Thursday 19 March 2020

Howe Wong - Affordable and clean energy in rural Malaysia

Howe Wong (Electronic and Electrical Engineering 2011) has changed the lives of thousands of citizens in remote parts of Malaysia through rural electrification projects. 

His work has strong links to UN Sustainable Development Goal 7: to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Rural electrification

After graduating from Leeds, Howe returned to his home region of Sarawak, where he collaborated closely with government agencies on rural electrification projects. Sarawak has a population of some 2.78 million, about half of which is rural-based, living in townships, bazaars, villages and longhouses spread across a vast geographical landscape, with winding rivers, dense rainforests and rugged terrain. The project aimed to extend the grid to reachable areas and install standalone systems employing alternative electricity sources for regions too remote for grid connection. As a result of his efforts, 30,000 households these communities are now able to enjoy 24 hours of electricity rather than having to pay for costly fossil fuel generators. 

Howe was able to draw on knowledge gained at Leeds to make such an impact. "I chose to study at Leeds because it was top of the research rankings for my course,” says Howe. “My degree provided me with the technical knowledge necessary for designing and building a system that would work for the rural community considering all criteria – such as locality, geography and so on. Ultimately, studying at Leeds enabled me to pursue my goal of making positive changes and improving lives.” 

"Ultimately, studying at Leeds enabled me to pursue my goal of making positive changes and improving lives.”

Howe Wong (Electronic and Electrical Engineering 2011)

British Council award

Such was the impact of his work, Howe recently won the Social Impact Category at the British Council’s annual Study UK Alumni Awards in Malaysia, which recognise high achieving Malaysian-UK alumni.  The awards receive around 1,000 applications from international UK alumni, representing over 120 higher education institutions across the UK.  

 Howe continues to work on the project, further improving the livelihoods of people in Sarawak’s poorest communities and delivering positive change.

In 2019, UN updates outlined that access to electricity in the poorest countries has begun to accelerate, energy efficiency continues to improve, and renewable energy is making gains in the electricity sector. Howe's efforts are playing a huge part in this process.