Tuesday, April 13

Dr Rundi assures his ministry committed to power up rural areas

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Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom

KUCHING (April 8): The Sarawak government, through the Ministry of Utilities and its implementing agency Sarawak Energy, is accelerating the delivery of rural electrification projects to ensure the provision of reliable and affordable electricity supply for the whole of Sarawak by 2025.

In a statement yesterday, Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom assured the public that his ministry, working closely with Sarawak Energy, remains committed to ensuring that rural Sarawak will have access to 24-hour reliable and affordable electricity.

“More than 150,000 rural households in Sarawak have been lighted up under a suite of rural electrification strategies since 2009, and since then rural electrification in Sarawak has risen to 95 per cent in 2020 compared to just 56 per cent in 2009 and is expected to go up to 97 per cent in the coming months.

“We have an effective strategy and an efficient delivery mechanism to extend existing Sarawak’s grid into the interior and for Sarawak’s most remote communities, we have the standalone off-grid solutions,” he said.

About 340 rural households from 21 villages in the Mukah, Balingian and Tanjung Manis districts have been lighted up under Phase 1 of Rural Electrification Scheme (RES) Last Miles initiative in the Mukah Division between 2018 and 2020.

In 2021, about 470 households from 13 longhouses in Dalat, Matu and Daro districts will be connected to the state’s electricity grid under Phase 2, giving them access to 24-hour reliable and renewable energy.

Finally, 11 more villages with about 358 households in Ulu Dalat and Matu shall be connected to the grid by 2022 under Phase 3, bringing the rural electrification coverage in Mukah Division to 100 per cent.

Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili said that the usual challenges of rural electrification, which include logistics due to area remoteness, wayleave issues and acceptance from villagers, have been compounded by the global Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions brought about by the Movement Control Order (MCO).

“However, we are committed to deliver these rural electrification projects under full compliance with the relevant Standard Operating Procedures and stringent in-house Covid-19 precautionary measures,” he said.

The RES Last Miles initiative, under the Accelerated Rural Electrification Masterplan, is part of the Sarawak government’s ‘Projek Rakyat’ and extends grid lines into the interior by constructing electrical distribution poles and supply lines.

Rural Power Supply Scheme (RPSS) will supplement RES by introducing new transmission, distribution lines and substations at strategic rural locations to enable RES to be extended to the more remote areas.

Aside from RES and RPSS, the rural electrification initiatives in Sarawak also include setting up localised micro-grids with hybrid systems for larger communities distant from the main grid and smaller standalone micro-hydro or solar-powered systems for the most remote areas through the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares).