Friday, February 28, 2014

Malaysia's richest people in 2014

Here is a bit of a source of motivation for the weekend. Not just the amount of cash we are talking about, but the story behind their wealth.

The 10 richest people in Malaysia is listed below, and for a complete narration about the privileged few, head on to Forbes website.

Malaysia's richest men 2013
Malaysia's richest men 2013

Billionaire Robert Kuok once again led the list of the richest people in Malaysia for the ninth time in a row with a fortune of US$11.5 billion, down US$1 billion from last year.

According to the latest list of Malaysia's richest person by Forbes, Kuok has led the pack since 2006 when Forbes began ranking the richest Malaysians.


Submission of income tax Forms through e-filing starts on Sunday, March 2

For taxpayers like you and me, it's wise to get things done early.

You can start submitting your Income Tax Return Form for the Year of Assessment 2013, through e-filing starting Sunday.

The Inland Revenue Board (LHDN) said in a statement Thursday that the dateline for employers (Form E) is March 31, while for residents and non-residents with non-business income (Form BE and M), it is April 30.

The deadline for residents and non-residents with business income (Form B and M) as well as partnerships (Form P) is June 30.

For queries and further information, contact the LHDN call centre at 1-300-88-3010 or log on to the LHDN website at The same dates apply for manual submission.

It is a job you and me need to fulfill. So, let's pay what is due.

Source: Inland Revenue Board, LHDN

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Japan FIT changes could see the end of Residential PV Program

Japan will announce its new FIT rates sometime in March and it will become effective April 1, 2014.

And the policy change may affect the growth of the Japanese PV market, according to Renewable Energy World (REW). To re-cap, the current support from the government on residential in terms of rebate and feed-in tariff (FIT) programs, has made Japan one of the world's top markets.

End of residential PV program?

The national residential PV subsidy program which started 20 years ago will be ended. When the program closes its door in March 2014, it is expected to have solarized over 1.5 million residential roofs, or added about 6 GW-worth of PV capacity, in Japan.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is world's thinnest and lightest

Sony has announced the new Xperia Tablet Z2 that it claimed the world's thinnest and lightest waterproof tablet.

It's a lighter, thinner version of the older Xperia Tablet Z, which has been given a thorough upgrade in order to help it take on the iPad Air and larger Samsung. By comparison, the iPad Air weighs 478g and measures 7.5 mm in thickness.

World's thinnest and lightest. My current iPad 3 weighs 662g; it's a monster!

Sony Xperia Z2 tablet Specifications

OS and Processor
Google Android 4.4 (Kitkat)
2.3 GHz Qualcomm APQ8074+MSM8974AB Quad-core
Adreno 320
439 grams
15.49 oz
172 x 266 x 6.4 mm
6.8 x 10.47 x 0.25 inches
8.1 MP
16 x digital zoom
Front-facing camera (2.2 MP 1080p)
10.1" TFT
16,777,216 colours, 1920 x 1200 pixels
Memory RAM: 3 GB
Flash memory: Up to 16 GB
Expansion slot: microSD™ card, up to 64 GB
IPX5/IPX8 (waterproof) & IP5X (dust resistant)

Availability and price

The new Xperia Z2 Tablet is scheduled to go on sale in Europe in March 2014. No news on wider availability yet, so, we may not be able to see this in Malaysia anytime soon.

The older version was selling for RM1,499 and RM1,999 depending on model. That means you are looking at a starting price of not less than RM1,499 when it lands here.

TheGreenMechanics: Some say the iPad is overrated price-wise. There may be some point to such argument, but I think user experience also play a big part in selecting the suitable tablet. I've tried both iPad and Android-run tabs and I still prefer my current iPad 3.

The Xperia Z2 looks decent though, and it could be a game changer, especially now that Sony has stopped producing laptop and putting more effort in refining its mobile devices.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kumpulan Melaka to build second Solar PV farm this year

We have nothing but admiration for Melaka's determination and quest for more energy generated from renewable sources. Latest in its list of green technology initiative is the proposed RM20 mil second solar farm.

Last year, Kumpulan Melaka Berhad opened the country's first state-owned solar farm. The 5 MW solar photovoltaic farm involved an investment of about RM46 million.

Launching of Melaka's first solar PV farm in 2012 by then Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam. NST pic.

The solar farm was created in three phases: The first (1.3MW) was completed in April 2013, second phase (1.22MW) in May 2013 and the final phase of 2.48MW was completed in August 2013.

Second solar farm to cost RM20 million

Kumpulan Melaka Bhd is investing approximately RM20 million to build and operate its second solar farm in Melaka this year.

Technical Manager KhairulEzuan Harun said the new solar farm is projected to have two megawatts (MWp) of solar photovoltaic (PV) sprawled on 2.8 hectares.

The solar valley would apply solar energy as the primary alternative activities for all sectors which would encompass land development, research, innovation and commercialisation, he said.

"However, the solar farm project is also subject to Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia (SEDA) quota as they need to get more funds," he told Bernama.

