Into the present – 2005 till now

By the time the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006, the world had been shaken by year after year of natural disasters and ominous weather patterns.

For example, in 2003 the European Heat Wave resulted in the premature deaths of at least 35,000 people. This documentary could be credited for heightening global awareness about climate change, and it helped re-energise the environmental movement, educating and spurring thousands of youths around the world.

In the year 2005, CETDEM would celebrate its two decades of existence. It would be a busy year, with the organisation holding its Organic Exhibition and National Seminar, as well as a host of other activities. CETDEM would mark its 20th Anniversary with a dinner and a public forum titled “Bukit Cahaya, Toxic Wastes, Dead Rivers — Can Malaysia Avoid These For Sustainable Development to Occur?

Guiding, Mentoring and Showing by Example

If it would take the opportunity to turn what is usually a light and celebratory anniversary into an educational forum, one can imagine how seriously CETDEM took its role as teachers.

Ever keen to enlighten and disseminate information, it would continue to connect with the public in a multitude of ways. There were the press conferences, talks, demonstrations and seminars on organic farming and related activities such as composting. Indeed, CETDEM had become the de facto organic farming teacher for the nation, especially when it came to the local communities in Petaling Jaya. With its Organic Farming Community Centre set up in 2007, even more activities could be held for the PJ community. This could not have been done without the generous gift from Charles Tan and his wife Pook Li Yoon, who allowed CETDEM to turn their corner lot house in Section 19 into a centre for the urban community.

It is a place where like-minded people and farmers, food producers, gardeners and consumers can share experiences and exchange information. There are creepers like bitter gourd, cucumbers, four-cornered beans and other edible vegetables and fruits in the garden. The centre’s kitchen is also a hub for people who want to learn about ‘organic slow food’ and there have been numerous baking and cooking sessions organised there.

In 2009, CETDEM and the Petaling Jaya City Council organised a Hari Organik on Aug 1 at the nearby Section 19/22 field. It was a resounding success, with visitors coming to learn about organic goods and methods, and buying products that were environmentally-friendly. Members of the public also had hands-on lessons about composting kitchen waste and eco-liquid enzyme, for example, and had dialogues with farmers, retailers and NGOs about farming.

During 2006–2010, the organisation also produced several interactive CDs to better educate the public, such as the CD on Sustainable Energy Usage under the ABC Project. CETDEM also came up with the bi-annual newsletter Green Nest for its farmers’ group under the Organic Farming Project.

There was no doubt that CETDEM’s experience and know-how in organic farming was a recognised and established fact by now, and organic farming project coordinator Siew continued to be invited by farmers as well as government bodies to share her knowledge.

The Jawatankuasa Khas Alam Sekitar under the Sarawak Ministry of Environment & Public Health, for example, invited her to demonstrate the recycling of domestic waste into compost to the people of Kampung Tabuan Melayu in Kuching.

Together with ministry staff, she also visited other farms and learned about their methods and marketing plans. Their work also inspired many other farmers to start their own community organic farms.

During these years the organisation had many of its exciting projects revolving around energy efficiency and their pride and joy — its new showcase house, the Demonstration & Documentation Centre (DDC).

The CETDEM House

It was a dream come true for CETDEM when the Demonstration & Documentation Centre or DDC was launched on 1st March 2004, with funding from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

CETDEM basically renovated a house in SS2, Petaling Jaya, Selangor to achieve a comfortable temperature the sustainable way. The demo house also utilises the sun to generate electricity and produce hot water, showcasing the elements of energy efficiency being tried and tested.

With RM115,000 and advice provided by Danida, renovations on the 30-year-old house had included using 100mm of rock wool insulation in the roof. This reduced the average temperature of the house by three degrees, as almost 70% of heat in a terrace house comes from the roof.

Aluminium louvres were installed to cut direct sunlight from entering the house, and windows are closed during the day to prevent hot air from coming in and heating up the walls. The windows are opened if the temperature outside is lower.

The house uses energy efficient light bulbs, photovoltaic cells and a solar-powered water heater, which reduced the electricity bill by 30%.

The green and sustainable house was officially launched by the Minister of Energy, Water & Communications Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik on March 10, 2005, and curious visitors would soon come streaming in to take a look at CETDEM’s efforts at energy efficiency and energy auditing.

