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Expert insights on Malaysia’s residential solar-energy policies: shortcomings and recommendations

Expert insights on Malaysia’s residential solar-energy policies: shortcomings and recommendations Abstract Malaysia has a long way before achieving the 20% renewable-energy penetration by 2025. Currently, merely 2% of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources including solar power. Unlike the abundant literature about solar energy, qualitative studies that focus on experts’ opinions on the weaknesses of residential solar-energy policies have received less attention, particularly in the context of Malaysia. Understanding the flaws in the existing policies would lead to creating a better policy framework for solar-energy development. Thus, this study aims to identify the shortcomings of the current government initiatives and policies that deter solar photovoltaic adoption among households from experts’ perspectives. Experts also provide recommendations for better future policy design and implementation. This study employs a qualitative research approach (via semi-structured interviews) in collecting experts’ viewpoints. Key concerns emerging from the interviews include insufficient financial support, lack of awareness programmes and subsidized electricity tariffs. Also, interviewed experts suggest sufficient financial incentives, increased public awareness programmes and comprehensive legislation aimed at safeguarding consumer interests as a means to raising solar-energy adoption in the country. This underlines the need for policymakers to create public awareness, provide financial support and develop regulatory measures aimed at managing solar companies for the sake of solar development in Malaysia. Open in new tabDownload slide qualitative study, interview, expert insights, solar energy, households, policy shortcomings, policy recommendations Introduction The negative impacts on the environment and other issues associated with fossil fuels have forced many countries to change their environmental policies towards achieving sustainability in the renewable-energy industry [1, 2]. Solar energy has become one of the best sustainable energy sources that will gradually replace the use of fossil fuels for the production of electricity [1, 3]. Globally, renewable-energy policies were designed to address the problems of energy development along with the development of the renewable-energy industry to sustain its growth, including energy production, distribution and consumption [3, 4]. According to RED21’s global status report, renewable-energy policies were present in nearly all countries worldwide by the end of 2018 and relatively found at all levels of government projects [5]. Such initiations have supported the generation and use of renewable energy in 168 countries worldwide. Among others, solar energy has been the leading renewable energy source. Over the past two decades, the price of solar energy has decreased substantially, leading to greater potential for its adoption. It is expected that the global residential solar capacity will grow from 58 GW in 2018 to 143 GW in 2024. Among others, China is the largest growth market, followed by the USA, Australia and Japan as a result of solar photovoltaic (PV) remuneration packages such as net metering and buy all, sell all in these countries. However, many developing and emerging economies in Asia such as Malaysia, Indonesia and India are lagging behind due to inadequate policy incentives, lack of rules and regulations, and low or subsidized household electricity tariffs [6]. According to Burke (2019), the uptake of solar energy faces many challenges including policy deficiencies and heavy subsidies for fossil fuels in Asian countries [7]. Governments’ energy and climate-change policies have been seen as important factors influencing solar installation in Asia [8]. In other words, even though prices of solar technologies are diminishing, the degree to which a country is successful in expanding its solar industry depends very much on the country’s solar-related policies and strategies [9]. According to the International Energy Agency, decisions by the policymakers such as the setting of ambitious targets and implementation of appropriate policies could play a paramount role in enhancing solar usage in a particular nation [10]. Malaysia appears to be an appropriate case study in the sense that it is of paramount importance for the country to increase renewable-energy usage due to two reasons. First, the renewable-energy initiatives allow the country to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. As Malaysia’s domestic oil and gas reserves are expected to run out by 2029, the country will be forced to import fossil fuels for electricity generation [11]. However, the prices of imported fossil fuels are heavily dependent on exchange-rate fluctuations, which will potentially expose Malaysia to economic risk [12]. Second, the widespread use of renewable energy is essential for Malaysia to address its climate-change challenges. Between 1971 and 2020, for example, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions increased at an annual rate from 14.7 to 262.2 million tonnes [13]. Among the available renewable energy sources, solar energy is of the greatest potential in Malaysia as the country is located within the Sunbelt with at least 10 sun hours daily. This enables the generation of electricity using solar power throughout the country all year round [14]. Solar PV industry in Malaysia Historically, solar PV installation was first introduced in Malaysia via the pioneering solar PV rural electrification programme in 1982. Under the scheme, ~100 homes at several selected remote villages throughout the country had solar PV installed. In 2000, the first grid-connected PV system was launched by the country’s largest electricity utility company. This was then followed by a 5-year programme called SURIA 1000 for the period between 2006 and 2010. The programme provided subsidies to successful bidders for the installation of solar PV systems in their homes. Most importantly, SURIA 1000 has also opened up opportunities for the public and industry to be directly involved in solar-related initiatives [15]. Since then, many multinational companies have started to set up PV cells and modules manufacturing plants in Malaysia.1 In 2011, the renewable-energy feed-in tariff (FiT) mechanism was established under the Renewable Energy Act 2011. The FiT allows the sale of electricity generated from solar PV systems to the utility company at a fixed premium price for a specific time period [16]. The FiT programme came to an end in 2017. It was replaced by net energy metering (NEM), which enables solar users to produce electricity with solar net metering and sell the excess electricity to power grids [17]. Since January 2019, NEM has been improved by introducing the true NEM concept that enables excess solar energy produced to be exported back to the grid on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis [18]. To ensure the successful implementation of solar projects, financial supports are essential to solar adopters [19, 20]. In Malaysia, securing financing for the purpose of solar PV installation has been challenging as most bankers are not familiar with the industry, particularly when it comes to risks and liabilities. To encourage renewable-energy usage, the government has established the Green Technology Fund Scheme (GTFS) to finance green projects with an allocation of RM1.5 billion in 2010. Companies who succeed in securing loans from participating banks are entitled to a 2% interest subsidy and the government’s guarantee of 60% of the approved loan. In the meantime, the government has provided two forms of green technology incentives, i.e. Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) and Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE), for companies that engage in green projects [21]. However, individuals or household investors are not eligible to apply for these incentives. In short, finances and fiscal incentives have been granted to only companies, not individuals, in Malaysia. The existing public green policies in Malaysia are with the aim of achieving the national renewable-energy mix target of 20% by 2025 [22]. However, despite various incentives and strategies to encourage the growth of the renewable-energy sector, clean energy sources (including solar PV) constitute merely 2% of the total electricity-generation capacity in Malaysia. Specifically, the residential sector contributes merely 9.14 megawatts to the installed capacity of solar PV in Malaysia. Most of the installed PV capacity comes from the commercial (i.e. 25.60 megawatts) and industrial (i.e. 355.76 megawatts) sectors [23]. Thus, increased efforts are required to enhance the adoption of solar PV technologies, particularly among households in Malaysia. Contributions of the study Indeed, the successful design and implementation of solar policies require inputs from various stakeholders in the solar PV industry [24–27]. In other words, to enhance the effectiveness of energy policies, insights from the experts (e.g. officials from the relevant government agencies and academicians from the energy field) are also essential, besides consumers. Considering merely the viewpoints of potential customers may not allow the policymakers to produce comprehensive energy policies that are beneficial to the residential solar PV market. However, research remains scarce that has looked into the feedback of industrial experts, government officials and academicians in shaping future solar policies. Much of the research on solar PV has focused on consumer behaviour and experiences in solar PV adoption [14, 28–30]. Additionally, even though some studies have sought experts’ opinions pertaining to solar PV adoption, they have emphasized the general factors affecting the usage of the technology [31, 32]. Some other past studies [33–35] have investigated the impact of public policy on the solar-energy industry. However, none has explored specifically the role of public policy in influencing solar PV installation among residential consumers particularly in the context of Malaysia. Numerous past studies on Malaysia have performed a review on the current situation of solar-energy adoption in the country. Amongst others, some studies have been focusing on the potential or outlook of solar power [36–38] while the remaining studies discuss the effectiveness of the existing solar policies [39–42]. In particular, our study builds upon a recent study [40] that analysed the new solar policies and frameworks in Malaysia that focused on solar PV business models. The authors conducted interviews with business representatives and customers. Differently from [40], we extend the research by employing a qualitative research approach that involves interviews with industrial players, academicians and government officials that remains absent in the literature. Another uniqueness of our study, if compared with [40], is that we explore solar experts’ opinions on the overall effectiveness of Malaysian solar policies and their suggestions for further policy improvements. Thus, the aim of our study is to determine the shortcomings of the current government initiatives and policies that hinder solar PV adoption among households in Malaysia from the perspectives of energy experts. Policy recommendations are also sought from the experts. Thus, this analysis could provide a better understanding of the weaknesses of the existing solar programmes and most importantly furnish information for better future policy design and implementation. The research findings could contribute significantly for policymakers in creating effective strategies aiming at enhancing the usage of residential solar PV systems. The study also provides valuable inputs that could help in the development and growth of the solar PV industry in Malaysia. Lessons learnt from Malaysia’s experience are highly relevant, particularly for other developing countries in Asia. 1 Literature review Carley et al. [43] posited that solar energy is one of the cleanest renewable energy sources with almost zero negative impact on the environment. However, several studies instigated that the production and consumption of more solar energy to replace fossil fuels in a country require the introduction of effective energy policies [44, 45]. Countries such as Germany, the UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy and others are among the top 10 countries with the biggest proportion of renewable energy [3, 42, 43]. Meanwhile, countries such as China, the USA, Germany, Japan and India are the top solar-energy producers globally [1, 3, 44, 46]. Assoa et al. [47] posited that Japan, India, China, South Korea and Singapore are leading in terms of solar-energy usage in the Asian region. However, Assoa et al. [47] and Mamat et al. [48] have shown that slow adaptation to the use of solar energy in some developing countries in Asia is mainly due to inadequate energy policies. Southeast Asian countries stand at a crossroads regarding their contribution to climate change and rely heavily on fossil fuels for transport and electricity. According to Assoa et al. [47], the Southeast Asian region requires a more sustainable energy policy to reduce the use of fossil fuel as an energy source. To reach the aspirational target of 25% renewable energy source in the region by 2025, the Southeast Asian countries will have to substantially scale up their deployment of renewables in the power sector through adequate and sustainable solar-energy policies. The initiatives taken by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enhance energy production, consumption and distribution policy are vital to ensure the achievement of energy efficiency and efficiency standards in the region [49]. Solangi et al. [50] and Mamat et al. [48] pointed out that energy policies that are significant to support the development of renewable energy such as the use of solar energy have been explicitly made to determine the national commitment by all the 10 ASEAN member countries including Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Findings from Solangi et al. [49], Blazquez et al. [51] and Assoa, et al. [47] have revealed that as part of the energy policy implications, the use of solar energy for electricity generation has significantly risen over the years. For instance, Singapore’s contribution to the use of renewable energy such as solar energy has increased with their continuous efforts to eradicate the use of fossil fuels. However, the Philippines has targeted to reduce its energy intensity by 40% by 2030 as part of its contribution to sustainable energy consumption. Most Southeast Asian countries share the common goal of expanding renewable-energy production because they have a large capacity for natural energy resources and face environmental problems that include carbon emissions. However, with the energy policies already implemented, most are moving in the right direction to promote sustainable energy production and consumption [48]. In Malaysia, the renewable-energy policy ensures an increase in capacity from renewable energy to 4000 MW by 2030, while Brunei has set a target of 10% renewable electricity generation by 2035. Singapore’s primary renewable-energy policy aims to increase PV capacity to >400 MW by 2030. Thailand has ambitious targets to increase renewable-energy consumption to 30% by 2036. This includes increasing the share of renewable electricity-generation capacity to 20.11% and the share of renewable energy in transport fuel consumption to 25.04% by 2036. The renewable-energy policy in the Philippines focuses on tripling renewable electricity installation capacity by 2030. Cambodia aims to increase hydropower capacity to >3453 MW by 2030 to realize the potential of new energy capacity. Vietnamese policy on renewable energy ensures that the share of non-hydro renewable power generation capacity increases to 12.5% by 2025 and 21% by 2030 [48, 52, 53]. In the Asian region, advocacy for renewable-energy programmes is steadily increasing due to the implementation of new or revised energy policies in the region [54]. Indonesia’s renewable-energy targets of 23% by 2025 and 31% by 2050, for example, are supported by clear policies and regulations. Such policies ensured the establishment of the ‘Badan Koordinasi Energi Nasional’, also known as ‘BAKOREN’. The policy gives more consideration to conservation, diversification and clean and renewable energy [55]. In their study, Liu et al. [56] highlighted the Renewable Energy Law of the People’s Republic of China, which was introduced in 2006 and outlines the general conditions for renewable energy (RE) and the importance of this energy source for the People’s Republic of China. In addition, there are other energy policies, including the Renewable Energy Law Amendment, which aims to efficiently reduce the cost of renewable energy and ensure that electricity grid operators in China purchase all electricity generated from renewable sources [54, 56]. In the Far East Asia region, Japan’s renewable-energy policy, also known as the ‘Strategic Energy Plan’, ensures the promotion of the diffusion of renewable energy resources (solar energy, biomass, renewable heat and small/medium hydropower) [57]. According to Kardooni et al. [58], Malaysia has targeted to achieve 20% renewable energy in the electricity-generation mix by 2025 even though the country’s current energy source is largely natural gas and coal. The policy to promote the use of solar-energy sources is gradually contributing to the energy conservation strategy [48, 49]. Malaysia’s framework for energy development was first formulated in the early 1970s. Since then, prominent energy policies have been introduced to enhance the development of sustainable energy. The most significant step towards sustainable energy development was the introduction of the Fifth Fuel Policy in 2000 in which solar, biomass, biogas and hydro energy were recognized as potential renewable energy sources for electricity generation [49]. Thereafter, new policies have been initiated towards the utilization of renewable energy and the promotion of energy efficiency to replace fossil fuels with renewables [59]. Solangi et al. [49] indicate that the renewable-energy policy and action plan that were outlined in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2006–2010) not only provided an alternative to energy sources but also encouraged the use of renewable energy such as solar energy. However, the new policies that will be implemented in the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021–2025) concerning renewable energy are expected to create more jobs, promote sustainable development and create new opportunities for businesses and industries to positively impact the country’s economic growth [59]. Policymakers in Malaysia have initiated numerous policies and laws to increase the capacity of renewable energy in the national electricity-generation mix [40]. Among the various policy initiatives to increase energy consumption capacity, the Malaysian government has introduced a solar PV project, also known as ‘MySuria’, to increase the income of the bottom 40% of households, also known as ‘B40’, by not only increasing the knowledge and awareness of solar energy but also promoting the adoption of solar PV energy technology to reduce the cost-of-consumption rate and generate additional income [41]. As part of these initiatives to generate additional income through the adoption of PV, the government has committed to enforcing the FiT law introduced in 2011 to promote energy-generation capacity, especially in rural areas, while generating additional monthly income for low-income earners [60]. In this regard, Alam et al. [61] argued that households are more likely to embrace PV solar technology if they have the opportunity to test it out before it is put into widespread use and find that it meets their needs. However, if people could see the advantages of PV solar technology in action, it would change their minds about using it. However, people could be hesitant to fully invest in PV if there is a lack of marketing, adoption readiness, motivation and competence, as well as the absence of legislation mandating PV’s usage [62]. To increase the usage of PV in Malaysia, Solangi et al. [63] argued that obstacles such as high solar-panel costs and a lack of accurate information about harnessing solar energy should be eliminated. Their findings revealed that >80% of respondents think that government subsidies would be the greatest way to increase solar-energy consumption throughout the country. These were confirmed by Solangi et al. [64] who found that 80% of Malaysians are interested in switching to PV solar but they lack the expertise and resources to do so. Households argued that the Malaysian government should raise subsidies for solar-energy products to make them more affordable. For this reason, it is crucial now to educate the public about solar PV technology and its advantages. Public opinion has a significant effect on the diffusion of solar PV. The public’s embrace of solar PV depends on emphasizing both its utility and its simplicity of operation [65]. Al-Fatlawi et al. [66] found that although there is interest in solar PV system adoption among households in Malaysia, many individuals still do not realize the benefits of using PV solar such as financial benefits. The study showed that ~36% of Malaysians are close to being ready to invest in solar PV projects but they need financial support to lower the initial capital cost of these projects. According to Koerner et al. [40], the Malaysian PV industry has experienced accelerated growth and rapid development since the introduction of the FiT and other renewable-energy policies. In 2008, a new energy policy was introduced with five strategic focus areas that specifically address recurring problems, including poor governance, lack of a regulatory framework, limited market oversight and lack of institutional policies. These five focus areas consist of (i) Renewable Energy Foundation Law (RE); (ii) Guiding RE Business Environment; (iii) Human Capital Development; (iv) Renewable Energy Research and Development Action Plan and (v) advocacy programmes. The aim of this renewable-energy policy was to accelerate the adoption of solar PV, reduce the long-term cost of building-integrated PV technology and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants [61]. However, to increase the usage of solar PV and boost its competitiveness, Malaysia should establish a robust financial support structure such as financing options and taxes. Although Malaysia is among the top 10 nations producing solar panels, the PV industry in Malaysia is still tiny, leading to a lower rate of adoption. To compete with other nations in solar energy, Malaysia must expand the quota size and give some enticing incentives [67]. To achieve this, the Malaysian government should be committed to maximizing the country’s potential in promoting solar energy by providing effective incentive schemes [68]. In this regard, Koerner et al. [40] argued that to increase the use of solar PV in the residential sector, regulators and policymakers should work together with the industry to raise public awareness about the technology beyond the purely economic benefits, with an emphasis on climate-change mitigation and the reduction of carbon emissions. The study suggested that communication channels between businesses and educational and research institutions need to be strengthened to develop efficient solar-energy applications that could compete internationally. 