Four long years after geothermal potential was discovered in Malaysia, the country’s government has finally coughed up the financial funding to develop its first geothermal power plant.

Acting through the Public Private Partnership Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, Malaysian officials today announced that they would provide a grant of 35 million Malaysian ringgit (approximately U.S. $11.5 million) to complete construction on a geothermal energy resource in the southern portion of the country, near the city of Tawau.

The site’s potential was first revealed by during a 2008–2009 study by Malaysia’s Minerals and Geoscience Department. Domestic developers were uninterested, so the site was pretty well ignored. But a Lebanese businessman named Ramzi Raad knew that there was potential for significant amounts of power to be produced at the site. He formed Tawau Green Energy Sdn Bhd (TGE), and set about looking for investors.

Now, his hard work has paid off. Apas Kiri will be Malaysia’s first geothermal energy development. It is expected to come online by early 2015, and will be capable of supplying 30 Megawatts of clean energy to the state grid. The government grant will be used exclusively to pay for costs associated with constructing access roads and making related infrastructure improvements necessary for geothermal power development.

Of course, building roads and a power plant in the middle of what is otherwise semi-remote country is bound to have a negative impact on the environment. But because there has been no development of geothermal power in Malaysia up to this point, TGE is exempt from the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. However, the Department of Environment will require the company to prepare a preliminary site assessment report.

Although geothermal energy is currently not included in the feed-in tariff (FiT) mechanism that supports renewable energy production, the country’s Sustainable Energy Development Authority says it will now considering doing so.

Photo credit: TGE