Perspective with Charles Tan

He was in the world of information tech-nology consulting before he found himself counting vegetables and eggs in a farm, but Charles Tan wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here he talks about the CET-DEM house and office in SS2, and why it would prove significant in more ways than one.

I can’t quite remember how I found out about CETDEM, but I know somehow I ended up visiting their farm around 1987. I would be away overseas from 1989 to 1994, but I have been with CETDEM upon my return, until today.

I would help a lot at the farm as I was al-ready interested in issues like lifestyle and food you should eat. CETDEM has always been concerned with what Gurmit has called brown issues, rather than green is-sues, and they were less popular ones.

The green issues were things like conser-vation and the forest, and these were han-dled by organisations like the Malaysian Nature Society and WWF, which I think are great things. However, there is then less focus on issues we have in developed areas like cities, matters dealing with sew-age, water, energy and sustainable agri-culture. I think the farm was the starting point, and from then we looked at climate change and transportation even before it became popular.

What do we do to become more sustainable? How do you pull the lever back, rather than just switch off and on again? So when we focused on energy efficiency and built the house, a lot of research was involved. The good thing about CETDEM is that we try to do useful research, despite the challenges of funding we have to deal with.

It was quite sad that the only available research on electrical usage at that time had been done by CETDEM! This was true for quite a while and I found it quite funny when we found our-selves being quoted by Tenaga Nasional.

This research was the one which showed that the largest en-ergy usage in a household, at least in Klang Valley, was in trans-port — people’s use of their cars. If you did not include the car, then the issue was primarily around the cooling or heating within the house.

How do you cool the house without the excessive use of air-conditioning? So one of the things CETDEM did was to research about things like equipment usage, reverse flow meters and so on. At that time there were other installations which already had energy-saving or sustainable features but these were most-ly offices, buildings or bungalows.

Nobody had really done this for existing terrace houses before, for example, and that is why we targeted the house we did. We looked at how European countries refurbished their homes and we learned a lot of things which were quite interesting.

For example, when we first started using the inverter we had problems because we were not really getting the kind of effi-ciency we expected. It was a mismatch between the maximum output of the PV panel and the maximum output of the inverter, so when we changed the inverter to a smaller size, we were able to get maximum output. There was a combination of other issues.

But now ever since Pusat Tenaga Malaysia started rolling (many of these) houses and getting more experienced contractors,

Things are much better. We already discussed these issues and tried to develop the knowledge around what made sense and what did not with the government advisory committees, architects, electrical technicians and so on.

So what was quite interesting was that we were not building from the ground up. It is much harder to convert an existing house. We under-took the PV installation as part of the renovation costs so that the long payback period would not be an issue. When you did not have this then we could not really talk about the return of investment.

One would be doing this for the environment. This was the big challenge, several things needed to happen. The government needs to give tax rebates on energy-efficient motors, cut the subsidies for electricity and provide more incentives for factories and people to upgrade. Otherwise, people will keep on running old, inefficient and wasteful systems. Some have moved forward with our efforts on the house and im-proved on it. So people can still come and visit the house, but now there are other alternatives. But the house is still here and it is useful as a reference point.

When we discuss energy, we feel that we should not be subsiding energy because it pays for people to be very inefficient. We recognise there may be poor sectors but we can work a way to subsidise them, such as providing the first number of units cheap and then going into commercial rates later.

Also, this is all a change in lifestyle to some extent. How do you cool your house? First thing is to insulate your roof, because a lot of heat comes through the roof.

It seems counter-intuitive to open your windows at night and close it during the day, but this can give you a 3-5 degree improvement and is actually very effective. Other things are getting rid of old fridges which are very inefficient, and not leaving your televisions on sleep mode.

As the DDC House project drew to a close in February 2007, CETDEM handed over a proposal for a Comprehensive Malaysia Energy Policy to the Minister of Energy, Water & Communications.

These few years were all about energy efficiency with the organisation, with CETDEM also involved in the WCPJ project with ExxonMobil in 2006. A successful one year project, CETDEM worked with 50 families on household energy efficiency in Petaling Jaya.

Designed as a project continuing from their ABC Project, WCPJ saw CETDEM working with Resident Associations (RAs) through the Local Municipality (namely MPPJ) to identify participating households.

A group of 50-60 participants were selected and exposed to issues relating to energy usage in the home. Energy Efficiency (EE) was highlighted to participants to sensitise them on the importance of being efficient users of energy, and each household carried out energy audits so they could com-pare energy usage and performance. The project team provided guidance and follow-up services, free of charge, throughout the project study period.