SEDA will set a quota on the amount of solar power systems that can be installed in every six months. KhairulEzuan said SEDA has yet to announce when the new quota will be released but once the quota is unveiled, the group will proceed with the project.

All power generated by the solar farm will be sold to power giant Tenaga Nasional Bhd, and the electricity will be channelled directly into the National Power Grid.

Late last year, the Melaka state government launched the first state-owned 5MWp solar PV farm in the country, which cost RM46 million. The solar farm, built on a 7.2ha site at the Rembia Industrial Park is one of the five key projects realising Melaka's ambition to become a green technology city-state by 2020.

The park was created in three phases. The first phase, to produce 1.3MW electricity, was completed in April last year, followed by 1.22MW electricity under the second phase in May last year and the final phase of 2.48MW in August last year.

The first solar farm in Melaka, which is expected to create 45,000 jobs, is poised to contribute a total of RM118 million of gross national income for 21 years, he added. - Sourced from: Bernama, January 30, 2014.

TheGreenMechanics' two cents:

The date for the release and volume of the new renewable energy quota for 2014 under the FIT programme will be announced by SEDA next month, during the International Sustainable Energy Summit.

Big RE players such as Kumpulan Melaka, Cypark, etc., would be eyeing for big chunk of the pie but let's hope everyone has equal chance of getting the cut. The non-individual quota is the one that would be snapped up as soon as it is announced. 

There should be mechanism in place to enable more organisations to take part in the green technology initiative. Attempt by some to win big quota and then distributing them to others in umbrella concept must be curtailed.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Higher rate of use of alternatives, but Cash is still king in Singapore

40 percent of consumers in Singapore prefer paying with paper for daily spending, according to Nielsen's Global Survey.

39 percent of those who pay with plastic instead of paper use their credit card, 14% use their debit card and 2% use their prepaid card for daily expenses.

"Cash only!" 40% of consumers in Singapore prefer cash for daily spending.

In comparison, respondents in other ASEAN countries use cash payment in the following order:

  • 74% in Philippines depend on cash payment, 
  • 68% in Thailand
  • 61% in Vietnam
  • 60% in Malaysia
  • 51 % in Indonesia
  • (40% in Singapore)

Singaporeans shop on the web

49% of Singaporean respondents are comfortable shopping on the web. These shoppers use their payment card on smartphone and tablet device if they are sure their personal information is safe.

22% of Singaporean respondents said they may consider using their credit or debit cards for online payment. 29% consumers in the city declined using their cards on either a smartphone or tablet.

"There are opportunities to extend the usage of cash alternatives in Singapore, especially among consumers who rely more on cash payments, such as older consumers and less affluent consumers, for those transactions that are still predominantly paid for in cash."
- Luca Griseri, Head of Financial Services, Nielsen Singapore and Malaysia. 

Competitive credit card market 

Issuers of credit card have become very competitive as they are trying to encourage consumers to use their cards more often. Singaporeans use more than three cards more often in contrast to consumers in other Southeast Asia nations. 

In Singapore, many options are available to consumers who want to pay without cash, such as contactless technology, but it is important to understand the barriers and reasons why many consumers in Singapore prefer cash over credit cards, noted Nelsen's survey.

Source: CM

TheGreenMechanics: We were in Singapore last December and we preferred credit card over cash as it was convenient and many establishments give incentive, such  as discount, for payment with card.

Back in Malaysia, I tend to spend more when I use credit card, so, I pay with cash most of the time.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 to be available in March 2014 for $449.99(RM1,649)

Samsung announced this week that the long-awaited update to its Galaxy Camera will become available for US$449.99 in mid-March (about RM1,649).

I bought my Galaxy Camera last year for RM1,490. It was retailed for RM1,699 but street price went down to about RM1,500 after being in the market for one year.

Galaxy camera 2
Galaxy Camera 2: Not too much of an update, just looking more sleek.

Galaxy camera 2
Galaxy Camera (old): Bulky, bigger than most compact cameras.

The Galaxy Camera 2 is built around the premise of integrating apps and other features typically found on handsets. The camera will run on Android 4.3, and have a 4.8-inch LCD screen and a quad-core processor. 

The new camera is a followup to the original Galaxy Camera, which was bulky and oversized compared to other point and shoot cameras. At 283 grams, the new camera is lighter and more portable. The older version weighs 300g.

Features and Specs

With a 16.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, the camera has a 21x optical zoom and up to 3200 ISO. The device will have 8GB of internal storage (the older one has 4GB), and a micro-SD slot that can accommodate storage cards of up to 64GB. 

The camera will be able to shoot full high-definition video at a 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution and 30 frames per second. It will shoot video in AVI, MP4, MKV, FLV, WEBM and WMV formats. The camera has also advanced its predecessor's connectivity features, so images can be transferred more easily. 

Like smartphones, it will have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC so the camera can connect to other devices wirelessly. Users will also be able to access Google's online services such as the Play app and media store, Maps, Hangouts and YouTube. 

