need for large-scale energy storage. Pumped hydro energy storage is considered a low-cost efficient solution for storing energy for longer periods.

Two reservoirs or dams are positioned at different elevations to store water and are connected by a tunnel or pipe. Water is pumped to the upper reservoir when there is surplus renewable energy production and demand for energy is low, and then released back to the lower dam to generate energy when electricity demand is high.

Listen to Professor Blakers discuss renewable energy trends in Australia on BFM radio in Malaysia

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