If the first decade of CETDEM was spent finding its footing in the national and international spheres, it is clear from the projects in 2005 to 2010 that the organisation was becoming an able and established educator and advocate for efficient energy usage.

Organisational Strengthening

Now armed with two decades of experience, CETDEM board members would draft a concept paper in 2005 to look at how the organisation should move forward.

In the paper, it would articulate its vision and mission for its future years:

To be the most respected, influential and self-sustaining organisation in Malaysia which is not afraid to tackle and resolve all environmental issues

To educate the average Malaysian on how important it is to conserve the environment for future generations.

CETDEM knew its strengths. It had unparalleled, strong knowledge on environment conservation issues, as well as the experience in organic certification of organic vegetables and fruits.Besides continuing its objectives to raise awareness about the issues CETDEM represented and educate the public on how to conserve our natural resources, the organisation wanted to be-come stronger and more far-reaching.

This was hampered by its main self-admitted weaknesses — organisational growth was still minimal and CETDEM was struggling because of the lack of funding for basic operations. This would entail new objectives, such as generating an income of RM2.5 million and to increase its membership by December 2006.

For fundraising, it would aim to conduct more publicity and marketing activities, as well as look at selling organic products or consultancy services, the concept paper said. The CETDEM board would also decide that Anthony Tan would become the new executive director at the end of 2006, with Gurmit becoming chairman.

A Lasting Legacy

By this period CETDEM’s stature as an invaluable member of the local, regional and global environmental movement was a thing of pride, even if, the public was somehow less aware of the fact.

The years 2009 and 2010 saw various projects like the Sustain-able Transport Options Programme (STOP), a long-time dream for the organisation, as well as two projects for the Selangor government — the Energy Action Framework and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory.

Co-financed by Small Grants Programme GEF Malaysia, the STOP Project was set up to create awareness on the reduction [of] energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable transport options. The project was organised for participants in Shah Alam and Subang Jaya in the Klang Valley and Georgetown, Kuantan, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Corporate partners that joined STOP and also educated their staff on sustainable transport were Perbadanan Bekalan Air (Pulau Pinang), DIGI Telecommunication, Shell (Cyberjaya) and ICI Paints (Malaysia).

CETDEM carried on working with state governments on energy options and other environmental concerns, as well as ventured to different parts of Malaysia to educate more Malaysians.

Working with Children & Youth

CETDEM also continued, in 2009 and 2010, to work more with children and youths. In December 2009, CETDEM staff conducted educational programmes for a group of 43 children at the Titi Eco Farm Resort. Many groups of students and envi-ronment-lovers continued to visit farms like Titi Eco because it was the only integrated organic farm at the time, and people could experience nature at its best.

There were also collaborations with other NGOs such as with the PERKOBP (Soci-ety of Families of Persons with Learning Difficulties) training centre to equip slow learning teenagers or adults with skills to achieve independent living through organ-ic farming. CETDEM also continued to try and attract youths to conserve their envi-ronment by, among other ways, setting up an energy-efficiency and organic wastes recycling exhibition in University Malaya.

The most significant of these youth-orient-ed projects was the very encouraging and inspiring Secondary School Energy Effi-ciency Action (SSEEAP) project in 2009.

The SSEEAP Project

The SSEEAP project saw students be-coming energy efficiency ambassadors for their schools. Funded by ExxonMobil in collaboration with the Energy Commis-sion and the Malaysia Energy Centre, the project ended up fulfilling its primary ob-jective of raising awareness and building the capacity of students as well as teach-ers and staff to use energy in a sustain-able fashion.

Secondary School Energy Efficiency Action project


The CETDEM Study on Energy Efficiency where secondary school students would be taught to assess and improve their school’s energy usage. They would plan campaigns to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. There would be an energy efficiency competition among the participating schools.


Energy efficiency benefits everyone, and the wise and efficient use of energy saves money and lowers the carbon footprint. It is hoped the students would learn, be inspired and continue spreading the message of using energy efficiently.


The energy efficiency competition was held from April till August 2009.


SMK (P) Pudu, SMK Perempuan Methodist, Victoria Institution, SMK Seri Ampang, SMK Methodist (boys) were the schools involved.