The smartphone interface on the Galaxy Camera 2 makes it easy to share files with the company's TVs and mobile devices. Samsung's Kies software will allow transfer of pictures from one device to another.

Source: CM

AirAsia should be allowed to operate at KKIA Terminal 2

My wife and I travelled to Kuching for a short trip today. AirAsia is the obvious choice as right now it is not peak season and you can get very good deal from the low cost carrier.

On board AirAsia's Airbus

Terminal 2 of Kota Kinabalu International Airport is quite modest in comparison to Terminal 1 - without aerobridge, lacking the luxury amenities but the basic ones are all there.

Aircrafts taking off and landing at KKIA use the same strip of land at the airport. The difference is the entry/exit point. T1 is more equipped and handles more carriers, and understandably charges more in airport tax.

AirAsia said the airport tax at T1 is RM65 and I agree, for a traveling family of 6 this would be quite costly when compared to the off-peak ticket prices to selected destinations which can be as low as RM19 - RM99.

On the one hand, AirAsia has every right to shift its operations elsewhere cheaper. On the other hand it owes Sabah (at least) socially because Sabah did help him when he started up the company and no one was willing to finance him.

KKIA Terminal 2
Terminal 2 seen from the ascending plane.

Most important is affordability

Quarters who supported Malaysia Airport's insistence that AirAsia must move to T1 contended that AirAsia should absorb some of the higher cost of operating from the terminal. But I believe consumers too, have the right to have access to more favourable traveling costs. If cheaper tickets can only be made possible at T2, then retain it. Let AirAsia operate from there.

Many travelers are willing to fly without all the frills available on more costly ones like MAS, SIA, etc., and pay cheaper fares. Don't take that away from them!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Malaysia's EPF dividend payout from 2000 to 2013

Malaysia's  Employees Provident Fund or Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja (KWSP) as it is known in Bahasa Melayu, is the world's sixth-largest pension pool. It caters mainly for the private sector.

For 2013, EPF declared a dividend rate of 6.35%, its highest in over a decade.

We should be delighted, but we also hope that the government would maintain the law to enable people to withdraw  their savings at age 55, employed or otherwise.

The following is the historical dividend payout for the past 14 years:

EPF dividend: 2000 - 2013

Source: Kumpulan Wang Simpanan Pekerja (KWSP), Infographics by: Astro Awani 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pretty interesting: Something you might have not known and need toknow !

I got this from my colleague.

We may not be sure if they have been proven to work but some are really simple that there is no harm in trying. Out of curiousity, I might try out one or two, especially the Ant Problem and the Chewing Gum on Clothes.

Here we go (I share them exactly as they appear when I receive them, no less no more):-

🐜 Ants Problem:
"Ants hate Cucumbers. KEEP the skin of Cucumbers near the place where they are or at Ant Hole"

πŸ—» To Get Pure & Clean Ice:
"Boil Water first before placing in the Freezer"

πŸŽ† To make the Mirror Shine:
"Clean with Sprite"

πŸ’¨ To remove Chewing Gum from Clothes:
"Keep the Cloth in the Freezer for One Hour"

πŸ’­ To Whiten White Clothes:
"Soak White Clothes in hot water with a Slice of Lemon for 10 Minutes"

πŸ™‡ To give a Shine to your Hair:
"Add one Teaspoon of Vinegar to Hair, then wash Hair"

πŸ‹ To get maximum Juice out of Lemons:
"Soak Lemons in Hot Water for One Hour, and then juice them"

🍞 To avoid smell of Cabbage while cooking:
"Keep a piece of Bread on the Cabbage in the Vessel while cooking"

πŸ˜‚ To avoid Tears while cutting Onions πŸ‘:
"Chew Gum"

🍲 To boil Potatoes quickly:
"Skin one Potato from one side only before boiling"

πŸ‘• To remove Ink from Clothes:
"Put Toothpaste πŸ₯ on the Ink Spots generously and let it dry completely, then wash"

🍠 To skin Sweet Potatoes quickly:
"Soak in Cold Water immediately after boiling"

πŸ€ To get rid of Mice or Rats:
"Sprinkle Black Pepper in places where you find Mice & Rats. They will run away"

🍸 Take Water Before Bedtime..
"About 90% of Heart Attacks occur Early in the Morning & it can be reduced if one takes a Glass or two of Water before going to bed at Night"

πŸ’ We Know Water is important but never knew about the Special Times one has to drink it.. !!

Did you ???

πŸ’¦ Drinking Water at the Right Time ⏰ Maximizes its effectiveness on the Human Body:

1⃣ 1 Glass of Water after waking up - πŸ••⛅ helps to activate internal organs..

2⃣ 1 Glass of Water 30 Minutes πŸ•§ before a Meal - helps digestion..

3⃣ 1 Glass of Water before taking a Bath 🚿 - helps lower your blood pressure.

4⃣ 1 Glass of Water before going to Bed - πŸ•™ avoids Stroke or Heart Attack.

πŸƒ Chinese Proverb Says:
'When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, You have a moral obligation to share it with others too.'

