Tuesday, August 4

Abang Johari: Energy from dams key to powering Sarawak’s economy

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Abang Johari (centre), Masing on his right and others listen as Kapit Resident Nyurak Keti delivers a briefing following the group’s arrival at the Baleh Dam site.

BALEH: Energy for running industries encompassing the agricultural sector will be key to propelling Sarawak’s economy towards 2030 and beyond, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said with the takeover of the Bakun Hydroelectric Power (HEP) Dam from the federal government coupled with power generated from the Batang Ai and Murum dams and later, the Baleh Dam, the state will have complete control over its power production.

“Having the ease of control would enable the state to determine its power tariff and thus (provide) the ease to devise incentives to attract foreign investment,” he said after being briefed on the construction progress of Baleh Dam during a visit to the site in Ulu Baleh, here yesterday.

Abang Johari pointed out that Sarawak’s future for sustainable energy security lies in hydropower generation.

“Baleh HEP is the largest civil works project by a Sarawak government-owned company and will serve as an additional milestone in the renewable energy and development strategy of Sarawak.

Abang Johari (standing front row, sixth left) and his entourage in a photo call during their visit to the Bakun Dam site.

“Once Baleh HEP is fully commissioned by 2026, we will have sufficient energy to cater to the anticipated rapid growth in organic and industrial demand for electricity as we progress in our ambition to become a high-income economy by 2030,” he said.

The chief minister added that when commissioned, Baleh Dam will join Sarawak’s stable of hydropower plants that includes Batang Ai, Murum and Bakun, and strengthen the state’s aspiration of becoming a regional powerhouse of renewable and affordable energy.

He assured that the state government would ensure that people in the locality would stand to enjoy the benefits of being near to the source of power with step-down facilities in order to have supply of power to their homes, and also cater to needs of agriculture.

“We have learnt from our mistakes such as in Batang Ai where people in the immediate vicinity of the dam were bypassed by the power supply,” he said.

Accompanying Abang Johari on his visit were Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing who is also Baleh assemblyman; Utilities Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi; State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion; and Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Wilson Ugak Kumbong.

Also present were Sarawak Energy chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi and Group CEO Datu Sharbini Suhaili.

Meanwhile, Dr Rundi said that the Baleh Dam would be crucial in securing the energy capacity needed for the development of Sarawak.

He said while the state may currently have sufficient power, the government must also plan and prepare for the needs of the future.

“Energy poverty is a major obstacle to prosperity and progress in other countries and we do not want to have this happen to Sarawak. The support and cooperation of the local Baleh and Kapit communities who are directly and indirectly affected are essential to the successful implementation of projects of this magnitude.

“For this, we have to thank the residents of Baleh and Kapit for their support,” he said.

The 188-metre-high concrete faced rockfill dam is one of Sarawak’s largest infrastructure projects and will generate 1,285 megawatts of renewable energy to the grid when it is fully commissioned by 2026.

The dam is located about 105 kilometres upstream of Baleh River from the confluence with the Rajang River in Kapit, and is the largest being developed by Sarawak Energy.

Abdul Hamed meanwhile said despite setbacks faced due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other challenges, efforts are being made to ensure the project remains on track.

“We will need the support from all stakeholders to ensure the smooth execution of the project in order to meet our target project commissioning in 2026.

“Construction of Baleh HEP has now resumed at an accelerated speed,” he said.