2 Methodology A qualitative research method was adopted to achieve the research objectives of this study. The qualitative approach is a commonly used research method in social sciences that enables researchers to gain in-depth insights and knowledge on an issue [69, 70]. Among others, interviews are frequently adopted in qualitative research in which researchers are able to converse with the participants. Thus, on most occasions, a better understanding of interviewees’ opinions and experience on a particular topic can be obtained [71]. In energy studies, researchers apply qualitative research methods to collect detailed personal viewpoints on a particular technology or technological-related policies [72]. This study has two primary purposes. The first is to discuss the shortcomings of current solar-related initiatives/policies/programmes from experts’ perspectives. The second is to discuss experts’ proposals on the future actions that can be taken by the government in increasing the adoption of solar PV in Malaysia. Hence, there will be no defined hypothesis tested in this study. 2.1 Data collection Data collection was divided into three waves as three groups of experts were targeted: academicians, government officials and industrial players. The selection of experts from the academic arena, industry and government bodies serves the purpose of obtaining deeper insights into the development of the solar industry and its policies in Malaysia. Each group of experts could provide different views based on different perspectives, thereby providing a more comprehensive set of findings and insights. Semi-structured interviews were deployed to collect essential information from these experts. Individual in-depth interviews could provide an opportunity to explore an unclear issue or situation in a more detailed manner [29, 73]. All interviews were conducted from October 2019 to December 2019. Specifically, interviews with the industrial players were conducted at the premise of the Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association. Inputs from academicians were collected via interviews held at various universities. Interviews with government officials were conducted at the premises of related government agencies such as the Sustainable Energy Development Authority and Energy Commission and the 10th International Greentech & Eco Products Exhibition & Conference held in Kuala Lumpur in October 2019. All interviews were audio-recorded upon approval from the interviewees and transcribed at the later stage. To achieve the research objectives, 25 individuals were interviewed by the principal investigator together with her research team members. Specifically, a total of 5 solar-related government agencies, 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy and 10 representatives from solar companies were involved. For government agencies, the representatives were either a chairperson, director or vice president of the agencies. All the academicians were professors who have vast experience in renewable-energy research. Meanwhile, the representatives of solar companies were either managers, key decision makers or chief executive officers. Potential participants were contacted in person via e-mail and given standard information about the research project. Upon their agreement, the participants were then contacted to discuss further at the date and venue of the interview. Before the commencement of the interviews, interviewees were shown documents about the research project. Written consent for the interview was then obtained from the participants. Each interview session took ~30 minutes. A token of appreciation was given to all the participants at the end of each interview session. The survey consisted of two main areas covering (i) the shortfall of current government solar-energy initiatives and policies and (ii) necessary actions to be taken by the government to increase the number of residential solar users. The interview questionnaire (available at Clean Energy online as Supplementary Data) contained two pre-determined open-ended questions that included: (i) What are the shortcomings of current government initiatives and policies that deter households from installing solar PV? (ii) What future actions need to be taken by the government to increase residential solar PV adoption? Each of the scheduled questions was then followed by sub-questions or ‘probes’ that could encourage participants to share more in-depth information [74]. Based on two general questions, there were 24 questions probed during the interview sessions. 2.2 Data analysis The collected qualitative data were then transcribed. In this process of transcription, the entire conversation content was transcribed in word form manually. All interview responses were coded and transcribed based on several themes. Subsequently, these transcribed data were compared and analysed in terms of similarities and differences of views across experts within each of the respondent groups and across the three expert groups of academicians, government officials and industrial players [9]. 3 Major findings 3.1 Shortcomings of current policies and initiatives This section demonstrates results obtained from expert interviews that were conducted to find out experts’ viewpoints on the shortcomings of current policies and initiatives in relation to residential solar adoption in Malaysia. Data obtained from the interviews have been transcribed and reported in four main themes, namely financial support, awareness programmes, subsidized electricity tariffs and NEM. These main themes explain the extent to which each of the various types of current solar initiatives and policies is deficient in promoting residential demand towards solar energy. All interviewees were asked to identify the weaknesses of current government policies that discourage residential solar adoption from their personal perspectives. The four most important shortfalls in the existing policies or themes that emerged from the experts’ interviews are discussed below. The summary of the responses is portrayed in Table 1. Table 1: Summary responses on shortcomings of current government policies Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab Table 1: Summary responses on shortcomings of current government policies Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab 3.1.1 Financial supports A financial incentive is the most-mentioned theme identified from the interviews. Basically, it is true for all three groups of interviewees. Most of the participants (15 out of 25 interviewed) believe that there is lack of financial support from the government to encourage solar PV installation in homes. This response was given by some of the interviewees from the industry as well as scholars from universities. Five and seven out of 10 interviewees from solar companies and universities, respectively, talked about financial support. A few representatives from solar companies pointed out that: ‘It is difficult to get individuals to install solar PV because they don’t get any financial assistance to do so. To many, upfront cost is too high.’ (I03) ‘Without incentives, the breakeven for households will take around 10 years, whereas for commercial will be only 3.5 years due to tax incentives.’ (I06) ‘Middle-income and low-income groups can’t afford the high installation cost unless there is financial incentive. They would rather spend their money on other essentials, but not solar PV.’ (I08) Some responses from the academicians are as follows: ‘It seems not worth to invest in solar PV without financial supports as the payback period is too long.’ (A05) ‘Too little financial help is given to the households at this moment.’ (A08) ‘The installation cost for solar PV remains high as long as there is no financial support from the government.’ (A10) Three of the five experts from government agencies share similar views to industrial players and academicians that financial incentives are absent to stimulate solar-energy adoption among households in Malaysia. Unlike companies, the government provided financial incentives to the companies such as tax incentives. As stated by the representatives from one of the government agencies: ‘Unfortunately, the current financial incentives are only meant for companies, not for households.’ (G01) ‘Basically, I have to admit that the residential sector has been neglected when it comes to solar energy adoption. I don’t see much financial help from the government so far.’ (G05) 3.1.2 Awareness programmes Weak public awareness of solar technology is perceived as one of the most important factors leading to low solar PV adoption among households. When asked about their opinions on households’ awareness, most of the participants (14 out of 25 interviewed), particularly academicians and industry players, agree with the point that the existing government policies are inadequate in creating public awareness and acceptance of solar energy. At present, there are awareness programmes such as the Annual Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association National Solar Roadshow aimed at educating and encouraging the installation of solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, but not at homes. Specifically, 6 of 10 academicians interviewed have highlighted the deficiencies of the existing public awareness programmes; as a few of the representatives put it: ‘The government has not done enough to create awareness among the people towards solar energy.’ (A01) ‘Many Malaysians are not aware of the benefits of using solar as they are not exposed to this kind of information.’ (A06) ‘I have not seen proper solar awareness programs to encourage residential usage.’ (A09) On the other hand, 6 of 10 industrial representatives did indicate the incompleteness of the current awareness programmes, as some interviewees from the industry said: ‘There are some limited awareness campaigns but failed to draw crowds.’ (I02) ‘In Malaysia, people get information about solar energy via mostly family members and friends, or from solar companies, but not from government organized awareness programs.’ (I05) ‘I can hardly see any awareness campaigns by the government to promote the usage of solar PV.’ (I08) Only two representatives (out of five interviewed) from the government agencies provided insights concerning awareness programmes. For instance, one of the governmental representatives described public awareness of solar energy as follows: ‘Many people don’t know much about solar energy out there. I can say the existing awareness programs are insufficient and not that effective.’ (G05) 3.1.3 Subsidized electricity tariffs Numerous interviewed experts mentioned that a low electricity price due to heavy subsidies serves as a deterrent to the development of the residential solar sector in Malaysia. Electricity consumers in the country are eligible to receive fuel subsidies from the government. According to Tenaga Nasional,2 fuel subsidy refers to the amount of fuel cost subsidized by the government for each unit of electricity consumed [75]. In terms of subsidized electricity, of our 10 interviewees from solar PV companies, 6 stated that cheap electricity prices demotivate households from adopting solar energy. As mentioned by three of the interviewees: ‘People are not encouraged to go for solar energy as the existing electricity price is relatively much cheaper.’ (I04) ‘Heavily subsidized electricity is making solar PV investment less attractive.’ (I05) ‘Consumers have no reason to use solar energy since the current electricity bill is low due to government subsidy.’ (I09) Meanwhile, over half (three out of five) of representatives from government agencies indicated a concern over low electricity prices as a hindrance to achieving high demand for solar energy among households in the country. One of the representatives stated: ‘It will be very difficult for the residential solar sector to expand if the government chooses to subsidize electricity continuously.’ (G04) Of participants from the higher learning institutions, half of them opined (i.e. 5 out of 10) that subsidized electricity is a critical factor in deterring people from using solar PV technology to generate electricity. Some of the responses are shown below: ‘From economic point of view, people will not use solar because electricity is cheap.’ (A07) ‘The policy of subsidizing electricity is bad for the development of solar energy.’ (A10) 3.1.4 NEM NEM was introduced by the government in 2017 to encourage the uptake of solar PV technology. This scheme was implemented to replace the FiT programme, which was first introduced in 2011 and then scrapped in 2016 [76]. The solar industry proposed to the government to modify the concept of NEM from the existing net billing to true net energy metering in 2018. Under the improved NEM scheme, excess energy generated from solar PV could be exported back to the grid based on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis starting in January 2019, replacing the Displaced Cost earlier. A quota allocation of 500 MW was provided for new NEM up to the end of 2020 [18]. Our interviewees from government agencies have mixed views on the introduction of NEM. Some agree with its implementation while the remaining (two out of five interviewees) would prefer the FiT scheme. One of the interviewees who opposed the launch of NEM said: ‘FiT is a better scheme. It should be re-proposed.’ (G03) Among the industry participants, 4 of 10 had comments on the introduction of NEM as a way to allow more public at large to generate clean energy at home: ‘If your electricity bill is less than RM300, it is not worth for you to install solar PV.’ (I01) ‘NEM will only help those consumers who fall under the high electricity tariff block.’ (I06) Overall, the interviewees from the universities are less sensitive to NEM as a policy that can discourage the adoption of solar technology among households. Only 2 of 10 have mentioned the disadvantages of NEM. For instance, one of the interviewees has stated: ‘NEM is not a subsidy because consumers still need to install the solar PV themselves. That’s why it can’t encourage solar usage.’ (A09) 3.2 Recommendations on future actions to enhance residential solar adoption On top of discussing current government initiatives and policies, the interviews were conducted to gather suggestions and feedback from academicians, government agencies and industry players on necessary future actions to enhance Malaysians’ intention to use solar PV. Three main themes emerged from the data collected. These main themes explain what should be done by the government to improve residential solar PV uptake. The discrepancies and similarities in opinions of different interviewees are presented below. Table 2 shows the summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption. Table 2: Summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab Table 2: Summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab 3.2.1 Provide financial incentives Not surprisingly, for all three groups of interviewees, the provision of financial assistance is one of the most suggested strategies to enhance solar PV adoption among individuals. Many interviewees opined that measures such as tax incentives and subsidies are able to encourage solar-energy usage. Six of 10 academicians who participated in the interviews stressed the importance of granting financial incentives in stimulating residential solar PV installation. Academicians’ example quotes are as follows: ‘It would be better that Malaysian government could offer tax incentive or subsidy on the installation of solar PV which currently only applied to commercial users.’ (A02) ‘To help the households financially should be the government priority now.’ (A05) ‘The government should give tax rebate or something like that to the individuals so that cost of installation can be reduced.’ (A09) Most industry players agree with the recommendation that financial support should be provided to the residential sector to increase the adoption of solar PV. Seven of 10 representatives interviewed proposed financial incentives as a remedy to the problem of low solar-energy usage among individuals in Malaysia. Several interviewees from the industry expressed their views as follows: ‘Households need financial supports to shorten the payback period of solar investment.’ (I03) ‘The commercial sector is currently taking advantage of tax saving, the residential sector needs the same too.’ (I08) ‘If Malaysia wants to achieve the renewable energy goal of 20% by 2025, to give financial incentives to individual PV installers is a must.’ (I10) On top of that, the majority of government officers (three of five) also agreed with the point that financial incentives are essential in stimulating solar PV installation in homes. Example recommendations are shown below: ‘Probably, government can subsidize, give tax incentive. That is how solar energy can be encouraged.’ (G01) ‘Financial incentives should be given to make return on investment more attractive.’ (G05) 3.2.2 Enhance public awareness Over the years, Malaysia’s dependency on fossil fuels in electricity generation has led to excessive carbon dioxide emissions. However, people have shown little concern about the adverse effects of air pollution. In the meantime, public awareness of the importance of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar energy remains low [20, 69]. According to most of the participants in our study, raising public awareness is paramount to encouraging the utilization of solar energy among households. Among the academicians, 6 of 10 highlighted the significant role of public awareness in reaching renewable-energy goals in Malaysia. In particular, some academicians suggested that the government should promote the concept of renewable energy such as solar PV and create public awareness by working more closely with both traditional and social media. As two of the interviewees put it: ‘The government should make use of the social media and promote it in television as well.’ (A07) ‘advertise in the media to create awareness.’ (A10) Another academician opined that government could incorporate the concept of renewable energy into the school curriculum: ‘Government can do more like promoting the idea of solar energy at schools. I don’t see the school curriculum has been designed to include the renewable energy.’ (A03) Half of the representatives (5 out of 10) from solar companies had a similar view that educating the public is one of the best strategies to increase the solar PV adoption rate among Malaysian households, as shown by the following responses: ‘Government can work with the industry to organize more awareness campaigns such as roadshows and so forth.’ (I02) ‘Awareness creation must start from young.’ (I05) ‘Of course, people don’t install solar PV because they don’t know about it. Thus, awareness programs should be enhanced in Malaysia.’ (I06) Among the government officers, three out of five recommended increasing the number and effectiveness of awareness programmes for solar PV. As stated by one of the interviewees: ‘To make sure that more people know about solar PV and its benefits, we have to design more awareness programs.’ (G05) 3.2.3 Develop legislations to protect solar consumers At present, there are several main statutory laws that govern the renewable-energy sector such as the Electricity Supply Act 1990, Energy Commission Act 2001 and Renewable Energy Act 2011 in Malaysia [77]. However, none of these laws aims to prevent consumer exploitation from solar companies. Thus, a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework is required to protect the rights of solar consumers in Malaysia, as suggested by some of the interviewees. Half of the academicians (5 out of 10) have expressed their concern about the need to have stricter laws to protect consumer interests. According to them, consumers would feel unsecured with solar investment without such legislation. The participants have given comments such as: ‘Some of the solar companies are not reliable. Thus, better regulations are needed to be imposed on them.’ (A04) ‘To gain households’ confidence, the government has to control what solar companies are doing.’ (A08) The two representatives from government agencies who responded have given statements as follows: ‘You will never know whether you will be cheated at the end of the day. To protect the consumers, stricter law is the only way out.’ (G01) ‘I know many cases where solar PV companies can’t give satisfactory technical supports and after sales services to customers. That’s why we need to have more stringent rules and regulations to govern them.’ (G03) Only a minority of representatives from the solar industry (2 out of 10) acknowledged the need to strengthen the rules and regulations imposed on solar companies. One of the interviewees said: ‘It is difficult to get a good installer. Smaller solar companies are in particular not stable. I think it’s time to do something to protect the consumers.’ (I01) 4 Discussion Interview sessions have been carried out with participants from government agencies, industries and academia. The participants’ feedback has been analysed thematically under four themes of financial support, awareness programmes, subsidized electricity tariffs and NEM. This section will discuss the findings in a detailed manner. The findings show both discrepancies and similarities in opinions within the same cohort of respondents and among different groups of interviewees. The majority of industrial representatives from solar companies opine that there are obvious weaknesses in the current policies. Similarly, from academicians’ points of view, most of the current solar strategies are ineffective in encouraging residential solar PV adoption due to certain shortfalls. However, governmental representatives have mixed views on the adequacy of current solar policies. Some agree with the existing efforts while others argue that deficiencies do exist in the current policies. The study suggests the possibility of policymakers introducing extra rebates for solar PV homeowners. Mamat et al. [48] also pointed to the similar view that the government should play its role by improving the effectiveness of the energy policies towards sustainable energy. For instance, the introduction of solar PV projects, also known as ‘MySuria’, will enable lower-income households to generate additional income through the adoption of solar PV [41]. Representatives from the solar companies have pointed out high installation cost as the main barrier to solar-energy adoption among households. Moreover, a lack of financial support from the government will increase the breakeven cost and hinder households to install solar PV relative to the commercial sector. Under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2006–2010), green technology incentives such as GITA and GITE aimed to promote the use of renewable energy [49] and are designed with the purpose of increasing companies’ involvements in environmentally friendly activities. Under these schemes, companies that carry out green technology activities or provide green technology services can apply for tax incentives. Yet, households have not benefited from these incentives. The government representatives admitted that the residential sector has been neglected in terms of financial support when comes to solar PV adoption. However, Solangi et al. [63] disagreed that limited solar-energy adoption was due to high solar-panel costs and limited information. Their findings revealed that >80% of respondents thought that government subsidies would be the greatest way to increase solar-energy adoption. Hence, more comprehensive financial schemes that cater to respective stakeholders such as industries and individuals should be made available. This would enable homeowners to get a loan to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Zainuddin et al. [68] and Husain et al. [67] also agreed that government should be committed to promoting solar energy via the provision of various incentive schemes. Although Malaysian policymakers have initiated numerous policies and laws to increase the capacity of renewable energy in the national electricity-generation mix [40], still there is a lack of public awareness of the importance of solar PV adoption among Malaysians. This scenario contributed to the slow adoption of solar PV. Academicians claimed that the government have not done enough to create public awareness and that there are no proper awareness programmes in place. However, the industry players admitted that there are awareness programmes such as the Annual Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association National Solar Roadshow aimed at educating and encouraging the installation of solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, but not focusing on the residential sector. Malaysian households mostly obtain information about solar PV from their family members, relatives and friends, but not from the government’s organized campaigns. This shows that the efforts taken by the government to promote solar PV have been unable to grasp public attention thus far. Moreover, limited information made available to households on the benefits of solar PV systems hinders installation. Similarly, Al-Fatlawi et al. [66] have pointed out that many individuals are still not aware of the benefits of using solar PV. Government representatives have admitted the truth that the existing awareness programmes are insufficient and ineffective to create public awareness towards solar PV adoption. It is recommended to raise awareness and widen access to homeowners through a rent-to-own scheme, for example, that would make solar PV affordable. With such publicity campaigns, it is expected to graduate a surge in interest and foresee a rise in residential solar adoption in the near future. On the other hand, subsidized electricity tariffs provided by Malaysia National Energy have led to low electricity costs for Malaysian households. Electricity consumers in the country are eligible to receive fuel subsidies from the government. According to Malaysia National Energy, fuel subsidy refers to the amount of fuel cost subsidized by the government for each unit of electricity consumed. Hence, participants from government agencies, industry and academician agreed that this subsidy serves as a deterrent for the development of the residential solar sector in Malaysia. Last but not least, the shortcomings of NEM—a new mechanism introduced by the government in 2017 to replace the FiT—were highlighted in the interviews. The main objective of the NEM scheme is to encourage the uptake of solar PV technology. The solar industry has proposed to the government to modify the concept of NEM from the existing net billing to true net energy metering in 2018. Under the improved NEM scheme, excess energy generated from solar PV could be exported back to the grid based on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis starting in January 2019, replacing the Displaced Cost earlier [18]. However, some government agencies’ representatives mentioned that the FiT scheme is better as compared with the NEM scheme and the FiT scheme should be re-proposed. The industry players further commented that solar PV installation is only suitable for households with a monthly electricity bill of >300 Malaysian Ringgit. Based on the discussion above, it is revealed that our findings are consistent with Assoa et al. [47] and Mamat et al. [48] who claimed that the slow adoption of solar energy was mainly due to inadequate energy policies. Thus, the authorities could promote solar energy to the public by introducing more effective programmes. Koerner et al. [40] also suggested that communication channels between stakeholders in the solar-energy discipline should be strengthened to increase the use of solar PV towards a reduction in carbon emissions. In the long run, increased usage of solar energy among Malaysian households will tend to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants [78]. This study has deeply discussed the shortcomings of the existing energy policies and future strategies to enhance residential solar PV adoption via a qualitative approach that has not been found in previous studies. 5 Conclusion and policy implications By using a qualitative approach (via individual in-depth interviews), this study enables the compilation of solar experts’ viewpoints on policy shortfalls and recommendations for better solar-energy policies in Malaysia. The responses from most of the participants portray the existing initiatives undertaken by the government as inadequate and ineffective in promoting solar PV usage among Malaysian households. Indeed, several policy flaws have been identified. In addition, the respondents have recommended solar policies and programmes that should be in place to enhance demand for solar PV systems. Previous research acknowledged the importance of solar policies in determining the demand for solar systems among Malaysian households [40–42]. However, none of these previous studies has scrutinized the role of solar policies by using a qualitative approach. Scientifically, our study contributes to the existing literature by collecting experts’ opinions and feedback on the shortcomings of current solar initiatives taken by the Malaysian government. Furthermore, this study also attempts to gather experts’ suggestions on what could be done by the government to improve solar-related policies in the country. To our knowledge, this strand of research is absent in the literature. Our findings, therefore, could contribute to this theme by shedding light on the experts’ policy viewpoints when it comes to solar PV adoption. The findings of this study also provide a better understanding of residential solar PV usage in Malaysia. Based on our findings, several important policy implications are produced as follows. First, our results show that there is a lack of public awareness of the solar-related schemes introduced by the government and the benefits of solar power on the environment. Therefore, public awareness and education campaigns should be launched to ensure that households are informed of the government’s solar initiatives and the importance of using solar PV to reduce pollution. In such a case, the policymakers could engage electronic or traditional media as well as community leaders to share information with the public on solar PV programmes and their benefits. Furthermore, the public should also be exposed to an energy curriculum and activities in schools from a young age. The curriculum could introduce school children to different types of energy sources and their environmental impacts. In a nutshell, educating the public is one of the most important strategies that can be taken by the government to enhance the installation of solar PV systems. Second, the current renewable-energy policies such as GITA, GITE and GTFS have been focusing on providing financial incentives to companies that engage in green projects and activities. However, tax incentives and financial support are not granted to households who wish to install solar PV systems at home. In line with the government’s goal of achieving 20% renewable energy generation by 2025, it is thus important to ensure that not only the industrial and commercial sectors receive financial assistance for solar PV utilization, but also the residential sector. Currently, households are unwilling to install solar PV systems as the payback period for investment is up to 10 years with limited financial incentives from the government. Thus, the policymakers should formulate appropriate subsidy or incentive programmes that are able to reduce the payback period and upfront costs of solar PV investment so that homeowners could be encouraged to adopt the technology. The Malaysian government can draw on the practical experience of other governments to construct relevant support schemes for solar PV usage. In Australia, for example, the provision of solar incentive schemes from both the state and the federal government has encouraged the uptake of solar PV systems among households. At the federal level, the government grants solar subsidies to homeowners for solar-panel installation. With this subsidy scheme, the upfront costs of solar PV have been reduced by ~30%. Additionally, certain state governments in Australia also provide solar-panel rebates and interest-free loans for residential solar installation [79]. Third, our findings also suggest that there is a shortage of reliable solar companies in the market that can provide satisfactory technical support and service to solar PV adopters. A responsible solar PV provider should be able to provide customers with complete operation and maintenance services to maximize the performance of solar PV systems throughout their period of usage. In relation to this, appropriate regulatory measures aimed to govern the actions of solar suppliers should be developed and implemented by policymakers for the sake of solar users. Once households are convinced and confident with the capability and reliability of solar companies, they will be encouraged to install solar PV at home. This study has two main limitations. First, the results are indicative instead of conclusive due to the small sample size. Second, the exploratory nature of this qualitative study has the drawback that the data have been subjectively analysed and interpreted. Our study, being exploratory in nature, is able to create a few opportunities for future research. In short, more future studies are required to refine our findings. First, future researchers may consider using a larger sample size and/or a mixed research method, i.e. combining qualitative and quantitative research approaches. The results generated from different methods can enhance our understanding of the advantages and drawbacks of solar policies in Malaysia. Second, an identical study could be extended to other developing countries (such as the Philippines and Thailand) to investigate the effectiveness of their existing solar-related policies. The similarity between Malaysia and other developing countries is that renewable energy constitutes an insignificant proportion of the total energy mix. Finally, comparative studies between developed countries (particularly those with solid solar policies) and the developing world can also be carried out in the future. Such research could probably provide important lessons for the developing countries in refining their solar policies and hence enhancing the use of solar energy. Footnotes Malaysia is the world’s third largest producer of solar PV cells and modules (Malaysian Investment Development Authority, 2017). Tenaga Nasional is Malaysia’s largest electric utility company. Acknowledgements We acknowledge the funding support from the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), Malaysia under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) (Reference No.: FRGS/2018/ SS08/UTAR/02/1). Supplementary Data Supplementary data is available at Clean Energy online. Data availability The data sets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available as the data are required to be kept confidential, which was requested by third parties, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. 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Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Clean Energy Oxford University Press

Expert insights on Malaysia’s residential solar-energy policies: shortcomings and recommendations

Expert insights on Malaysia’s residential solar-energy policies: shortcomings and recommendations

Clean Energy , Volume 6 (4): 13 – Aug 1, 2022

Abstract

Abstract Malaysia has a long way before achieving the 20% renewable-energy penetration by 2025. Currently, merely 2% of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources including solar power. Unlike the abundant literature about solar energy, qualitative studies that focus on experts’ opinions on the weaknesses of residential solar-energy policies have received less attention, particularly in the context of Malaysia. Understanding the flaws in the existing policies would lead to creating a better policy framework for solar-energy development. Thus, this study aims to identify the shortcomings of the current government initiatives and policies that deter solar photovoltaic adoption among households from experts’ perspectives. Experts also provide recommendations for better future policy design and implementation. This study employs a qualitative research approach (via semi-structured interviews) in collecting experts’ viewpoints. Key concerns emerging from the interviews include insufficient financial support, lack of awareness programmes and subsidized electricity tariffs. Also, interviewed experts suggest sufficient financial incentives, increased public awareness programmes and comprehensive legislation aimed at safeguarding consumer interests as a means to raising solar-energy adoption in the country. This underlines the need for policymakers to create public awareness, provide financial support and develop regulatory measures aimed at managing solar companies for the sake of solar development in Malaysia. Open in new tabDownload slide qualitative study, interview, expert insights, solar energy, households, policy shortcomings, policy recommendations Introduction The negative impacts on the environment and other issues associated with fossil fuels have forced many countries to change their environmental policies towards achieving sustainability in the renewable-energy industry [1, 2]. Solar energy has become one of the best sustainable energy sources that will gradually replace the use of fossil fuels for the production of electricity [1, 3]. Globally, renewable-energy policies were designed to address the problems of energy development along with the development of the renewable-energy industry to sustain its growth, including energy production, distribution and consumption [3, 4]. According to RED21’s global status report, renewable-energy policies were present in nearly all countries worldwide by the end of 2018 and relatively found at all levels of government projects [5]. Such initiations have supported the generation and use of renewable energy in 168 countries worldwide. Among others, solar energy has been the leading renewable energy source. Over the past two decades, the price of solar energy has decreased substantially, leading to greater potential for its adoption. It is expected that the global residential solar capacity will grow from 58 GW in 2018 to 143 GW in 2024. Among others, China is the largest growth market, followed by the USA, Australia and Japan as a result of solar photovoltaic (PV) remuneration packages such as net metering and buy all, sell all in these countries. However, many developing and emerging economies in Asia such as Malaysia, Indonesia and India are lagging behind due to inadequate policy incentives, lack of rules and regulations, and low or subsidized household electricity tariffs [6]. According to Burke (2019), the uptake of solar energy faces many challenges including policy deficiencies and heavy subsidies for fossil fuels in Asian countries [7]. Governments’ energy and climate-change policies have been seen as important factors influencing solar installation in Asia [8]. In other words, even though prices of solar technologies are diminishing, the degree to which a country is successful in expanding its solar industry depends very much on the country’s solar-related policies and strategies [9]. According to the International Energy Agency, decisions by the policymakers such as the setting of ambitious targets and implementation of appropriate policies could play a paramount role in enhancing solar usage in a particular nation [10]. Malaysia appears to be an appropriate case study in the sense that it is of paramount importance for the country to increase renewable-energy usage due to two reasons. First, the renewable-energy initiatives allow the country to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. As Malaysia’s domestic oil and gas reserves are expected to run out by 2029, the country will be forced to import fossil fuels for electricity generation [11]. However, the prices of imported fossil fuels are heavily dependent on exchange-rate fluctuations, which will potentially expose Malaysia to economic risk [12]. Second, the widespread use of renewable energy is essential for Malaysia to address its climate-change challenges. Between 1971 and 2020, for example, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions increased at an annual rate from 14.7 to 262.2 million tonnes [13]. Among the available renewable energy sources, solar energy is of the greatest potential in Malaysia as the country is located within the Sunbelt with at least 10 sun hours daily. This enables the generation of electricity using solar power throughout the country all year round [14]. Solar PV industry in Malaysia Historically, solar PV installation was first introduced in Malaysia via the pioneering solar PV rural electrification programme in 1982. Under the scheme, ~100 homes at several selected remote villages throughout the country had solar PV installed. In 2000, the first grid-connected PV system was launched by the country’s largest electricity utility company. This was then followed by a 5-year programme called SURIA 1000 for the period between 2006 and 2010. The programme provided subsidies to successful bidders for the installation of solar PV systems in their homes. Most importantly, SURIA 1000 has also opened up opportunities for the public and industry to be directly involved in solar-related initiatives [15]. Since then, many multinational companies have started to set up PV cells and modules manufacturing plants in Malaysia.1 In 2011, the renewable-energy feed-in tariff (FiT) mechanism was established under the Renewable Energy Act 2011. The FiT allows the sale of electricity generated from solar PV systems to the utility company at a fixed premium price for a specific time period [16]. The FiT programme came to an end in 2017. It was replaced by net energy metering (NEM), which enables solar users to produce electricity with solar net metering and sell the excess electricity to power grids [17]. Since January 2019, NEM has been improved by introducing the true NEM concept that enables excess solar energy produced to be exported back to the grid on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis [18]. To ensure the successful implementation of solar projects, financial supports are essential to solar adopters [19, 20]. In Malaysia, securing financing for the purpose of solar PV installation has been challenging as most bankers are not familiar with the industry, particularly when it comes to risks and liabilities. To encourage renewable-energy usage, the government has established the Green Technology Fund Scheme (GTFS) to finance green projects with an allocation of RM1.5 billion in 2010. Companies who succeed in securing loans from participating banks are entitled to a 2% interest subsidy and the government’s guarantee of 60% of the approved loan. In the meantime, the government has provided two forms of green technology incentives, i.e. Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) and Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE), for companies that engage in green projects [21]. However, individuals or household investors are not eligible to apply for these incentives. In short, finances and fiscal incentives have been granted to only companies, not individuals, in Malaysia. The existing public green policies in Malaysia are with the aim of achieving the national renewable-energy mix target of 20% by 2025 [22]. However, despite various incentives and strategies to encourage the growth of the renewable-energy sector, clean energy sources (including solar PV) constitute merely 2% of the total electricity-generation capacity in Malaysia. Specifically, the residential sector contributes merely 9.14 megawatts to the installed capacity of solar PV in Malaysia. Most of the installed PV capacity comes from the commercial (i.e. 25.60 megawatts) and industrial (i.e. 355.76 megawatts) sectors [23]. Thus, increased efforts are required to enhance the adoption of solar PV technologies, particularly among households in Malaysia. Contributions of the study Indeed, the successful design and implementation of solar policies require inputs from various stakeholders in the solar PV industry [24–27]. In other words, to enhance the effectiveness of energy policies, insights from the experts (e.g. officials from the relevant government agencies and academicians from the energy field) are also essential, besides consumers. Considering merely the viewpoints of potential customers may not allow the policymakers to produce comprehensive energy policies that are beneficial to the residential solar PV market. However, research remains scarce that has looked into the feedback of industrial experts, government officials and academicians in shaping future solar policies. Much of the research on solar PV has focused on consumer behaviour and experiences in solar PV adoption [14, 28–30]. Additionally, even though some studies have sought experts’ opinions pertaining to solar PV adoption, they have emphasized the general factors affecting the usage of the technology [31, 32]. Some other past studies [33–35] have investigated the impact of public policy on the solar-energy industry. However, none has explored specifically the role of public policy in influencing solar PV installation among residential consumers particularly in the context of Malaysia. Numerous past studies on Malaysia have performed a review on the current situation of solar-energy adoption in the country. Amongst others, some studies have been focusing on the potential or outlook of solar power [36–38] while the remaining studies discuss the effectiveness of the existing solar policies [39–42]. In particular, our study builds upon a recent study [40] that analysed the new solar policies and frameworks in Malaysia that focused on solar PV business models. The authors conducted interviews with business representatives and customers. Differently from [40], we extend the research by employing a qualitative research approach that involves interviews with industrial players, academicians and government officials that remains absent in the literature. Another uniqueness of our study, if compared with [40], is that we explore solar experts’ opinions on the overall effectiveness of Malaysian solar policies and their suggestions for further policy improvements. Thus, the aim of our study is to determine the shortcomings of the current government initiatives and policies that hinder solar PV adoption among households in Malaysia from the perspectives of energy experts. Policy recommendations are also sought from the experts. Thus, this analysis could provide a better understanding of the weaknesses of the existing solar programmes and most importantly furnish information for better future policy design and implementation. The research findings could contribute significantly for policymakers in creating effective strategies aiming at enhancing the usage of residential solar PV systems. The study also provides valuable inputs that could help in the development and growth of the solar PV industry in Malaysia. Lessons learnt from Malaysia’s experience are highly relevant, particularly for other developing countries in Asia. 1 Literature review Carley et al. [43] posited that solar energy is one of the cleanest renewable energy sources with almost zero negative impact on the environment. However, several studies instigated that the production and consumption of more solar energy to replace fossil fuels in a country require the introduction of effective energy policies [44, 45]. Countries such as Germany, the UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy and others are among the top 10 countries with the biggest proportion of renewable energy [3, 42, 43]. Meanwhile, countries such as China, the USA, Germany, Japan and India are the top solar-energy producers globally [1, 3, 44, 46]. Assoa et al. [47] posited that Japan, India, China, South Korea and Singapore are leading in terms of solar-energy usage in the Asian region. However, Assoa et al. [47] and Mamat et al. [48] have shown that slow adaptation to the use of solar energy in some developing countries in Asia is mainly due to inadequate energy policies. Southeast Asian countries stand at a crossroads regarding their contribution to climate change and rely heavily on fossil fuels for transport and electricity. According to Assoa et al. [47], the Southeast Asian region requires a more sustainable energy policy to reduce the use of fossil fuel as an energy source. To reach the aspirational target of 25% renewable energy source in the region by 2025, the Southeast Asian countries will have to substantially scale up their deployment of renewables in the power sector through adequate and sustainable solar-energy policies. The initiatives taken by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enhance energy production, consumption and distribution policy are vital to ensure the achievement of energy efficiency and efficiency standards in the region [49]. Solangi et al. [50] and Mamat et al. [48] pointed out that energy policies that are significant to support the development of renewable energy such as the use of solar energy have been explicitly made to determine the national commitment by all the 10 ASEAN member countries including Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Findings from Solangi et al. [49], Blazquez et al. [51] and Assoa, et al. [47] have revealed that as part of the energy policy implications, the use of solar energy for electricity generation has significantly risen over the years. For instance, Singapore’s contribution to the use of renewable energy such as solar energy has increased with their continuous efforts to eradicate the use of fossil fuels. However, the Philippines has targeted to reduce its energy intensity by 40% by 2030 as part of its contribution to sustainable energy consumption. Most Southeast Asian countries share the common goal of expanding renewable-energy production because they have a large capacity for natural energy resources and face environmental problems that include carbon emissions. However, with the energy policies already implemented, most are moving in the right direction to promote sustainable energy production and consumption [48]. In Malaysia, the renewable-energy policy ensures an increase in capacity from renewable energy to 4000 MW by 2030, while Brunei has set a target of 10% renewable electricity generation by 2035. Singapore’s primary renewable-energy policy aims to increase PV capacity to >400 MW by 2030. Thailand has ambitious targets to increase renewable-energy consumption to 30% by 2036. This includes increasing the share of renewable electricity-generation capacity to 20.11% and the share of renewable energy in transport fuel consumption to 25.04% by 2036. The renewable-energy policy in the Philippines focuses on tripling renewable electricity installation capacity by 2030. Cambodia aims to increase hydropower capacity to >3453 MW by 2030 to realize the potential of new energy capacity. Vietnamese policy on renewable energy ensures that the share of non-hydro renewable power generation capacity increases to 12.5% by 2025 and 21% by 2030 [48, 52, 53]. In the Asian region, advocacy for renewable-energy programmes is steadily increasing due to the implementation of new or revised energy policies in the region [54]. Indonesia’s renewable-energy targets of 23% by 2025 and 31% by 2050, for example, are supported by clear policies and regulations. Such policies ensured the establishment of the ‘Badan Koordinasi Energi Nasional’, also known as ‘BAKOREN’. The policy gives more consideration to conservation, diversification and clean and renewable energy [55]. In their study, Liu et al. [56] highlighted the Renewable Energy Law of the People’s Republic of China, which was introduced in 2006 and outlines the general conditions for renewable energy (RE) and the importance of this energy source for the People’s Republic of China. In addition, there are other energy policies, including the Renewable Energy Law Amendment, which aims to efficiently reduce the cost of renewable energy and ensure that electricity grid operators in China purchase all electricity generated from renewable sources [54, 56]. In the Far East Asia region, Japan’s renewable-energy policy, also known as the ‘Strategic Energy Plan’, ensures the promotion of the diffusion of renewable energy resources (solar energy, biomass, renewable heat and small/medium hydropower) [57]. According to Kardooni et al. [58], Malaysia has targeted to achieve 20% renewable energy in the electricity-generation mix by 2025 even though the country’s current energy source is largely natural gas and coal. The policy to promote the use of solar-energy sources is gradually contributing to the energy conservation strategy [48, 49]. Malaysia’s framework for energy development was first formulated in the early 1970s. Since then, prominent energy policies have been introduced to enhance the development of sustainable energy. The most significant step towards sustainable energy development was the introduction of the Fifth Fuel Policy in 2000 in which solar, biomass, biogas and hydro energy were recognized as potential renewable energy sources for electricity generation [49]. Thereafter, new policies have been initiated towards the utilization of renewable energy and the promotion of energy efficiency to replace fossil fuels with renewables [59]. Solangi et al. [49] indicate that the renewable-energy policy and action plan that were outlined in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2006–2010) not only provided an alternative to energy sources but also encouraged the use of renewable energy such as solar energy. However, the new policies that will be implemented in the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021–2025) concerning renewable energy are expected to create more jobs, promote sustainable development and create new opportunities for businesses and industries to positively impact the country’s economic growth [59]. Policymakers in Malaysia have initiated numerous policies and laws to increase the capacity of renewable energy in the national electricity-generation mix [40]. Among the various policy initiatives to increase energy consumption capacity, the Malaysian government has introduced a solar PV project, also known as ‘MySuria’, to increase the income of the bottom 40% of households, also known as ‘B40’, by not only increasing the knowledge and awareness of solar energy but also promoting the adoption of solar PV energy technology to reduce the cost-of-consumption rate and generate additional income [41]. As part of these initiatives to generate additional income through the adoption of PV, the government has committed to enforcing the FiT law introduced in 2011 to promote energy-generation capacity, especially in rural areas, while generating additional monthly income for low-income earners [60]. In this regard, Alam et al. [61] argued that households are more likely to embrace PV solar technology if they have the opportunity to test it out before it is put into widespread use and find that it meets their needs. However, if people could see the advantages of PV solar technology in action, it would change their minds about using it. However, people could be hesitant to fully invest in PV if there is a lack of marketing, adoption readiness, motivation and competence, as well as the absence of legislation mandating PV’s usage [62]. To increase the usage of PV in Malaysia, Solangi et al. [63] argued that obstacles such as high solar-panel costs and a lack of accurate information about harnessing solar energy should be eliminated. Their findings revealed that >80% of respondents think that government subsidies would be the greatest way to increase solar-energy consumption throughout the country. These were confirmed by Solangi et al. [64] who found that 80% of Malaysians are interested in switching to PV solar but they lack the expertise and resources to do so. Households argued that the Malaysian government should raise subsidies for solar-energy products to make them more affordable. For this reason, it is crucial now to educate the public about solar PV technology and its advantages. Public opinion has a significant effect on the diffusion of solar PV. The public’s embrace of solar PV depends on emphasizing both its utility and its simplicity of operation [65]. Al-Fatlawi et al. [66] found that although there is interest in solar PV system adoption among households in Malaysia, many individuals still do not realize the benefits of using PV solar such as financial benefits. The study showed that ~36% of Malaysians are close to being ready to invest in solar PV projects but they need financial support to lower the initial capital cost of these projects. According to Koerner et al. [40], the Malaysian PV industry has experienced accelerated growth and rapid development since the introduction of the FiT and other renewable-energy policies. In 2008, a new energy policy was introduced with five strategic focus areas that specifically address recurring problems, including poor governance, lack of a regulatory framework, limited market oversight and lack of institutional policies. These five focus areas consist of (i) Renewable Energy Foundation Law (RE); (ii) Guiding RE Business Environment; (iii) Human Capital Development; (iv) Renewable Energy Research and Development Action Plan and (v) advocacy programmes. The aim of this renewable-energy policy was to accelerate the adoption of solar PV, reduce the long-term cost of building-integrated PV technology and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants [61]. However, to increase the usage of solar PV and boost its competitiveness, Malaysia should establish a robust financial support structure such as financing options and taxes. Although Malaysia is among the top 10 nations producing solar panels, the PV industry in Malaysia is still tiny, leading to a lower rate of adoption. To compete with other nations in solar energy, Malaysia must expand the quota size and give some enticing incentives [67]. To achieve this, the Malaysian government should be committed to maximizing the country’s potential in promoting solar energy by providing effective incentive schemes [68]. In this regard, Koerner et al. [40] argued that to increase the use of solar PV in the residential sector, regulators and policymakers should work together with the industry to raise public awareness about the technology beyond the purely economic benefits, with an emphasis on climate-change mitigation and the reduction of carbon emissions. The study suggested that communication channels between businesses and educational and research institutions need to be strengthened to develop efficient solar-energy applications that could compete internationally. 2 Methodology A qualitative research method was adopted to achieve the research objectives of this study. The qualitative approach is a commonly used research method in social sciences that enables researchers to gain in-depth insights and knowledge on an issue [69, 70]. Among others, interviews are frequently adopted in qualitative research in which researchers are able to converse with the participants. Thus, on most occasions, a better understanding of interviewees’ opinions and experience on a particular topic can be obtained [71]. In energy studies, researchers apply qualitative research methods to collect detailed personal viewpoints on a particular technology or technological-related policies [72]. This study has two primary purposes. The first is to discuss the shortcomings of current solar-related initiatives/policies/programmes from experts’ perspectives. The second is to discuss experts’ proposals on the future actions that can be taken by the government in increasing the adoption of solar PV in Malaysia. Hence, there will be no defined hypothesis tested in this study. 2.1 Data collection Data collection was divided into three waves as three groups of experts were targeted: academicians, government officials and industrial players. The selection of experts from the academic arena, industry and government bodies serves the purpose of obtaining deeper insights into the development of the solar industry and its policies in Malaysia. Each group of experts could provide different views based on different perspectives, thereby providing a more comprehensive set of findings and insights. Semi-structured interviews were deployed to collect essential information from these experts. Individual in-depth interviews could provide an opportunity to explore an unclear issue or situation in a more detailed manner [29, 73]. All interviews were conducted from October 2019 to December 2019. Specifically, interviews with the industrial players were conducted at the premise of the Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association. Inputs from academicians were collected via interviews held at various universities. Interviews with government officials were conducted at the premises of related government agencies such as the Sustainable Energy Development Authority and Energy Commission and the 10th International Greentech & Eco Products Exhibition & Conference held in Kuala Lumpur in October 2019. All interviews were audio-recorded upon approval from the interviewees and transcribed at the later stage. To achieve the research objectives, 25 individuals were interviewed by the principal investigator together with her research team members. Specifically, a total of 5 solar-related government agencies, 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy and 10 representatives from solar companies were involved. For government agencies, the representatives were either a chairperson, director or vice president of the agencies. All the academicians were professors who have vast experience in renewable-energy research. Meanwhile, the representatives of solar companies were either managers, key decision makers or chief executive officers. Potential participants were contacted in person via e-mail and given standard information about the research project. Upon their agreement, the participants were then contacted to discuss further at the date and venue of the interview. Before the commencement of the interviews, interviewees were shown documents about the research project. Written consent for the interview was then obtained from the participants. Each interview session took ~30 minutes. A token of appreciation was given to all the participants at the end of each interview session. The survey consisted of two main areas covering (i) the shortfall of current government solar-energy initiatives and policies and (ii) necessary actions to be taken by the government to increase the number of residential solar users. The interview questionnaire (available at Clean Energy online as Supplementary Data) contained two pre-determined open-ended questions that included: (i) What are the shortcomings of current government initiatives and policies that deter households from installing solar PV? (ii) What future actions need to be taken by the government to increase residential solar PV adoption? Each of the scheduled questions was then followed by sub-questions or ‘probes’ that could encourage participants to share more in-depth information [74]. Based on two general questions, there were 24 questions probed during the interview sessions. 2.2 Data analysis The collected qualitative data were then transcribed. In this process of transcription, the entire conversation content was transcribed in word form manually. All interview responses were coded and transcribed based on several themes. Subsequently, these transcribed data were compared and analysed in terms of similarities and differences of views across experts within each of the respondent groups and across the three expert groups of academicians, government officials and industrial players [9]. 3 Major findings 3.1 Shortcomings of current policies and initiatives This section demonstrates results obtained from expert interviews that were conducted to find out experts’ viewpoints on the shortcomings of current policies and initiatives in relation to residential solar adoption in Malaysia. Data obtained from the interviews have been transcribed and reported in four main themes, namely financial support, awareness programmes, subsidized electricity tariffs and NEM. These main themes explain the extent to which each of the various types of current solar initiatives and policies is deficient in promoting residential demand towards solar energy. All interviewees were asked to identify the weaknesses of current government policies that discourage residential solar adoption from their personal perspectives. The four most important shortfalls in the existing policies or themes that emerged from the experts’ interviews are discussed below. The summary of the responses is portrayed in Table 1. Table 1: Summary responses on shortcomings of current government policies Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab Table 1: Summary responses on shortcomings of current government policies Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab 3.1.1 Financial supports A financial incentive is the most-mentioned theme identified from the interviews. Basically, it is true for all three groups of interviewees. Most of the participants (15 out of 25 interviewed) believe that there is lack of financial support from the government to encourage solar PV installation in homes. This response was given by some of the interviewees from the industry as well as scholars from universities. Five and seven out of 10 interviewees from solar companies and universities, respectively, talked about financial support. A few representatives from solar companies pointed out that: ‘It is difficult to get individuals to install solar PV because they don’t get any financial assistance to do so. To many, upfront cost is too high.’ (I03) ‘Without incentives, the breakeven for households will take around 10 years, whereas for commercial will be only 3.5 years due to tax incentives.’ (I06) ‘Middle-income and low-income groups can’t afford the high installation cost unless there is financial incentive. They would rather spend their money on other essentials, but not solar PV.’ (I08) Some responses from the academicians are as follows: ‘It seems not worth to invest in solar PV without financial supports as the payback period is too long.’ (A05) ‘Too little financial help is given to the households at this moment.’ (A08) ‘The installation cost for solar PV remains high as long as there is no financial support from the government.’ (A10) Three of the five experts from government agencies share similar views to industrial players and academicians that financial incentives are absent to stimulate solar-energy adoption among households in Malaysia. Unlike companies, the government provided financial incentives to the companies such as tax incentives. As stated by the representatives from one of the government agencies: ‘Unfortunately, the current financial incentives are only meant for companies, not for households.’ (G01) ‘Basically, I have to admit that the residential sector has been neglected when it comes to solar energy adoption. I don’t see much financial help from the government so far.’ (G05) 3.1.2 Awareness programmes Weak public awareness of solar technology is perceived as one of the most important factors leading to low solar PV adoption among households. When asked about their opinions on households’ awareness, most of the participants (14 out of 25 interviewed), particularly academicians and industry players, agree with the point that the existing government policies are inadequate in creating public awareness and acceptance of solar energy. At present, there are awareness programmes such as the Annual Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association National Solar Roadshow aimed at educating and encouraging the installation of solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, but not at homes. Specifically, 6 of 10 academicians interviewed have highlighted the deficiencies of the existing public awareness programmes; as a few of the representatives put it: ‘The government has not done enough to create awareness among the people towards solar energy.’ (A01) ‘Many Malaysians are not aware of the benefits of using solar as they are not exposed to this kind of information.’ (A06) ‘I have not seen proper solar awareness programs to encourage residential usage.’ (A09) On the other hand, 6 of 10 industrial representatives did indicate the incompleteness of the current awareness programmes, as some interviewees from the industry said: ‘There are some limited awareness campaigns but failed to draw crowds.’ (I02) ‘In Malaysia, people get information about solar energy via mostly family members and friends, or from solar companies, but not from government organized awareness programs.’ (I05) ‘I can hardly see any awareness campaigns by the government to promote the usage of solar PV.’ (I08) Only two representatives (out of five interviewed) from the government agencies provided insights concerning awareness programmes. For instance, one of the governmental representatives described public awareness of solar energy as follows: ‘Many people don’t know much about solar energy out there. I can say the existing awareness programs are insufficient and not that effective.’ (G05) 3.1.3 Subsidized electricity tariffs Numerous interviewed experts mentioned that a low electricity price due to heavy subsidies serves as a deterrent to the development of the residential solar sector in Malaysia. Electricity consumers in the country are eligible to receive fuel subsidies from the government. According to Tenaga Nasional,2 fuel subsidy refers to the amount of fuel cost subsidized by the government for each unit of electricity consumed [75]. In terms of subsidized electricity, of our 10 interviewees from solar PV companies, 6 stated that cheap electricity prices demotivate households from adopting solar energy. As mentioned by three of the interviewees: ‘People are not encouraged to go for solar energy as the existing electricity price is relatively much cheaper.’ (I04) ‘Heavily subsidized electricity is making solar PV investment less attractive.’ (I05) ‘Consumers have no reason to use solar energy since the current electricity bill is low due to government subsidy.’ (I09) Meanwhile, over half (three out of five) of representatives from government agencies indicated a concern over low electricity prices as a hindrance to achieving high demand for solar energy among households in the country. One of the representatives stated: ‘It will be very difficult for the residential solar sector to expand if the government chooses to subsidize electricity continuously.’ (G04) Of participants from the higher learning institutions, half of them opined (i.e. 5 out of 10) that subsidized electricity is a critical factor in deterring people from using solar PV technology to generate electricity. Some of the responses are shown below: ‘From economic point of view, people will not use solar because electricity is cheap.’ (A07) ‘The policy of subsidizing electricity is bad for the development of solar energy.’ (A10) 3.1.4 NEM NEM was introduced by the government in 2017 to encourage the uptake of solar PV technology. This scheme was implemented to replace the FiT programme, which was first introduced in 2011 and then scrapped in 2016 [76]. The solar industry proposed to the government to modify the concept of NEM from the existing net billing to true net energy metering in 2018. Under the improved NEM scheme, excess energy generated from solar PV could be exported back to the grid based on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis starting in January 2019, replacing the Displaced Cost earlier. A quota allocation of 500 MW was provided for new NEM up to the end of 2020 [18]. Our interviewees from government agencies have mixed views on the introduction of NEM. Some agree with its implementation while the remaining (two out of five interviewees) would prefer the FiT scheme. One of the interviewees who opposed the launch of NEM said: ‘FiT is a better scheme. It should be re-proposed.’ (G03) Among the industry participants, 4 of 10 had comments on the introduction of NEM as a way to allow more public at large to generate clean energy at home: ‘If your electricity bill is less than RM300, it is not worth for you to install solar PV.’ (I01) ‘NEM will only help those consumers who fall under the high electricity tariff block.’ (I06) Overall, the interviewees from the universities are less sensitive to NEM as a policy that can discourage the adoption of solar technology among households. Only 2 of 10 have mentioned the disadvantages of NEM. For instance, one of the interviewees has stated: ‘NEM is not a subsidy because consumers still need to install the solar PV themselves. That’s why it can’t encourage solar usage.’ (A09) 3.2 Recommendations on future actions to enhance residential solar adoption On top of discussing current government initiatives and policies, the interviews were conducted to gather suggestions and feedback from academicians, government agencies and industry players on necessary future actions to enhance Malaysians’ intention to use solar PV. Three main themes emerged from the data collected. These main themes explain what should be done by the government to improve residential solar PV uptake. The discrepancies and similarities in opinions of different interviewees are presented below. Table 2 shows the summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption. Table 2: Summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab Table 2: Summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab 3.2.1 Provide financial incentives Not surprisingly, for all three groups of interviewees, the provision of financial assistance is one of the most suggested strategies to enhance solar PV adoption among individuals. Many interviewees opined that measures such as tax incentives and subsidies are able to encourage solar-energy usage. Six of 10 academicians who participated in the interviews stressed the importance of granting financial incentives in stimulating residential solar PV installation. Academicians’ example quotes are as follows: ‘It would be better that Malaysian government could offer tax incentive or subsidy on the installation of solar PV which currently only applied to commercial users.’ (A02) ‘To help the households financially should be the government priority now.’ (A05) ‘The government should give tax rebate or something like that to the individuals so that cost of installation can be reduced.’ (A09) Most industry players agree with the recommendation that financial support should be provided to the residential sector to increase the adoption of solar PV. Seven of 10 representatives interviewed proposed financial incentives as a remedy to the problem of low solar-energy usage among individuals in Malaysia. Several interviewees from the industry expressed their views as follows: ‘Households need financial supports to shorten the payback period of solar investment.’ (I03) ‘The commercial sector is currently taking advantage of tax saving, the residential sector needs the same too.’ (I08) ‘If Malaysia wants to achieve the renewable energy goal of 20% by 2025, to give financial incentives to individual PV installers is a must.’ (I10) On top of that, the majority of government officers (three of five) also agreed with the point that financial incentives are essential in stimulating solar PV installation in homes. Example recommendations are shown below: ‘Probably, government can subsidize, give tax incentive. That is how solar energy can be encouraged.’ (G01) ‘Financial incentives should be given to make return on investment more attractive.’ (G05) 3.2.2 Enhance public awareness Over the years, Malaysia’s dependency on fossil fuels in electricity generation has led to excessive carbon dioxide emissions. However, people have shown little concern about the adverse effects of air pollution. In the meantime, public awareness of the importance of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar energy remains low [20, 69]. According to most of the participants in our study, raising public awareness is paramount to encouraging the utilization of solar energy among households. Among the academicians, 6 of 10 highlighted the significant role of public awareness in reaching renewable-energy goals in Malaysia. In particular, some academicians suggested that the government should promote the concept of renewable energy such as solar PV and create public awareness by working more closely with both traditional and social media. As two of the interviewees put it: ‘The government should make use of the social media and promote it in television as well.’ (A07) ‘advertise in the media to create awareness.’ (A10) Another academician opined that government could incorporate the concept of renewable energy into the school curriculum: ‘Government can do more like promoting the idea of solar energy at schools. I don’t see the school curriculum has been designed to include the renewable energy.’ (A03) Half of the representatives (5 out of 10) from solar companies had a similar view that educating the public is one of the best strategies to increase the solar PV adoption rate among Malaysian households, as shown by the following responses: ‘Government can work with the industry to organize more awareness campaigns such as roadshows and so forth.’ (I02) ‘Awareness creation must start from young.’ (I05) ‘Of course, people don’t install solar PV because they don’t know about it. Thus, awareness programs should be enhanced in Malaysia.’ (I06) Among the government officers, three out of five recommended increasing the number and effectiveness of awareness programmes for solar PV. As stated by one of the interviewees: ‘To make sure that more people know about solar PV and its benefits, we have to design more awareness programs.’ (G05) 3.2.3 Develop legislations to protect solar consumers At present, there are several main statutory laws that govern the renewable-energy sector such as the Electricity Supply Act 1990, Energy Commission Act 2001 and Renewable Energy Act 2011 in Malaysia [77]. However, none of these laws aims to prevent consumer exploitation from solar companies. Thus, a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework is required to protect the rights of solar consumers in Malaysia, as suggested by some of the interviewees. Half of the academicians (5 out of 10) have expressed their concern about the need to have stricter laws to protect consumer interests. According to them, consumers would feel unsecured with solar investment without such legislation. The participants have given comments such as: ‘Some of the solar companies are not reliable. Thus, better regulations are needed to be imposed on them.’ (A04) ‘To gain households’ confidence, the government has to control what solar companies are doing.’ (A08) The two representatives from government agencies who responded have given statements as follows: ‘You will never know whether you will be cheated at the end of the day. To protect the consumers, stricter law is the only way out.’ (G01) ‘I know many cases where solar PV companies can’t give satisfactory technical supports and after sales services to customers. That’s why we need to have more stringent rules and regulations to govern them.’ (G03) Only a minority of representatives from the solar industry (2 out of 10) acknowledged the need to strengthen the rules and regulations imposed on solar companies. One of the interviewees said: ‘It is difficult to get a good installer. Smaller solar companies are in particular not stable. I think it’s time to do something to protect the consumers.’ (I01) 4 Discussion Interview sessions have been carried out with participants from government agencies, industries and academia. The participants’ feedback has been analysed thematically under four themes of financial support, awareness programmes, subsidized electricity tariffs and NEM. This section will discuss the findings in a detailed manner. The findings show both discrepancies and similarities in opinions within the same cohort of respondents and among different groups of interviewees. The majority of industrial representatives from solar companies opine that there are obvious weaknesses in the current policies. Similarly, from academicians’ points of view, most of the current solar strategies are ineffective in encouraging residential solar PV adoption due to certain shortfalls. However, governmental representatives have mixed views on the adequacy of current solar policies. Some agree with the existing efforts while others argue that deficiencies do exist in the current policies. The study suggests the possibility of policymakers introducing extra rebates for solar PV homeowners. Mamat et al. [48] also pointed to the similar view that the government should play its role by improving the effectiveness of the energy policies towards sustainable energy. For instance, the introduction of solar PV projects, also known as ‘MySuria’, will enable lower-income households to generate additional income through the adoption of solar PV [41]. Representatives from the solar companies have pointed out high installation cost as the main barrier to solar-energy adoption among households. Moreover, a lack of financial support from the government will increase the breakeven cost and hinder households to install solar PV relative to the commercial sector. Under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2006–2010), green technology incentives such as GITA and GITE aimed to promote the use of renewable energy [49] and are designed with the purpose of increasing companies’ involvements in environmentally friendly activities. Under these schemes, companies that carry out green technology activities or provide green technology services can apply for tax incentives. Yet, households have not benefited from these incentives. The government representatives admitted that the residential sector has been neglected in terms of financial support when comes to solar PV adoption. However, Solangi et al. [63] disagreed that limited solar-energy adoption was due to high solar-panel costs and limited information. Their findings revealed that >80% of respondents thought that government subsidies would be the greatest way to increase solar-energy adoption. Hence, more comprehensive financial schemes that cater to respective stakeholders such as industries and individuals should be made available. This would enable homeowners to get a loan to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Zainuddin et al. [68] and Husain et al. [67] also agreed that government should be committed to promoting solar energy via the provision of various incentive schemes. Although Malaysian policymakers have initiated numerous policies and laws to increase the capacity of renewable energy in the national electricity-generation mix [40], still there is a lack of public awareness of the importance of solar PV adoption among Malaysians. This scenario contributed to the slow adoption of solar PV. Academicians claimed that the government have not done enough to create public awareness and that there are no proper awareness programmes in place. However, the industry players admitted that there are awareness programmes such as the Annual Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association National Solar Roadshow aimed at educating and encouraging the installation of solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, but not focusing on the residential sector. Malaysian households mostly obtain information about solar PV from their family members, relatives and friends, but not from the government’s organized campaigns. This shows that the efforts taken by the government to promote solar PV have been unable to grasp public attention thus far. Moreover, limited information made available to households on the benefits of solar PV systems hinders installation. Similarly, Al-Fatlawi et al. [66] have pointed out that many individuals are still not aware of the benefits of using solar PV. Government representatives have admitted the truth that the existing awareness programmes are insufficient and ineffective to create public awareness towards solar PV adoption. It is recommended to raise awareness and widen access to homeowners through a rent-to-own scheme, for example, that would make solar PV affordable. With such publicity campaigns, it is expected to graduate a surge in interest and foresee a rise in residential solar adoption in the near future. On the other hand, subsidized electricity tariffs provided by Malaysia National Energy have led to low electricity costs for Malaysian households. Electricity consumers in the country are eligible to receive fuel subsidies from the government. According to Malaysia National Energy, fuel subsidy refers to the amount of fuel cost subsidized by the government for each unit of electricity consumed. Hence, participants from government agencies, industry and academician agreed that this subsidy serves as a deterrent for the development of the residential solar sector in Malaysia. Last but not least, the shortcomings of NEM—a new mechanism introduced by the government in 2017 to replace the FiT—were highlighted in the interviews. The main objective of the NEM scheme is to encourage the uptake of solar PV technology. The solar industry has proposed to the government to modify the concept of NEM from the existing net billing to true net energy metering in 2018. Under the improved NEM scheme, excess energy generated from solar PV could be exported back to the grid based on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis starting in January 2019, replacing the Displaced Cost earlier [18]. However, some government agencies’ representatives mentioned that the FiT scheme is better as compared with the NEM scheme and the FiT scheme should be re-proposed. The industry players further commented that solar PV installation is only suitable for households with a monthly electricity bill of >300 Malaysian Ringgit. Based on the discussion above, it is revealed that our findings are consistent with Assoa et al. [47] and Mamat et al. [48] who claimed that the slow adoption of solar energy was mainly due to inadequate energy policies. Thus, the authorities could promote solar energy to the public by introducing more effective programmes. Koerner et al. [40] also suggested that communication channels between stakeholders in the solar-energy discipline should be strengthened to increase the use of solar PV towards a reduction in carbon emissions. In the long run, increased usage of solar energy among Malaysian households will tend to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants [78]. This study has deeply discussed the shortcomings of the existing energy policies and future strategies to enhance residential solar PV adoption via a qualitative approach that has not been found in previous studies. 