I've done mine !

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Beaufort flood and pledge for assistance

I got these pics via mobile application, WhatsApp, from a friend who has some on-going works in Beaufort.

The flood there is no doubt one of the worse ones the folks had to endure in many years. Other than Beaufort, the other two districts in Sabah that are currently badly hit by flood are Tenom and Keningau.

The Daily Express front page today, 17-02-2014

There is already pledge from the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development to help rebuild the houses of those affected. Also, the state government will look at the plight of the people in these flood-hit districts.

Importantly, and most appropriately, our Prime Minister should move in and assure the people of Beaufort, Keningau and Tenom that similar financial assistance would be given to them, just as those in Kedah, Terengganu, Kelantan and Johor few months back.

I don't see why they would not be entitled to such assistance.

Here are some pictures:

There are also bird eye views of the flooded Beaufort but I would not share those here.

It's that bad and it should make headlines in the many national TVs.

6 tips for smartphone privacy and security

You own a smartphone, or perhaps two.

Do you know that our smartphones track wherever we go, what we say, who we say it to, our likes and dislikes, and when we are playing games instead of working? And that our computers track and record the same types of information day in and day out?

There is a long literature written by R.Kaplan in the Computerworld, a link which I have provided at the end of this article. You can scroll right down if you are interested, but if you are more for tips then these are the 6 that was recommended:

Note: I found Iip no.2 to be particularly useful but it'd cost more. How about Item no.6? I think many people enjoy doing them. I see that all the time on Facebook - "Currently enjoying dinner at...", etc.

1. Make sure you continually ask yourself when using mobile devices

Ask yourself, "Do I care if anyone knows this?" where "this" means where you are, what's in the photos, what I am searching for on Google, that I am watching a movie, that I am telling a joke, or a host of other information you are producing.

2. Isolate your professional life from your personal life

While it is clearly more convenient for you to use a single device for dual purposes, realize that if you maintain the integrity of your devices you will be able to shield irrelevant and personal information from business interrogations.

While this is not ideal, it is light years better that being questioned about the homophobic, sexist, or racist joke you sent to your brother last year.

3. Keep some privileged or confidential information on your devices

While this will not likely keep your devices free from prying eyes, it will necessitate the need to implement more costly procedures in the examination of your devices which protect the integrity and character of your information.

4. Control the number and location of backups

The existence and locations of backup media can often be discovered in an examination of a device. If these backups are discovered by a competent examiner, you will be forced to produce them.

5. Don't try to fool the professionals by hiding or deleting information

Be aware that the courts have tools for punishing those who get caught. Since you likely have little idea of the operating characteristics of all the applications and the operating system running on your device, you are not capable of discreetly eliminating data from your device.

6. Quit posting everything you do on social networking sites

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and the like are fun, but can prove dangerous to your privacy. If you do post information on social networking sites make certain you use the privacy settings so that you can limit who has access to your information on an ongoing basis and so you can demonstrate your desire for privacy to a court if it orders your information production.

At least don't use your common identity (your first and last name) to catalogue your information.

This was written by Ronald Kaplan for Computerworld and if you would like to read more, you can hop to this link.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Malaysia healthcare system is third best in the world

This is something nice to read from a foreign publication.

A US magazine, International Living rated Malaysia's healthcare system as the third best out of 24 countries in its 2014 Global Retirement Index. It also mentioned that Malaysia is Asia's best place to retire. Go ahead, read it!

This prompted our prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to tweet saying Malaysia should be proud as its healthcare system is one of the best in the world.

PM Najib: "Malaysia scores third best out of 24 countries in International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index 2014. We should be proud!"

Malaysia ranked third in 2014

A study by the American publication, International Living, rates Malaysia's healthcare system as the third best out of 24 countries in its 2014 Global Retirement Index, beating Spain, Italy, Ireland and New Zealand, among other countries.

Malaysia was listed as third place after it scored 95 out of a possible 100 points. The top two countries, France and Uruguay, scored 97 and 96 points respectively.

The index, which was recently released by the Baltimore-based magazine, praised Malaysia's healthcare as the medical expertise of Malaysian healthcare practitioners is equal to or better than what it is in most Western countries.

"It's a bargain"

In its previous publication, International Living provided the following infographic to compare the Healthcare Costs in 7  Top Oversea Havens. Really, compared to other places with similarly world-class equipment, medical care in Malaysia is "a bargain" as some expats described it.

Source: International Living

TheGreenMechanics: You should be proud. A little, if you like. Although you may complain once in a while (ahem.., infact too much at times).

Sources: Bernama, International Living

Penang government to create 'mobile community'

Penang government has signed Malaysia's first state-level collaboration with a private entity in an initiative aimed at getting across messages from the state government to Penangites and "bridging the communication gap between the two parties".

Sounds innovative to me, if it can really cut cost and be effective at the same time.

"We are going mobile". Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (2nd left) with XOX officials.
Photo: Computerworld Malaysia

First such 'mobile community' in Malaysia

Under an agreement with a private company, XOX, a mobile communication platform would be put in place to create mobile community, which includes free SMS (text messaging) blasting services for all Penangites.

