Tuesday, September 24

Sarawak to share power in Borneo

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An aerial view of Murum Dam.

KUCHING: Sarawak’s power system can achieve further optimal system operation through interconnections to other power systems in Kalimantan (Indonesia), Brunei Darusalam or Sabah in Borneo.

This was stated by Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom in a statement yesterday.

He added that besides the ability to share generation capacity, interconnections can also improve power system stability and voltage control and that positive impact of interconnections is already proven as these are widely used in Europe, Americas, Asia and Africa as a means to achieve the benefits.

Dr Rundi cited that an existing interconnection project of 275kV transmission line from Mambong in Sarawak to Bengkayang in West Kalimantan through a power exchange agreement involving Sarawak Energy Berhad as highly successful and is the first step towards building cross border power connectivity within the island of Borneo also known as the Borneo Grid.

“The Borneo Grid’s objectives are for shared energy security and reliability with neighbouring countries and Sabah, supporting the economic growth of Borneo and beyond. In general, interconnections promote efficient and economic usage of diverse energy resources in the region,” he said.

Sarawak government will plan prudently the power system in the state and ensure sustainable operation for the benefit of all Sarawakians to enjoy adequate, reliable, and affordable electricity.

He pointed out that Sarawak’s power system is planned and implemented sustainably with an optimal capacity mix that is predominantly renewable hydropower with the balance of fuel sources from coal and gas for energy security.

He also explained that power planting up by building new hydro, coal and gas plants is implemented when there is a need to meet planned or forecast demand of domestic, commercial and industrial local organic loads, from Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score) bulk-energy industries, and to support Sarawak’s digital economy initiatives.

By harnessing Sarawak’s abundant hydro potential, Score enables the hydropower sector to be developed to catalyse socioeconomic growth and propel Sarawak towards achieving a high income economy by 2030.

“Successful hydro sector development is an integral part of Sarawak’s socioeconomic development growth and has attracted investment from energy-intensive SCORE industries.

“Capacity from Bakun and Murum dams is fully taken with committed demand from Score customers now more than 2700 MW.

“Job opportunities and other spin-off benefits have been created, raising Sarawak’s standard of living including those in the interior within the corridor,” he said.

Longhouse community in Sungai Katibas enjoys power from a stand-alone Sares system.

He also mentioned infrastructure development such as associated roads required for accessibility to hydropower sites such as Bakun, Murum and Baleh has brought connectivity to these remote areas, providing opportunities to bring these once inaccessible rural areas into the mainstream of socioeconomic growth and development.

“In addition, hydro power is not exposed to market price volatility unlike fossil fuels.

“As a result, Sarawak Energy’s customers are now enjoying the lowest average tariff in Malaysia. At 38 per cent lower than Peninsular Malaysia, our average tariffs are also among the lowest in Asean,” he added.

He also revealed that to ensure sufficient capacity to meet committed and future demand, the 600MW Balingian Coal Fired Power Plant will begin operation this year, raising the generation capacity to above 5000MW.

This will be followed by the 800MW combined cycle plants in Tg Kidurong in 2021 and 1200MW Baleh HEP in 2026.

On a related matter, he reiterated Sarawak’s power development also includes strategies to electrify rural   areas.

He disclosed Sarawak has currently achieved 96.4 per cent overall electrification with 92 per cent of rural areas provided with 24-hour reliable power supply.

He said most of Sarawak’s areas are connected to the State Power Grid. But for very remote rural areas, the rakyat are also provided with stand alone off-grid alternatives solar or micro-hydro systems under the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme or Sares.

“By 2020, the target is to electrify 97 per cent of rural households towards our final target of full electrification by 2025,” he said, adding his ministry through Sarawak Energy has a mission to provide all Sarawakians with reliable, affordable 24-hour electricity supply.