5 Conclusion and policy implications By using a qualitative approach (via individual in-depth interviews), this study enables the compilation of solar experts’ viewpoints on policy shortfalls and recommendations for better solar-energy policies in Malaysia. The responses from most of the participants portray the existing initiatives undertaken by the government as inadequate and ineffective in promoting solar PV usage among Malaysian households. Indeed, several policy flaws have been identified. In addition, the respondents have recommended solar policies and programmes that should be in place to enhance demand for solar PV systems. Previous research acknowledged the importance of solar policies in determining the demand for solar systems among Malaysian households [40–42]. However, none of these previous studies has scrutinized the role of solar policies by using a qualitative approach. Scientifically, our study contributes to the existing literature by collecting experts’ opinions and feedback on the shortcomings of current solar initiatives taken by the Malaysian government. Furthermore, this study also attempts to gather experts’ suggestions on what could be done by the government to improve solar-related policies in the country. To our knowledge, this strand of research is absent in the literature. Our findings, therefore, could contribute to this theme by shedding light on the experts’ policy viewpoints when it comes to solar PV adoption. The findings of this study also provide a better understanding of residential solar PV usage in Malaysia. Based on our findings, several important policy implications are produced as follows. First, our results show that there is a lack of public awareness of the solar-related schemes introduced by the government and the benefits of solar power on the environment. Therefore, public awareness and education campaigns should be launched to ensure that households are informed of the government’s solar initiatives and the importance of using solar PV to reduce pollution. In such a case, the policymakers could engage electronic or traditional media as well as community leaders to share information with the public on solar PV programmes and their benefits. Furthermore, the public should also be exposed to an energy curriculum and activities in schools from a young age. The curriculum could introduce school children to different types of energy sources and their environmental impacts. In a nutshell, educating the public is one of the most important strategies that can be taken by the government to enhance the installation of solar PV systems. Second, the current renewable-energy policies such as GITA, GITE and GTFS have been focusing on providing financial incentives to companies that engage in green projects and activities. However, tax incentives and financial support are not granted to households who wish to install solar PV systems at home. In line with the government’s goal of achieving 20% renewable energy generation by 2025, it is thus important to ensure that not only the industrial and commercial sectors receive financial assistance for solar PV utilization, but also the residential sector. Currently, households are unwilling to install solar PV systems as the payback period for investment is up to 10 years with limited financial incentives from the government. Thus, the policymakers should formulate appropriate subsidy or incentive programmes that are able to reduce the payback period and upfront costs of solar PV investment so that homeowners could be encouraged to adopt the technology. The Malaysian government can draw on the practical experience of other governments to construct relevant support schemes for solar PV usage. In Australia, for example, the provision of solar incentive schemes from both the state and the federal government has encouraged the uptake of solar PV systems among households. At the federal level, the government grants solar subsidies to homeowners for solar-panel installation. With this subsidy scheme, the upfront costs of solar PV have been reduced by ~30%. Additionally, certain state governments in Australia also provide solar-panel rebates and interest-free loans for residential solar installation [79]. Third, our findings also suggest that there is a shortage of reliable solar companies in the market that can provide satisfactory technical support and service to solar PV adopters. A responsible solar PV provider should be able to provide customers with complete operation and maintenance services to maximize the performance of solar PV systems throughout their period of usage. In relation to this, appropriate regulatory measures aimed to govern the actions of solar suppliers should be developed and implemented by policymakers for the sake of solar users. Once households are convinced and confident with the capability and reliability of solar companies, they will be encouraged to install solar PV at home. This study has two main limitations. First, the results are indicative instead of conclusive due to the small sample size. Second, the exploratory nature of this qualitative study has the drawback that the data have been subjectively analysed and interpreted. Our study, being exploratory in nature, is able to create a few opportunities for future research. In short, more future studies are required to refine our findings. First, future researchers may consider using a larger sample size and/or a mixed research method, i.e. combining qualitative and quantitative research approaches. The results generated from different methods can enhance our understanding of the advantages and drawbacks of solar policies in Malaysia. Second, an identical study could be extended to other developing countries (such as the Philippines and Thailand) to investigate the effectiveness of their existing solar-related policies. The similarity between Malaysia and other developing countries is that renewable energy constitutes an insignificant proportion of the total energy mix. Finally, comparative studies between developed countries (particularly those with solid solar policies) and the developing world can also be carried out in the future. Such research could probably provide important lessons for the developing countries in refining their solar policies and hence enhancing the use of solar energy. Footnotes Malaysia is the world’s third largest producer of solar PV cells and modules (Malaysian Investment Development Authority, 2017). Tenaga Nasional is Malaysia’s largest electric utility company. Acknowledgements We acknowledge the funding support from the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), Malaysia under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) (Reference No.: FRGS/2018/ SS08/UTAR/02/1). Supplementary Data Supplementary data is available at Clean Energy online. Data availability The data sets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available as the data are required to be kept confidential, which was requested by third parties, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. 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Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy

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Abstract

Abstract Malaysia has a long way before achieving the 20% renewable-energy penetration by 2025. Currently, merely 2% of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources including solar power. Unlike the abundant literature about solar energy, qualitative studies that focus on experts’ opinions on the weaknesses of residential solar-energy policies have received less attention, particularly in the context of Malaysia. Understanding the flaws in the existing policies would lead to creating a better policy framework for solar-energy development. Thus, this study aims to identify the shortcomings of the current government initiatives and policies that deter solar photovoltaic adoption among households from experts’ perspectives. Experts also provide recommendations for better future policy design and implementation. This study employs a qualitative research approach (via semi-structured interviews) in collecting experts’ viewpoints. Key concerns emerging from the interviews include insufficient financial support, lack of awareness programmes and subsidized electricity tariffs. Also, interviewed experts suggest sufficient financial incentives, increased public awareness programmes and comprehensive legislation aimed at safeguarding consumer interests as a means to raising solar-energy adoption in the country. This underlines the need for policymakers to create public awareness, provide financial support and develop regulatory measures aimed at managing solar companies for the sake of solar development in Malaysia. Open in new tabDownload slide qualitative study, interview, expert insights, solar energy, households, policy shortcomings, policy recommendations Introduction The negative impacts on the environment and other issues associated with fossil fuels have forced many countries to change their environmental policies towards achieving sustainability in the renewable-energy industry [1, 2]. Solar energy has become one of the best sustainable energy sources that will gradually replace the use of fossil fuels for the production of electricity [1, 3]. Globally, renewable-energy policies were designed to address the problems of energy development along with the development of the renewable-energy industry to sustain its growth, including energy production, distribution and consumption [3, 4]. According to RED21’s global status report, renewable-energy policies were present in nearly all countries worldwide by the end of 2018 and relatively found at all levels of government projects [5]. Such initiations have supported the generation and use of renewable energy in 168 countries worldwide. Among others, solar energy has been the leading renewable energy source. Over the past two decades, the price of solar energy has decreased substantially, leading to greater potential for its adoption. It is expected that the global residential solar capacity will grow from 58 GW in 2018 to 143 GW in 2024. Among others, China is the largest growth market, followed by the USA, Australia and Japan as a result of solar photovoltaic (PV) remuneration packages such as net metering and buy all, sell all in these countries. However, many developing and emerging economies in Asia such as Malaysia, Indonesia and India are lagging behind due to inadequate policy incentives, lack of rules and regulations, and low or subsidized household electricity tariffs [6]. According to Burke (2019), the uptake of solar energy faces many challenges including policy deficiencies and heavy subsidies for fossil fuels in Asian countries [7]. Governments’ energy and climate-change policies have been seen as important factors influencing solar installation in Asia [8]. In other words, even though prices of solar technologies are diminishing, the degree to which a country is successful in expanding its solar industry depends very much on the country’s solar-related policies and strategies [9]. According to the International Energy Agency, decisions by the policymakers such as the setting of ambitious targets and implementation of appropriate policies could play a paramount role in enhancing solar usage in a particular nation [10]. Malaysia appears to be an appropriate case study in the sense that it is of paramount importance for the country to increase renewable-energy usage due to two reasons. First, the renewable-energy initiatives allow the country to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. As Malaysia’s domestic oil and gas reserves are expected to run out by 2029, the country will be forced to import fossil fuels for electricity generation [11]. However, the prices of imported fossil fuels are heavily dependent on exchange-rate fluctuations, which will potentially expose Malaysia to economic risk [12]. Second, the widespread use of renewable energy is essential for Malaysia to address its climate-change challenges. Between 1971 and 2020, for example, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions increased at an annual rate from 14.7 to 262.2 million tonnes [13]. Among the available renewable energy sources, solar energy is of the greatest potential in Malaysia as the country is located within the Sunbelt with at least 10 sun hours daily. This enables the generation of electricity using solar power throughout the country all year round [14]. Solar PV industry in Malaysia Historically, solar PV installation was first introduced in Malaysia via the pioneering solar PV rural electrification programme in 1982. Under the scheme, ~100 homes at several selected remote villages throughout the country had solar PV installed. In 2000, the first grid-connected PV system was launched by the country’s largest electricity utility company. This was then followed by a 5-year programme called SURIA 1000 for the period between 2006 and 2010. The programme provided subsidies to successful bidders for the installation of solar PV systems in their homes. Most importantly, SURIA 1000 has also opened up opportunities for the public and industry to be directly involved in solar-related initiatives [15]. Since then, many multinational companies have started to set up PV cells and modules manufacturing plants in Malaysia.1 In 2011, the renewable-energy feed-in tariff (FiT) mechanism was established under the Renewable Energy Act 2011. The FiT allows the sale of electricity generated from solar PV systems to the utility company at a fixed premium price for a specific time period [16]. The FiT programme came to an end in 2017. It was replaced by net energy metering (NEM), which enables solar users to produce electricity with solar net metering and sell the excess electricity to power grids [17]. Since January 2019, NEM has been improved by introducing the true NEM concept that enables excess solar energy produced to be exported back to the grid on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis [18]. To ensure the successful implementation of solar projects, financial supports are essential to solar adopters [19, 20]. In Malaysia, securing financing for the purpose of solar PV installation has been challenging as most bankers are not familiar with the industry, particularly when it comes to risks and liabilities. To encourage renewable-energy usage, the government has established the Green Technology Fund Scheme (GTFS) to finance green projects with an allocation of RM1.5 billion in 2010. Companies who succeed in securing loans from participating banks are entitled to a 2% interest subsidy and the government’s guarantee of 60% of the approved loan. In the meantime, the government has provided two forms of green technology incentives, i.e. Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) and Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE), for companies that engage in green projects [21]. However, individuals or household investors are not eligible to apply for these incentives. In short, finances and fiscal incentives have been granted to only companies, not individuals, in Malaysia. The existing public green policies in Malaysia are with the aim of achieving the national renewable-energy mix target of 20% by 2025 [22]. However, despite various incentives and strategies to encourage the growth of the renewable-energy sector, clean energy sources (including solar PV) constitute merely 2% of the total electricity-generation capacity in Malaysia. Specifically, the residential sector contributes merely 9.14 megawatts to the installed capacity of solar PV in Malaysia. Most of the installed PV capacity comes from the commercial (i.e. 25.60 megawatts) and industrial (i.e. 355.76 megawatts) sectors [23]. Thus, increased efforts are required to enhance the adoption of solar PV technologies, particularly among households in Malaysia. Contributions of the study Indeed, the successful design and implementation of solar policies require inputs from various stakeholders in the solar PV industry [24–27]. In other words, to enhance the effectiveness of energy policies, insights from the experts (e.g. officials from the relevant government agencies and academicians from the energy field) are also essential, besides consumers. Considering merely the viewpoints of potential customers may not allow the policymakers to produce comprehensive energy policies that are beneficial to the residential solar PV market. However, research remains scarce that has looked into the feedback of industrial experts, government officials and academicians in shaping future solar policies. Much of the research on solar PV has focused on consumer behaviour and experiences in solar PV adoption [14, 28–30]. Additionally, even though some studies have sought experts’ opinions pertaining to solar PV adoption, they have emphasized the general factors affecting the usage of the technology [31, 32]. Some other past studies [33–35] have investigated the impact of public policy on the solar-energy industry. However, none has explored specifically the role of public policy in influencing solar PV installation among residential consumers particularly in the context of Malaysia. Numerous past studies on Malaysia have performed a review on the current situation of solar-energy adoption in the country. Amongst others, some studies have been focusing on the potential or outlook of solar power [36–38] while the remaining studies discuss the effectiveness of the existing solar policies [39–42]. In particular, our study builds upon a recent study [40] that analysed the new solar policies and frameworks in Malaysia that focused on solar PV business models. The authors conducted interviews with business representatives and customers. Differently from [40], we extend the research by employing a qualitative research approach that involves interviews with industrial players, academicians and government officials that remains absent in the literature. Another uniqueness of our study, if compared with [40], is that we explore solar experts’ opinions on the overall effectiveness of Malaysian solar policies and their suggestions for further policy improvements. Thus, the aim of our study is to determine the shortcomings of the current government initiatives and policies that hinder solar PV adoption among households in Malaysia from the perspectives of energy experts. Policy recommendations are also sought from the experts. Thus, this analysis could provide a better understanding of the weaknesses of the existing solar programmes and most importantly furnish information for better future policy design and implementation. The research findings could contribute significantly for policymakers in creating effective strategies aiming at enhancing the usage of residential solar PV systems. The study also provides valuable inputs that could help in the development and growth of the solar PV industry in Malaysia. Lessons learnt from Malaysia’s experience are highly relevant, particularly for other developing countries in Asia. 1 Literature review Carley et al. [43] posited that solar energy is one of the cleanest renewable energy sources with almost zero negative impact on the environment. However, several studies instigated that the production and consumption of more solar energy to replace fossil fuels in a country require the introduction of effective energy policies [44, 45]. Countries such as Germany, the UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy and others are among the top 10 countries with the biggest proportion of renewable energy [3, 42, 43]. Meanwhile, countries such as China, the USA, Germany, Japan and India are the top solar-energy producers globally [1, 3, 44, 46]. Assoa et al. [47] posited that Japan, India, China, South Korea and Singapore are leading in terms of solar-energy usage in the Asian region. However, Assoa et al. [47] and Mamat et al. [48] have shown that slow adaptation to the use of solar energy in some developing countries in Asia is mainly due to inadequate energy policies. Southeast Asian countries stand at a crossroads regarding their contribution to climate change and rely heavily on fossil fuels for transport and electricity. According to Assoa et al. [47], the Southeast Asian region requires a more sustainable energy policy to reduce the use of fossil fuel as an energy source. To reach the aspirational target of 25% renewable energy source in the region by 2025, the Southeast Asian countries will have to substantially scale up their deployment of renewables in the power sector through adequate and sustainable solar-energy policies. The initiatives taken by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to enhance energy production, consumption and distribution policy are vital to ensure the achievement of energy efficiency and efficiency standards in the region [49]. Solangi et al. [50] and Mamat et al. [48] pointed out that energy policies that are significant to support the development of renewable energy such as the use of solar energy have been explicitly made to determine the national commitment by all the 10 ASEAN member countries including Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Findings from Solangi et al. [49], Blazquez et al. [51] and Assoa, et al. [47] have revealed that as part of the energy policy implications, the use of solar energy for electricity generation has significantly risen over the years. For instance, Singapore’s contribution to the use of renewable energy such as solar energy has increased with their continuous efforts to eradicate the use of fossil fuels. However, the Philippines has targeted to reduce its energy intensity by 40% by 2030 as part of its contribution to sustainable energy consumption. Most Southeast Asian countries share the common goal of expanding renewable-energy production because they have a large capacity for natural energy resources and face environmental problems that include carbon emissions. However, with the energy policies already implemented, most are moving in the right direction to promote sustainable energy production and consumption [48]. In Malaysia, the renewable-energy policy ensures an increase in capacity from renewable energy to 4000 MW by 2030, while Brunei has set a target of 10% renewable electricity generation by 2035. Singapore’s primary renewable-energy policy aims to increase PV capacity to >400 MW by 2030. Thailand has ambitious targets to increase renewable-energy consumption to 30% by 2036. This includes increasing the share of renewable electricity-generation capacity to 20.11% and the share of renewable energy in transport fuel consumption to 25.04% by 2036. The renewable-energy policy in the Philippines focuses on tripling renewable electricity installation capacity by 2030. Cambodia aims to increase hydropower capacity to >3453 MW by 2030 to realize the potential of new energy capacity. Vietnamese policy on renewable energy ensures that the share of non-hydro renewable power generation capacity increases to 12.5% by 2025 and 21% by 2030 [48, 52, 53]. In the Asian region, advocacy for renewable-energy programmes is steadily increasing due to the implementation of new or revised energy policies in the region [54]. Indonesia’s renewable-energy targets of 23% by 2025 and 31% by 2050, for example, are supported by clear policies and regulations. Such policies ensured the establishment of the ‘Badan Koordinasi Energi Nasional’, also known as ‘BAKOREN’. The policy gives more consideration to conservation, diversification and clean and renewable energy [55]. In their study, Liu et al. [56] highlighted the Renewable Energy Law of the People’s Republic of China, which was introduced in 2006 and outlines the general conditions for renewable energy (RE) and the importance of this energy source for the People’s Republic of China. In addition, there are other energy policies, including the Renewable Energy Law Amendment, which aims to efficiently reduce the cost of renewable energy and ensure that electricity grid operators in China purchase all electricity generated from renewable sources [54, 56]. In the Far East Asia region, Japan’s renewable-energy policy, also known as the ‘Strategic Energy Plan’, ensures the promotion of the diffusion of renewable energy resources (solar energy, biomass, renewable heat and small/medium hydropower) [57]. According to Kardooni et al. [58], Malaysia has targeted to achieve 20% renewable energy in the electricity-generation mix by 2025 even though the country’s current energy source is largely natural gas and coal. The policy to promote the use of solar-energy sources is gradually contributing to the energy conservation strategy [48, 49]. Malaysia’s framework for energy development was first formulated in the early 1970s. Since then, prominent energy policies have been introduced to enhance the development of sustainable energy. The most significant step towards sustainable energy development was the introduction of the Fifth Fuel Policy in 2000 in which solar, biomass, biogas and hydro energy were recognized as potential renewable energy sources for electricity generation [49]. Thereafter, new policies have been initiated towards the utilization of renewable energy and the promotion of energy efficiency to replace fossil fuels with renewables [59]. Solangi et al. [49] indicate that the renewable-energy policy and action plan that were outlined in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2006–2010) not only provided an alternative to energy sources but also encouraged the use of renewable energy such as solar energy. However, the new policies that will be implemented in the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021–2025) concerning renewable energy are expected to create more jobs, promote sustainable development and create new opportunities for businesses and industries to positively impact the country’s economic growth [59]. Policymakers in Malaysia have initiated numerous policies and laws to increase the capacity of renewable energy in the national electricity-generation mix [40]. Among the various policy initiatives to increase energy consumption capacity, the Malaysian government has introduced a solar PV project, also known as ‘MySuria’, to increase the income of the bottom 40% of households, also known as ‘B40’, by not only increasing the knowledge and awareness of solar energy but also promoting the adoption of solar PV energy technology to reduce the cost-of-consumption rate and generate additional income [41]. As part of these initiatives to generate additional income through the adoption of PV, the government has committed to enforcing the FiT law introduced in 2011 to promote energy-generation capacity, especially in rural areas, while generating additional monthly income for low-income earners [60]. In this regard, Alam et al. [61] argued that households are more likely to embrace PV solar technology if they have the opportunity to test it out before it is put into widespread use and find that it meets their needs. However, if people could see the advantages of PV solar technology in action, it would change their minds about using it. However, people could be hesitant to fully invest in PV if there is a lack of marketing, adoption readiness, motivation and competence, as well as the absence of legislation mandating PV’s usage [62]. To increase the usage of PV in Malaysia, Solangi et al. [63] argued that obstacles such as high solar-panel costs and a lack of accurate information about harnessing solar energy should be eliminated. Their findings revealed that >80% of respondents think that government subsidies would be the greatest way to increase solar-energy consumption throughout the country. These were confirmed by Solangi et al. [64] who found that 80% of Malaysians are interested in switching to PV solar but they lack the expertise and resources to do so. Households argued that the Malaysian government should raise subsidies for solar-energy products to make them more affordable. For this reason, it is crucial now to educate the public about solar PV technology and its advantages. Public opinion has a significant effect on the diffusion of solar PV. The public’s embrace of solar PV depends on emphasizing both its utility and its simplicity of operation [65]. Al-Fatlawi et al. [66] found that although there is interest in solar PV system adoption among households in Malaysia, many individuals still do not realize the benefits of using PV solar such as financial benefits. The study showed that ~36% of Malaysians are close to being ready to invest in solar PV projects but they need financial support to lower the initial capital cost of these projects. According to Koerner et al. [40], the Malaysian PV industry has experienced accelerated growth and rapid development since the introduction of the FiT and other renewable-energy policies. In 2008, a new energy policy was introduced with five strategic focus areas that specifically address recurring problems, including poor governance, lack of a regulatory framework, limited market oversight and lack of institutional policies. These five focus areas consist of (i) Renewable Energy Foundation Law (RE); (ii) Guiding RE Business Environment; (iii) Human Capital Development; (iv) Renewable Energy Research and Development Action Plan and (v) advocacy programmes. The aim of this renewable-energy policy was to accelerate the adoption of solar PV, reduce the long-term cost of building-integrated PV technology and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants [61]. However, to increase the usage of solar PV and boost its competitiveness, Malaysia should establish a robust financial support structure such as financing options and taxes. Although Malaysia is among the top 10 nations producing solar panels, the PV industry in Malaysia is still tiny, leading to a lower rate of adoption. To compete with other nations in solar energy, Malaysia must expand the quota size and give some enticing incentives [67]. To achieve this, the Malaysian government should be committed to maximizing the country’s potential in promoting solar energy by providing effective incentive schemes [68]. In this regard, Koerner et al. [40] argued that to increase the use of solar PV in the residential sector, regulators and policymakers should work together with the industry to raise public awareness about the technology beyond the purely economic benefits, with an emphasis on climate-change mitigation and the reduction of carbon emissions. The study suggested that communication channels between businesses and educational and research institutions need to be strengthened to develop efficient solar-energy applications that could compete internationally. 2 Methodology A qualitative research method was adopted to achieve the research objectives of this study. The qualitative approach is a commonly used research method in social sciences that enables researchers to gain in-depth insights and knowledge on an issue [69, 70]. Among others, interviews are frequently adopted in qualitative research in which researchers are able to converse with the participants. Thus, on most occasions, a better understanding of interviewees’ opinions and experience on a particular topic can be obtained [71]. In energy studies, researchers apply qualitative research methods to collect detailed personal viewpoints on a particular technology or technological-related policies [72]. This study has two primary purposes. The first is to discuss the shortcomings of current solar-related initiatives/policies/programmes from experts’ perspectives. The second is to discuss experts’ proposals on the future actions that can be taken by the government in increasing the adoption of solar PV in Malaysia. Hence, there will be no defined hypothesis tested in this study. 2.1 Data collection Data collection was divided into three waves as three groups of experts were targeted: academicians, government officials and industrial players. The selection of experts from the academic arena, industry and government bodies serves the purpose of obtaining deeper insights into the development of the solar industry and its policies in Malaysia. Each group of experts could provide different views based on different perspectives, thereby providing a more comprehensive set of findings and insights. Semi-structured interviews were deployed to collect essential information from these experts. Individual in-depth interviews could provide an opportunity to explore an unclear issue or situation in a more detailed manner [29, 73]. All interviews were conducted from October 2019 to December 2019. Specifically, interviews with the industrial players were conducted at the premise of the Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association. Inputs from academicians were collected via interviews held at various universities. Interviews with government officials were conducted at the premises of related government agencies such as the Sustainable Energy Development Authority and Energy Commission and the 10th International Greentech & Eco Products Exhibition & Conference held in Kuala Lumpur in October 2019. All interviews were audio-recorded upon approval from the interviewees and transcribed at the later stage. To achieve the research objectives, 25 individuals were interviewed by the principal investigator together with her research team members. Specifically, a total of 5 solar-related government agencies, 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy and 10 representatives from solar companies were involved. For government agencies, the representatives were either a chairperson, director or vice president of the agencies. All the academicians were professors who have vast experience in renewable-energy research. Meanwhile, the representatives of solar companies were either managers, key decision makers or chief executive officers. Potential participants were contacted in person via e-mail and given standard information about the research project. Upon their agreement, the participants were then contacted to discuss further at the date and venue of the interview. Before the commencement of the interviews, interviewees were shown documents about the research project. Written consent for the interview was then obtained from the participants. Each interview session took ~30 minutes. A token of appreciation was given to all the participants at the end of each interview session. The survey consisted of two main areas covering (i) the shortfall of current government solar-energy initiatives and policies and (ii) necessary actions to be taken by the government to increase the number of residential solar users. The interview questionnaire (available at Clean Energy online as Supplementary Data) contained two pre-determined open-ended questions that included: (i) What are the shortcomings of current government initiatives and policies that deter households from installing solar PV? (ii) What future actions need to be taken by the government to increase residential solar PV adoption? Each of the scheduled questions was then followed by sub-questions or ‘probes’ that could encourage participants to share more in-depth information [74]. Based on two general questions, there were 24 questions probed during the interview sessions. 2.2 Data analysis The collected qualitative data were then transcribed. In this process of transcription, the entire conversation content was transcribed in word form manually. All interview responses were coded and transcribed based on several themes. Subsequently, these transcribed data were compared and analysed in terms of similarities and differences of views across experts within each of the respondent groups and across the three expert groups of academicians, government officials and industrial players [9]. 3 Major findings 3.1 Shortcomings of current policies and initiatives This section demonstrates results obtained from expert interviews that were conducted to find out experts’ viewpoints on the shortcomings of current policies and initiatives in relation to residential solar adoption in Malaysia. Data obtained from the interviews have been transcribed and reported in four main themes, namely financial support, awareness programmes, subsidized electricity tariffs and NEM. These main themes explain the extent to which each of the various types of current solar initiatives and policies is deficient in promoting residential demand towards solar energy. All interviewees were asked to identify the weaknesses of current government policies that discourage residential solar adoption from their personal perspectives. The four most important shortfalls in the existing policies or themes that emerged from the experts’ interviews are discussed below. The summary of the responses is portrayed in Table 1. Table 1: Summary responses on shortcomings of current government policies Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab Table 1: Summary responses on shortcomings of current government policies Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Financial support X  X       X     X   X Awareness programmes X  X       X  X  X  X Subsidized electricity tariffs X       X  X    X     X  X Net energy metering X    X        X  X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Financial support X  X        X      X  X   X  X Awareness programmes X     X   X     X  X      X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X     X  X     X        X Net energy metering                     X   X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Financial support X        X   X Awareness programmes    X        X Subsidized electricity tariffs    X  X  X Net energy metering X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab 3.1.1 Financial supports A financial incentive is the most-mentioned theme identified from the interviews. Basically, it is true for all three groups of interviewees. Most of the participants (15 out of 25 interviewed) believe that there is lack of financial support from the government to encourage solar PV installation in homes. This response was given by some of the interviewees from the industry as well as scholars from universities. Five and seven out of 10 interviewees from solar companies and universities, respectively, talked about financial support. A few representatives from solar companies pointed out that: ‘It is difficult to get individuals to install solar PV because they don’t get any financial assistance to do so. To many, upfront cost is too high.’ (I03) ‘Without incentives, the breakeven for households will take around 10 years, whereas for commercial will be only 3.5 years due to tax incentives.’ (I06) ‘Middle-income and low-income groups can’t afford the high installation cost unless there is financial incentive. They would rather spend their money on other essentials, but not solar PV.’ (I08) Some responses from the academicians are as follows: ‘It seems not worth to invest in solar PV without financial supports as the payback period is too long.’ (A05) ‘Too little financial help is given to the households at this moment.’ (A08) ‘The installation cost for solar PV remains high as long as there is no financial support from the government.’ (A10) Three of the five experts from government agencies share similar views to industrial players and academicians that financial incentives are absent to stimulate solar-energy adoption among households in Malaysia. Unlike companies, the government provided financial incentives to the companies such as tax incentives. As stated by the representatives from one of the government agencies: ‘Unfortunately, the current financial incentives are only meant for companies, not for households.’ (G01) ‘Basically, I have to admit that the residential sector has been neglected when it comes to solar energy adoption. I don’t see much financial help from the government so far.’ (G05) 3.1.2 Awareness programmes Weak public awareness of solar technology is perceived as one of the most important factors leading to low solar PV adoption among households. When asked about their opinions on households’ awareness, most of the participants (14 out of 25 interviewed), particularly academicians and industry players, agree with the point that the existing government policies are inadequate in creating public awareness and acceptance of solar energy. At present, there are awareness programmes such as the Annual Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association National Solar Roadshow aimed at educating and encouraging the installation of solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, but not at homes. Specifically, 6 of 10 academicians interviewed have highlighted the deficiencies of the existing public awareness programmes; as a few of the representatives put it: ‘The government has not done enough to create awareness among the people towards solar energy.’ (A01) ‘Many Malaysians are not aware of the benefits of using solar as they are not exposed to this kind of information.’ (A06) ‘I have not seen proper solar awareness programs to encourage residential usage.’ (A09) On the other hand, 6 of 10 industrial representatives did indicate the incompleteness of the current awareness programmes, as some interviewees from the industry said: ‘There are some limited awareness campaigns but failed to draw crowds.’ (I02) ‘In Malaysia, people get information about solar energy via mostly family members and friends, or from solar companies, but not from government organized awareness programs.’ (I05) ‘I can hardly see any awareness campaigns by the government to promote the usage of solar PV.’ (I08) Only two representatives (out of five interviewed) from the government agencies provided insights concerning awareness programmes. For instance, one of the governmental representatives described public awareness of solar energy as follows: ‘Many people don’t know much about solar energy out there. I can say the existing awareness programs are insufficient and not that effective.’ (G05) 3.1.3 Subsidized electricity tariffs Numerous interviewed experts mentioned that a low electricity price due to heavy subsidies serves as a deterrent to the development of the residential solar sector in Malaysia. Electricity consumers in the country are eligible to receive fuel subsidies from the government. According to Tenaga Nasional,2 fuel subsidy refers to the amount of fuel cost subsidized by the government for each unit of electricity consumed [75]. In terms of subsidized electricity, of our 10 interviewees from solar PV companies, 6 stated that cheap electricity prices demotivate households from adopting solar energy. As mentioned by three of the interviewees: ‘People are not encouraged to go for solar energy as the existing electricity price is relatively much cheaper.’ (I04) ‘Heavily subsidized electricity is making solar PV investment less attractive.’ (I05) ‘Consumers have no reason to use solar energy since the current electricity bill is low due to government subsidy.’ (I09) Meanwhile, over half (three out of five) of representatives from government agencies indicated a concern over low electricity prices as a hindrance to achieving high demand for solar energy among households in the country. One of the representatives stated: ‘It will be very difficult for the residential solar sector to expand if the government chooses to subsidize electricity continuously.’ (G04) Of participants from the higher learning institutions, half of them opined (i.e. 5 out of 10) that subsidized electricity is a critical factor in deterring people from using solar PV technology to generate electricity. Some of the responses are shown below: ‘From economic point of view, people will not use solar because electricity is cheap.’ (A07) ‘The policy of subsidizing electricity is bad for the development of solar energy.’ (A10) 3.1.4 NEM NEM was introduced by the government in 2017 to encourage the uptake of solar PV technology. This scheme was implemented to replace the FiT programme, which was first introduced in 2011 and then scrapped in 2016 [76]. The solar industry proposed to the government to modify the concept of NEM from the existing net billing to true net energy metering in 2018. Under the improved NEM scheme, excess energy generated from solar PV could be exported back to the grid based on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis starting in January 2019, replacing the Displaced Cost earlier. A quota allocation of 500 MW was provided for new NEM up to the end of 2020 [18]. Our interviewees from government agencies have mixed views on the introduction of NEM. Some agree with its implementation while the remaining (two out of five interviewees) would prefer the FiT scheme. One of the interviewees who opposed the launch of NEM said: ‘FiT is a better scheme. It should be re-proposed.’ (G03) Among the industry participants, 4 of 10 had comments on the introduction of NEM as a way to allow more public at large to generate clean energy at home: ‘If your electricity bill is less than RM300, it is not worth for you to install solar PV.’ (I01) ‘NEM will only help those consumers who fall under the high electricity tariff block.’ (I06) Overall, the interviewees from the universities are less sensitive to NEM as a policy that can discourage the adoption of solar technology among households. Only 2 of 10 have mentioned the disadvantages of NEM. For instance, one of the interviewees has stated: ‘NEM is not a subsidy because consumers still need to install the solar PV themselves. That’s why it can’t encourage solar usage.’ (A09) 3.2 Recommendations on future actions to enhance residential solar adoption On top of discussing current government initiatives and policies, the interviews were conducted to gather suggestions and feedback from academicians, government agencies and industry players on necessary future actions to enhance Malaysians’ intention to use solar PV. Three main themes emerged from the data collected. These main themes explain what should be done by the government to improve residential solar PV uptake. The discrepancies and similarities in opinions of different interviewees are presented below. Table 2 shows the summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption. Table 2: Summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab Table 2: Summary of responses on necessary future actions to enhance residential solar adoption Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X Theme Industry . I01 I02 I03 I04 I05 I06 I07 I08 I09 I10 . Provide financial incentives   X  X  X     X     X  X  X Enhance public awareness   X       X  X  X  X Legislation to protect solar consumers X    X Academicians A01 A02 A03 A04 A05 A06 A07 A08 A09 A10 Provide financial incentives X   X        X     X   X   X Enhance public awareness       X  X     X  X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X     X   X     X     X Government agencies G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 Provide financial incentives X        X   X Enhance public awareness    X     X   X Legislation to protect solar consumers X      X The interview participants consisted of five solar-related government agencies (represented by numbers G01–G05), 10 academicians in the field of renewable energy (represented by numbers A01–A10) and 10 representatives from solar companies (represented by numbers I01–I10). Open in new tab 3.2.1 Provide financial incentives Not surprisingly, for all three groups of interviewees, the provision of financial assistance is one of the most suggested strategies to enhance solar PV adoption among individuals. Many interviewees opined that measures such as tax incentives and subsidies are able to encourage solar-energy usage. Six of 10 academicians who participated in the interviews stressed the importance of granting financial incentives in stimulating residential solar PV installation. Academicians’ example quotes are as follows: ‘It would be better that Malaysian government could offer tax incentive or subsidy on the installation of solar PV which currently only applied to commercial users.’ (A02) ‘To help the households financially should be the government priority now.’ (A05) ‘The government should give tax rebate or something like that to the individuals so that cost of installation can be reduced.’ (A09) Most industry players agree with the recommendation that financial support should be provided to the residential sector to increase the adoption of solar PV. Seven of 10 representatives interviewed proposed financial incentives as a remedy to the problem of low solar-energy usage among individuals in Malaysia. Several interviewees from the industry expressed their views as follows: ‘Households need financial supports to shorten the payback period of solar investment.’ (I03) ‘The commercial sector is currently taking advantage of tax saving, the residential sector needs the same too.’ (I08) ‘If Malaysia wants to achieve the renewable energy goal of 20% by 2025, to give financial incentives to individual PV installers is a must.’ (I10) On top of that, the majority of government officers (three of five) also agreed with the point that financial incentives are essential in stimulating solar PV installation in homes. Example recommendations are shown below: ‘Probably, government can subsidize, give tax incentive. That is how solar energy can be encouraged.’ (G01) ‘Financial incentives should be given to make return on investment more attractive.’ (G05) 3.2.2 Enhance public awareness Over the years, Malaysia’s dependency on fossil fuels in electricity generation has led to excessive carbon dioxide emissions. However, people have shown little concern about the adverse effects of air pollution. In the meantime, public awareness of the importance of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar energy remains low [20, 69]. According to most of the participants in our study, raising public awareness is paramount to encouraging the utilization of solar energy among households. Among the academicians, 6 of 10 highlighted the significant role of public awareness in reaching renewable-energy goals in Malaysia. In particular, some academicians suggested that the government should promote the concept of renewable energy such as solar PV and create public awareness by working more closely with both traditional and social media. As two of the interviewees put it: ‘The government should make use of the social media and promote it in television as well.’ (A07) ‘advertise in the media to create awareness.’ (A10) Another academician opined that government could incorporate the concept of renewable energy into the school curriculum: ‘Government can do more like promoting the idea of solar energy at schools. I don’t see the school curriculum has been designed to include the renewable energy.’ (A03) Half of the representatives (5 out of 10) from solar companies had a similar view that educating the public is one of the best strategies to increase the solar PV adoption rate among Malaysian households, as shown by the following responses: ‘Government can work with the industry to organize more awareness campaigns such as roadshows and so forth.’ (I02) ‘Awareness creation must start from young.’ (I05) ‘Of course, people don’t install solar PV because they don’t know about it. Thus, awareness programs should be enhanced in Malaysia.’ (I06) Among the government officers, three out of five recommended increasing the number and effectiveness of awareness programmes for solar PV. As stated by one of the interviewees: ‘To make sure that more people know about solar PV and its benefits, we have to design more awareness programs.’ (G05) 3.2.3 Develop legislations to protect solar consumers At present, there are several main statutory laws that govern the renewable-energy sector such as the Electricity Supply Act 1990, Energy Commission Act 2001 and Renewable Energy Act 2011 in Malaysia [77]. However, none of these laws aims to prevent consumer exploitation from solar companies. Thus, a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework is required to protect the rights of solar consumers in Malaysia, as suggested by some of the interviewees. Half of the academicians (5 out of 10) have expressed their concern about the need to have stricter laws to protect consumer interests. According to them, consumers would feel unsecured with solar investment without such legislation. The participants have given comments such as: ‘Some of the solar companies are not reliable. Thus, better regulations are needed to be imposed on them.’ (A04) ‘To gain households’ confidence, the government has to control what solar companies are doing.’ (A08) The two representatives from government agencies who responded have given statements as follows: ‘You will never know whether you will be cheated at the end of the day. To protect the consumers, stricter law is the only way out.’ (G01) ‘I know many cases where solar PV companies can’t give satisfactory technical supports and after sales services to customers. That’s why we need to have more stringent rules and regulations to govern them.’ (G03) Only a minority of representatives from the solar industry (2 out of 10) acknowledged the need to strengthen the rules and regulations imposed on solar companies. One of the interviewees said: ‘It is difficult to get a good installer. Smaller solar companies are in particular not stable. I think it’s time to do something to protect the consumers.’ (I01) 4 Discussion Interview sessions have been carried out with participants from government agencies, industries and academia. The participants’ feedback has been analysed thematically under four themes of financial support, awareness programmes, subsidized electricity tariffs and NEM. This section will discuss the findings in a detailed manner. The findings show both discrepancies and similarities in opinions within the same cohort of respondents and among different groups of interviewees. The majority of industrial representatives from solar companies opine that there are obvious weaknesses in the current policies. Similarly, from academicians’ points of view, most of the current solar strategies are ineffective in encouraging residential solar PV adoption due to certain shortfalls. However, governmental representatives have mixed views on the adequacy of current solar policies. Some agree with the existing efforts while others argue that deficiencies do exist in the current policies. The study suggests the possibility of policymakers introducing extra rebates for solar PV homeowners. Mamat et al. [48] also pointed to the similar view that the government should play its role by improving the effectiveness of the energy policies towards sustainable energy. For instance, the introduction of solar PV projects, also known as ‘MySuria’, will enable lower-income households to generate additional income through the adoption of solar PV [41]. Representatives from the solar companies have pointed out high installation cost as the main barrier to solar-energy adoption among households. Moreover, a lack of financial support from the government will increase the breakeven cost and hinder households to install solar PV relative to the commercial sector. Under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2006–2010), green technology incentives such as GITA and GITE aimed to promote the use of renewable energy [49] and are designed with the purpose of increasing companies’ involvements in environmentally friendly activities. Under these schemes, companies that carry out green technology activities or provide green technology services can apply for tax incentives. Yet, households have not benefited from these incentives. The government representatives admitted that the residential sector has been neglected in terms of financial support when comes to solar PV adoption. However, Solangi et al. [63] disagreed that limited solar-energy adoption was due to high solar-panel costs and limited information. Their findings revealed that >80% of respondents thought that government subsidies would be the greatest way to increase solar-energy adoption. Hence, more comprehensive financial schemes that cater to respective stakeholders such as industries and individuals should be made available. This would enable homeowners to get a loan to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Zainuddin et al. [68] and Husain et al. [67] also agreed that government should be committed to promoting solar energy via the provision of various incentive schemes. Although Malaysian policymakers have initiated numerous policies and laws to increase the capacity of renewable energy in the national electricity-generation mix [40], still there is a lack of public awareness of the importance of solar PV adoption among Malaysians. This scenario contributed to the slow adoption of solar PV. Academicians claimed that the government have not done enough to create public awareness and that there are no proper awareness programmes in place. However, the industry players admitted that there are awareness programmes such as the Annual Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association National Solar Roadshow aimed at educating and encouraging the installation of solar PV on commercial and industrial rooftops, but not focusing on the residential sector. Malaysian households mostly obtain information about solar PV from their family members, relatives and friends, but not from the government’s organized campaigns. This shows that the efforts taken by the government to promote solar PV have been unable to grasp public attention thus far. Moreover, limited information made available to households on the benefits of solar PV systems hinders installation. Similarly, Al-Fatlawi et al. [66] have pointed out that many individuals are still not aware of the benefits of using solar PV. Government representatives have admitted the truth that the existing awareness programmes are insufficient and ineffective to create public awareness towards solar PV adoption. It is recommended to raise awareness and widen access to homeowners through a rent-to-own scheme, for example, that would make solar PV affordable. With such publicity campaigns, it is expected to graduate a surge in interest and foresee a rise in residential solar adoption in the near future. On the other hand, subsidized electricity tariffs provided by Malaysia National Energy have led to low electricity costs for Malaysian households. Electricity consumers in the country are eligible to receive fuel subsidies from the government. According to Malaysia National Energy, fuel subsidy refers to the amount of fuel cost subsidized by the government for each unit of electricity consumed. Hence, participants from government agencies, industry and academician agreed that this subsidy serves as a deterrent for the development of the residential solar sector in Malaysia. Last but not least, the shortcomings of NEM—a new mechanism introduced by the government in 2017 to replace the FiT—were highlighted in the interviews. The main objective of the NEM scheme is to encourage the uptake of solar PV technology. The solar industry has proposed to the government to modify the concept of NEM from the existing net billing to true net energy metering in 2018. Under the improved NEM scheme, excess energy generated from solar PV could be exported back to the grid based on a ‘one-on-one’ offset basis starting in January 2019, replacing the Displaced Cost earlier [18]. However, some government agencies’ representatives mentioned that the FiT scheme is better as compared with the NEM scheme and the FiT scheme should be re-proposed. The industry players further commented that solar PV installation is only suitable for households with a monthly electricity bill of >300 Malaysian Ringgit. Based on the discussion above, it is revealed that our findings are consistent with Assoa et al. [47] and Mamat et al. [48] who claimed that the slow adoption of solar energy was mainly due to inadequate energy policies. Thus, the authorities could promote solar energy to the public by introducing more effective programmes. Koerner et al. [40] also suggested that communication channels between stakeholders in the solar-energy discipline should be strengthened to increase the use of solar PV towards a reduction in carbon emissions. In the long run, increased usage of solar energy among Malaysian households will tend to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power plants [78]. This study has deeply discussed the shortcomings of the existing energy policies and future strategies to enhance residential solar PV adoption via a qualitative approach that has not been found in previous studies. 5 Conclusion and policy implications By using a qualitative approach (via individual in-depth interviews), this study enables the compilation of solar experts’ viewpoints on policy shortfalls and recommendations for better solar-energy policies in Malaysia. The responses from most of the participants portray the existing initiatives undertaken by the government as inadequate and ineffective in promoting solar PV usage among Malaysian households. Indeed, several policy flaws have been identified. In addition, the respondents have recommended solar policies and programmes that should be in place to enhance demand for solar PV systems. Previous research acknowledged the importance of solar policies in determining the demand for solar systems among Malaysian households [40–42]. However, none of these previous studies has scrutinized the role of solar policies by using a qualitative approach. Scientifically, our study contributes to the existing literature by collecting experts’ opinions and feedback on the shortcomings of current solar initiatives taken by the Malaysian government. Furthermore, this study also attempts to gather experts’ suggestions on what could be done by the government to improve solar-related policies in the country. To our knowledge, this strand of research is absent in the literature. Our findings, therefore, could contribute to this theme by shedding light on the experts’ policy viewpoints when it comes to solar PV adoption. The findings of this study also provide a better understanding of residential solar PV usage in Malaysia. Based on our findings, several important policy implications are produced as follows. First, our results show that there is a lack of public awareness of the solar-related schemes introduced by the government and the benefits of solar power on the environment. Therefore, public awareness and education campaigns should be launched to ensure that households are informed of the government’s solar initiatives and the importance of using solar PV to reduce pollution. In such a case, the policymakers could engage electronic or traditional media as well as community leaders to share information with the public on solar PV programmes and their benefits. Furthermore, the public should also be exposed to an energy curriculum and activities in schools from a young age. The curriculum could introduce school children to different types of energy sources and their environmental impacts. In a nutshell, educating the public is one of the most important strategies that can be taken by the government to enhance the installation of solar PV systems. Second, the current renewable-energy policies such as GITA, GITE and GTFS have been focusing on providing financial incentives to companies that engage in green projects and activities. However, tax incentives and financial support are not granted to households who wish to install solar PV systems at home. In line with the government’s goal of achieving 20% renewable energy generation by 2025, it is thus important to ensure that not only the industrial and commercial sectors receive financial assistance for solar PV utilization, but also the residential sector. Currently, households are unwilling to install solar PV systems as the payback period for investment is up to 10 years with limited financial incentives from the government. Thus, the policymakers should formulate appropriate subsidy or incentive programmes that are able to reduce the payback period and upfront costs of solar PV investment so that homeowners could be encouraged to adopt the technology. The Malaysian government can draw on the practical experience of other governments to construct relevant support schemes for solar PV usage. In Australia, for example, the provision of solar incentive schemes from both the state and the federal government has encouraged the uptake of solar PV systems among households. At the federal level, the government grants solar subsidies to homeowners for solar-panel installation. With this subsidy scheme, the upfront costs of solar PV have been reduced by ~30%. Additionally, certain state governments in Australia also provide solar-panel rebates and interest-free loans for residential solar installation [79]. Third, our findings also suggest that there is a shortage of reliable solar companies in the market that can provide satisfactory technical support and service to solar PV adopters. A responsible solar PV provider should be able to provide customers with complete operation and maintenance services to maximize the performance of solar PV systems throughout their period of usage. In relation to this, appropriate regulatory measures aimed to govern the actions of solar suppliers should be developed and implemented by policymakers for the sake of solar users. Once households are convinced and confident with the capability and reliability of solar companies, they will be encouraged to install solar PV at home. This study has two main limitations. First, the results are indicative instead of conclusive due to the small sample size. Second, the exploratory nature of this qualitative study has the drawback that the data have been subjectively analysed and interpreted. Our study, being exploratory in nature, is able to create a few opportunities for future research. In short, more future studies are required to refine our findings. First, future researchers may consider using a larger sample size and/or a mixed research method, i.e. combining qualitative and quantitative research approaches. The results generated from different methods can enhance our understanding of the advantages and drawbacks of solar policies in Malaysia. Second, an identical study could be extended to other developing countries (such as the Philippines and Thailand) to investigate the effectiveness of their existing solar-related policies. The similarity between Malaysia and other developing countries is that renewable energy constitutes an insignificant proportion of the total energy mix. Finally, comparative studies between developed countries (particularly those with solid solar policies) and the developing world can also be carried out in the future. Such research could probably provide important lessons for the developing countries in refining their solar policies and hence enhancing the use of solar energy. Footnotes Malaysia is the world’s third largest producer of solar PV cells and modules (Malaysian Investment Development Authority, 2017). Tenaga Nasional is Malaysia’s largest electric utility company. Acknowledgements We acknowledge the funding support from the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), Malaysia under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) (Reference No.: FRGS/2018/ SS08/UTAR/02/1). Supplementary Data Supplementary data is available at Clean Energy online. Data availability The data sets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available as the data are required to be kept confidential, which was requested by third parties, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. 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Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact journals.permissions@oup.com © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy

Journal

Clean EnergyOxford University Press

Published: Aug 1, 2022

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