It is said that this initiative would cut administration cost, apart from building closer link to the people.

"The Penang State government has the capability to reach 200,000 individual citizens through direct SMS within the first year of this partnership with a total estimated 2.27million SMSes to be sent out."
- Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister.

Penangites informed, and connected

There are other upcoming collaborations with the State of Penang, which includes providing free Penang tourism information for selected tourist packs, free mobile Internet and extended validity for selected segments such as youth and senior citizens, as well as special call and SMS rates exclusively for the Penang people.

It was reported that the service from XOX is offered for free and will enable the Penang State government to save a great amount in expenses, which is estimated to be RM180,000  (around US$54,209) a year.

Source: CM

Pakistan solar PV to add 772 MW to national grid

Like Malaysia, solar power is quite new in Pakistan.

But if what had been reported is to materialise, Pakistan is on course to develop 772 MW of solar power over the next two years. This is more than what what we will have in Malaysia over the course of 2 years, although we have much more attractive FIT rates.

Ground-mounted solar PV installation in Pakistan. Image: pv-magazine

Pakistan to add 772 MW of solar power by 2016

Pakistan will add 772 MW of solar power to its national grid by 2016, according to figures released by the country's Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

There are currently 22 individual solar power projects either under construction or at various stages of development across Pakistan, with a number of these projects awaiting an agreement on a national FIT.

NEPRA has now published its final FIT incentives for PV projects between 1 MW and 100 MW. In the north of Pakistan the FIT will be set at $0.18 cents per kWh (about RM0.60) for an initial ten-year period, halving after that time to just $0.09 cents per kWh (about RM0.30) for the next 15 years.

In Pakistan's southern regions, the FIT incentive comes in a little more generously, at $0.19 cents per kWh for the first ten years, but falling to below $0.09 cents per kWh thereafter.

By comparison, Malaysia's FIT rate for solar PV (as of February 2014) are as follows:
  • RM0.5440 (about US$0.16) for 21 years - installation size of 10MW to 30MW
  • RM1.0411 (about US$0.31) for 21 years - small installations size of up to 4kW

Pakistan is also pursuing a number of renewable energy projects for the country’s national grid, and has pledged its backing to the solar industry and the wind industry – the latter of which has an estimated 150 MW pipeline in the offing.

The country is set to embark on a campaign to promote the installation of residential rooftop PV systems designed for self-consumption.

Source: pv-magazine

NEPRA - National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Pakistan)
AEDB - Alternative Energy Development Board (Pakistan)

The Green Mechanics: We may well be overtaken by Pakistan simply because we are too comfortable with the current cheap, subsidised prices of energy generated from fossil fuels and in the end making RE ventures, particularly solar power, very expensive in relative term.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This smartphone will self-destruct in 5 seconds

In future there is a suggestion that all phones come with a “kill switch”, which would render the phone unusable if it was stolen.

It was proposed by a senator in California and if passed it will become a law that would make it mandatory for smartphone manufacturers to include theft protection security on each phone.

This should concern everyone.

The proposers claimed it will shut down the market for stolen devices.

Problem is, this would also provide opportunity for hackers and criminals to "kill" and disable your phone, and it would still have the same effect of losing your phone.

That is for the general consumers. How about sensitive (national security) issues?

IBM is said to be working on electronics for the U.S. military that will self-destruct on command to ensure that powerful devices holding critical data stay out of the hands of the enemy.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the U.S. military's research arm, awarded a $3.4 million contract for its "Vanishing Programmable Resources" program to IBM on Jan. 31.

"Sophisticated electronics can be made at low cost and are increasingly pervasive throughout the battlefield. However, it is nearly impossible to track and recover every device resulting in unintended accumulation in the environment and potential unauthorized use and compromise of intellectual property and technological advantage." - DARPA on its website.

DARPA said on its website that it's looking for devices, such as sensors, radios and phones, that work as well as off-the-shelf commercial options but can be remotely triggered to break apart.

IBM has been tasked with developing materials, components and manufacturing capabilities. The company, according to DARPA, is working on a "strained glass substrate" that will shatter. A trigger, such as a fuse, will be used in at least one, if not multiple, areas on the device.

The trigger would be set off by a radio-frequency signal.

Source: Computerworld Malaysia

Monday, February 10, 2014

Australia's solar industry prepares for battle

TheGreenMechanics: This is in Australia but it could well happen in Malaysia when and if the government changes hands. Renewable Energy should be in the agenda of both the government of the day and the opposing party.

Australia's RET currently requires 45,000 GWh of power by 2020 and provides a subsidy to people who install solar systems. Source: Infinite Energy

Australian PM looks set to gut the country's Renewable Energy Target program

Australia's renewable energy sector is feeling increasingly threatened by the government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In a report in UK newspaper The Guardian, opposition Labor Party environment spokesman Mark Butler took Abbott to task. Butler accused the prime minister of having pretended to support the renewables industry before the election but said he was now "launching a full-frontal attack" on the sector.