The students set up committees to look at energy efficiency in not only their classroom, but in locations around the school. Energy audits included ICT labs, teachers’ rooms, the science labs and school office.

Among the many encouraging developments and changes around the schools during the energy efficiency campaign were:

Some schools opting for measures like installing energy efficiency appliances such as the Compact Fluorescent Lights to replace incandescent or fluorescent lights.

Realising that the air-conditioner is the main consumer of energy in school, school administrations took initiatives to reduce the hours of usage for these appliances.

Positive impact for the students’ awareness in terms of increased awareness about energy efficiency, heightened effort to make sure lights and fans were not left on when not in use, and stimulated interest in “green” issues.

Significant drop in school electricity bills during the months of the project period.

The winning school was SMK Perempuan Methodist, whose students instituted several energy-saving efforts. They estab-lished the “MGS (Methodist Girls School) Hour”, where they turned off lights and fans from 8am to 9am in the classroom every Monday, and later every day in the month of August. Their other activities included recycling newspapers, compost-ing, getting indoor plants and setting up environmental cor-ners. They even had a vegetable garden project, and set up a School Energy Efficiency blog, MGS Teachers blog and an MGSKL online forum.

Here, There & Everywhere

With climate change a hot topic and one that was discussed everywhere, CETDEM’s expertise in the subject was also great-ly appreciated. It attended a host of events revolving around climate change and the environment both locally and internationally, from national conferences and seminars to a debate at Maastricht University, Netherlands.

The organisation also published a climate change seminar report entitled Between Bali and Pozan in 2008, as well as held the Nuclear Energy Conference and Climate Change Seminar the following year.

There was a greater energy and drive in CET-DEM with their many projects. By this time, there would also be more help from the media in the dissemination of environmental issues and information. An example was a fun shoot on composting, produced by Red Communica-tion Sdn Bhd for the 3R TV programme, which encouraged viewers to recycle their household wastes into compost.

But even as more articles and interviews were conducted compared to previous years, CET-DEM would remain dedicated to on-the-ground work and their favourite issues. A series of highly successful Hari Organik days were held to promote a healthy organic lifestyle, for exam-ple, primarily targeting the residents of Petaling Jaya.

The organisation also conducted the Sustainable Energy Usage In Urban Households work-shop in Penang, and presented a paper on Energy: What Path Should We Take? at the National Conference on Sustainability in Kuala Lumpur.

Other significant events that would showcase CETDEM’s expertise and skills included:

  • The National Organic Farming Seminar, jointly organised by CETDEM and the Department of Agriculture

  • The Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) seminar entitled Are CDMs Working?, jointly or-ganised with the Dutch Embassy in 2007

  • The inaugural Malaysian Sustainable Energy Conference, with funding by ExxonMobil. There was also the notable CACCET Proj-ect, which began in April 2007. The ‘Creating Awareness on Climate Change Through Energy Use and Transportation’ project would begin in collaboration with funding secured from the Na-tional Resources & Environment Ministry.

The project involved assessing the quality of pub-lic transportation provided in two towns — Kajang and Petaling Jaya — and then working with se-lected citizen’s groups in both towns to increase their awareness about related energy issues.

Besides getting an assessment of the quality and extent of public transport provided by Rapid KL and what improvements the community would like to see, the project also saw households from both towns completing energy audit forms and a transport survey for further study.

National & International Respect

By now CETDEM was also pulling some real weight when it came to giving feedback and advice to the government on matters of the environment.

Already armed with a wealth of information and experience in international meetings and forums such as the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Workshop (Jakarta 2006), the Asian De-velopment Bank’s Energy Strategy Consultation meeting (Manila, 2007) and a long list of others, CETDEM’s opinion would be sought time and time again.

CETDEM’s list of events for these few years would almost triple compared to the early years, with everything from dialogues with UNDP stakeholders and roundtable discussions, to workshops and policy-drafting meetings.

But this increasing popularity for CETDEM’s par-ticipation would not affect research and education efforts, and the organisation would come out with reports like the ‘Working With The Community On Energy Efficiency at Household Level’ report in December 2006 and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Seminar Report ‘Are CDMs Working?’ in August 2007.

The organisation was a member of the National CDM Committee and was appointed to the National Energy Efficiency Master Plan Committee in Oct 2009.

CETDEM was clearly regarded as an ex-pert on its pet projects, and continued to participate in events that would enhance its understanding of those issues.