"The Liberals went to the election saying there was no difference between the parties on renewable energy, but they weren’t being straight with the Australian people because now they are launching a full-frontal attack," Butler said, according to The Guardian.

The Labor environment spokesman said Abbott had taken control of a scheduled review of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET), adding that the current ruling coalition may reassess the program due to increases in power prices.

Butler said Labor would continue to oppose the repeal of the country’s carbon tax when parliament resumes this month and added that the party was also preparing "to ramp up a community campaign in support of renewable energy."

The renewable energy sector has become increasingly alarmed at the possibility of the government drastically reducing or even abolishing the RET.

The Australian solar council has already launched a "save solar" campaign out of fear the government review will immobilize the industry by eliminating the target, which requires 45,000 GWh of power to be sourced from renewables by 2020 and provides a subsidy to people who install solar systems.

Source: pv-magazine

Schneider and Areva partner to develop storage technology

This collaboration should spur storage technology growth further!

That way, Richard Branson would not have to wait too long to shift his Necker Island to 100% renewable energy. The wealthy man is currently targetting 75% of power supply in the resort island sourced from wind and solar by 2015.

PVtech reported this week that nuclear and renewable energy technology engineer, Areva has teamed up with renewables energy generator and distributor, Schneider Electric to develop hydrogen fuel cell storage technology.

Areva has used hydrogen fuel cell storage technology since 2011, connecting the Greenenergy Box to a 560kW PV system in Corsica. Image: Wikipedia

Partnership by two energy giants

The deal between Areva and Schneider Electric will see the pair jointly design and propose new storage technology solutions to improve grid security, especially for isolated areas with limited power access.

Areva has agreed to provide its Greenenergy Box – a storage solution using an electrolyzer and fuel cell. The box stores the hydrogen and oxygen from the electrolysis of water when energy demand is low, to compensate for peak demand. Areva has used this technology since 2011, connecting the Greenenergy Box to a 560kW PV system in Corsica. The box will soon also be hooked up to a 35kW system in La Croix Valmer in the south of France.

Schneider is hoping the partnership will assist in its goal of achieving grid parity for renewable energy, reducing power disruption and decreasing grid connection complications.

Areva will benefit from Schneider’s international presence and expertise in utility-scale and grid connected renewable energy projects.

Source: PVtech

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Micro-windmills to power your phone?

Fancy a portable windmill to power your phone? You may get your hands on one real soon.

Researchers in the US have invented tiny turbines that harvest energy from the wind. Hundreds of them could be embedded in the sleeve of your mobile phone, allowing you to recharge it simply by waving the phone in the air or holding it out of a window on a windy day.

Micro-wind turbine
"Pretty small!" One of the micro-windmills is placed here on a US penny (credit: University of Texas at Arlington)

How small?

The micro-windmills, a collaboration between The University of Texas at Arlington and a technology company in Taiwan, measure 1.8mm across at their widest point - so small that 10 of them could fit on a single grain of rice.

The tiny devices are assembled by stacking up layers of durable nickel alloy. They can be made on a single wafer using batch processes, meaning that thousands of windmills can be created for relatively low costs.

Other applications

As well as powering your mobile phone, the researchers also envisage placing windmills inside flat panels which would then be mounted onto the walls of your house.

The little windmills could then generate energy for heating, lighting, security, or even that electric barbecue you've always had your eye on. Of course, this has to be put to test yet before you could start celebrating.

Source: sciencefocus

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Richard Branson shifting Necker Island to 75% wind and solar power

Richard Branson needs no introduction.

But for Malaysians, he would probably be best remembered for donning a skirt and a full face of make-up on AirAsia flight to Malaysia back in May 2013. He did it to honour his Formula 1 bet with Malaysia's F1 team and AirAsia owner Tony Fernandez.

In the renewable energy industry, his name would quickly come up as one of the wealthy men making investment in renewables. Necker Island, the Caribbean Island owned by him, is reported to be shifting to 75% percent renewable energy by the end of 2015.

Necker Island to be powered by 75% renewable energy. Photo: Virgin Hotels Group.

Richard Branson shifting Necker Island to mostly wind and solar power

Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson has struck a deal with NRG Energy to build a system that manages wind, solar and diesel power on the 74-acre island. Electricity on small Caribbean islands is extremely expensive because they must rely on imported oil to power generators.

According to NRG Energy, people on the island are paying 40 to 55 cents per kWh compared to 6 to 20 cents in the US.

By shifting to solar and wind energy his energy costs would be cut by 40%. Switching to 100% renewable was too expensive because of the cost of storing wind and solar energy in batteries, but Branson believes one day, once storage is better, it would be possible to go 100%.

The project is part of the Ten Island Renewable Challenge, in which Caribbean islands will attempt to end their reliance on fossil fuels.

Source: The Washington Post


Energy cost for off-grid system such as those on islands is very high. I remember some years ago I was involved in working out a cost to supply power from diesel generators to Sabah's Manukan Island and we failed to convince the resort operator with the cost. I guess the operator is still maintaining its own generator sets, combined with Sabah Parks' own unit.

With cost of solar panel dropping fast, I believe it is high time the resort operator (Sutera Harbour) re-visit its power supply system there. Going renewable could be rewarding.

Malaysia introduced digital textbook that can be accessed online

I posted an article regarding mobile devices such as tablet to replace the heavy textbooks (thus getting rid of the back-breaking schoolbags) in 2012. Back then, using Tablets as the solution for heavy schoolbags was seen a long shot.

Fast forward to yesterday. The Education Ministry hinted a move that would solve not one but two issues with printed textbooks - accessibility and health (ergonomic) of students.

Sure, there would be pros and cons to using digital/online textbooks after using the printed versions for generations but I have confidence we will be able to find ways to get around them.

Textbook survey done in the US in 2012 by By now, the percentage would have skewed further towards digital.

Digital textbook to take national education system to greater heights
Bernama, February 7, 2014

The Education Ministry today introduced digital textbook that can be accessed online as an alternative to the printed version in a bid to take the national education system to greater heights. Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the use of the digital textbook, with flippable pages of text and graphic, would be implemented at all schools in stages beginning this year.

"This is a process of developing and improving our national education system to be the best in the world. We are now among one-fourth of the countries in the world that had implemented it.

"We are emphasizing on self-education where pupils and students can refer to the textbook at any time and place based on their respective levels," he told reporters after launching the digital textbook here today.

Idris said in the first phase of its implementation (2013-2015), the ministry had uploaded 313 textbooks that could be accessed free of charge through the 1BestariNet portal using the ID provided to all teachers and students.

However, he said, right now, the printed textbook was still being used. For the record, the digitalisation of school textbook is being done in three phases as stipulated in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

For the second phase (2016-2020), the ministry is planning to produce interactive textbook for selected subjects, which will contain elements of text, graphic, audio-visual and animation, to help students understand the subject better.

The third phase (2021-2025), on the other hand, will see the publication of digital textbook for all subjects, including for students with special needs.

Idris said when the time comes, schoolchildren would be allowed to bring their own electronic devices, such as tablet and iPad, to access the digital textbook at school to replace the printed version.

TheGreenMechanics: Few issues that needs to be addressed are accessibility/affordability of electronic gadgets to store and access the digital textbooks, connectivity, control of access to the internet, and abuse of the electronic media, to name a few.

We cannot run away from this change, but it doesn't meant it is not worth looking at.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feed-in Tariff (FiT) & SAVE Roadshow

The organiser of this roadshow (or rather mini-roadshow) is Centre for Environment , Technology and Development Malaysia (CETDEM).

FiT & SAVE roadshow in Kota Kinabalu last month (13-14 January)

The Kuantan Roadshow

CETDEM is inviting the the public to join its  Feed-in Tariff (FiT) & SAVE Roadshow in Pahang. It is aimed at promoting the awareness and understanding of Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency.

The roadshow details are as follows:

Date   Time   Event   Location
15 February 2014
10.00 am
- 4.00 pm   
Mini Exhibition Berjaya Megamall, Ground Floor,
Kuantan Pahang.
( Main Entrance)
16 February 2014
8.30 am
- 1.00 pm

- Participation by
   registration only
MS Garden Hotel,
Kuantan Pahang
- Bring along your
  3 month electricity bill

Further information can be obtained from CETDEM ( Mr Anthony Tan) during office hour at :
Tel : 03-78757767
Email :

The Organiser

CETDEM is a non-profit, training, research, consultancy and development organization, which commit itself to improving environmental quality through the appropriate use of technology and sustainable development. you can type CETDEM on your search engine and you will be able to read everything you need to know about the organisation.

KK Experience

They have organised a mini-roadshow in Kota Kinabalu on 13 - 14 January 2014 which, to me, was a tricky one to locate. It was scheduled to be located outside senQ at Suria Sabah but when I enquired the folks at the electronic retailer, they seemed to have no knowledge of any booth of any roadshow there.

Inquery at the phone listed in the advert also did not help. I managed to find it by accident on my way out of the shopping mall.

Hope this would not be the case for the Kuantan roadshow.

Bring in more exhibitors!

If CETDEM is not affiliated to any particular RE (FiT) implementer, it should bring in more exhibitor so that the public can have more exhibits to look around. Also, the type of services and product/brands on offer should be wider.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Paper solar cells: The future for PV?

Another milestone for solar photovoltaic industry? Potentially yes.

Reseachers from the South China University of Technology, alongside their counterparts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, have published a report on a new type of paper they claim can be used as material for next generation solar cells.

It said the new wood-based paper product outperforms all other materials in both optical transparency and optical haze, delivering low-cost, high-efficiency and environmentally friendly performance.

Wood fibre close-up. Tests show that a wood-based paper product could be used in solar cell production. Image: pv-magazine

Material for next-gen solar cells

The paper is made of TEMPO-oxidized wood fibers that eliminate micropores and instead produce nanopores, which allow for ultrahigh transparency values of 96%, and optical haze values of 60% - the highest optical haze value reported among transparent substrates.

Typically, materials that boast a high optical transparency (allowing for good light transmission) of over 90% generally have low optical haze values (the scattering and, therefore, the absorption of transmitted light within the material) of less than 20%.

How it is produced

The TEMPO treatment weakens the hydrogen bond between the microfibers that make up typical wood fibers, causing them to swell and collapse into a tightly packed structure that eliminates micropores.

The wood fibers in normal paper have a low optical transparency because the microcavities that exist within the porous structure cause light scaterring. But with the micropores removed and replaced by nanopores, optical transparency is improved.

I'm  sceptical, but...

Mooted low-cost, eco-friendly adaptations of traditional technology are regularly met with a fair amount of skepticism, but the promised efficiencies this paper could bring to the solar PV industry certainly warrant further investigation.

Further readings at: PV-magazine

US gave green light for cars to 'talk' to each other

Will you drive a car that would rather 'talk' to nearby vehicles for navigation than to wait for your 'instruction' to maneuver a risky driving situation?

According to report, the US government has given a green light for a technology that'd enable a car to see a crash coming even if its driver doesn't. But for this to happen, it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they're heading toward peril.

The US federal transportation believes this will have game-changing potential to cut collisions, deaths and injuries.

How the 'talking' works

A radio signal would transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars, and a vehicle's computer would alert its driver to an impending collision.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology allows exchange basic safety data such as speed and position to help avoid collisions. Image: Discovery

Alerts could be in the form of a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver's seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

Unlike the technology behind Google's self-driving cars, vehicle-to-vehicle communication is not intended to replace human drivers. Image: US Dept. of Transportation

Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. Your car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights The technology works up to about 300 yards.

To find out more, you can continue reading at Yahoo News


Very interesting preposition here; I have a personal concern, though. The more you take the personal responsibility out of the hands of the driver, the more likely you are to have an accident. Especially so with new, inexperienced drivers.

One day a new driver who has experience only with new high-tech cars gets behind the wheel of a slightly older car without this technology. He thought the car is going to stop for him and banggg! He rammed a nice looking talking car at a busy junction. "Oppss, I forgot this car can't 'talk', sorry."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Android phones are world’s most malware-infected mobile devices

This is because smart phones running on Android system dominate the mobile device population. This does not necessarily means that Android phones are more prone to attack than those running on Windows and iOS.

According to an article published in Computerworld, the most common types of malware infecting Android devices arethe following:
  • Adware
  • Information Stealers
  • SpyPhone
  • SMS Trojans
  • Banking Trojans
  • Fake Security Software

Samsung Galaxy S4. Samsung smartphones and tabs are running on Android operating system.

Most malware-infected

Android smart phones are the world's most malware-infected mobile devices with 60% of them globally having been successfully targeted by malicious software in the last quarter of (Q4) 2013.

This was according to the Kindsight Security Labs Malware Report-Q4 2013 whose findings have been made available recently. The report by the malware detection arm of the Ontario-based network security solutions provider said the figures regarding infected devices was conservative.

It explained that this was because detectors of Alcatel-Lucent-Kindsight's parent company-were not employed in China and Russia where infection rates are known to be higher.

Android devices have the largest market share

The report attributed the 60% infection rate to the fact that Android devices hold the largest share of the global market for smartphones. It explained cybercriminals often go after low hanging fruit to maximise results from their efforts. It likewise said 40% of infected devices were Windows PCs connected to the mobile network.

On the other hand, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Mobile accounted for less than one percent of infected mobile devices.

Unlike the iPhone or Blackberry, the Android offers the ability to load them from third party app sites.

Source: Computerworld Malaysia

TheGreenMechanics: International Telecommunications Union estimated that there are 2.1 billion smartphones globally. If you are in the higher risk bracket, just play safe and be very careful with what you download into your phone.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Went cruising on the SuperStar Aquarius

Long weekend seems like a good time to try out the Star Cruises. And the Chinese New Year Holiday is a perfect time because starting yesterday, for the next one week, the cruise operator is offering 2-day-1-night cruises to the high seas.

The SuperStar Aquarius of Genting Hong Kong is now in Kota Kinabalu

If you like the experience, you can then go for the longer 4-day 3-night journey later. For us, other than the motion sickness that is bound to be experienced by everyone, we have no issue with the sailing facility.

Gone fishing!

We enjoyed the view and the kids liked the pool.

Swimming pools for children and adult are located at different ends of the ship. Not a good news for parents who wants to take a dip with the kids. But it's not a big issue.

Gaya Island seen on the way back to Kota Kinabalu.

For the package we paid for, we got to enjoy complimentary show at Stardust Longue, unlimited meal at Mariners Restaurant, swimming pool, cabin/room with balcony at Deck 8, etc.

Pictures from the show/performance will be uploaded later. The lighting conditions were too much for my phone camera.