Norse-powered SEB ready to quench Sarawak’s thirst for energy

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Sarawak Energy Berhad, with Norwegian Torstein Dale Sjotveit at the helm, is poised to become a key player in the provision of hydro and coal power to satisfy the state’s never-ending need for cheap and efficient energy.

As the state’s prime power provider, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) has the resources, experience, support and expertise to serve Sarawak’s vast energy needs.

SEB, in which the state government has a majority stake, is undertaking a series of projects that would virtually cover the energy-intensive electricity requirements throughout the state, including the hot zones of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

They have recently agreed a Power Purchase Agreement with Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, operators of the Bakun Dam hydro power, which will produce 2400MW of electricity at its peak and is the largest hydro-electric power station in Southeast Asia.

The deal will allow SEB to take up the entire energy output of the dam. The company is also halfway through the Murum hydro power project that is expected to generate 944MW of power while plans are afoot for five more hydro-electric stations and two coal plants to be completed before 2020.

All this energy needs to be distributed to users and, to that end, SEB is building a 500-kilometre 500kV State Transmission Backbone.

The company estimates it will invest not more than RM30 billion in the years leading up to 2020, which is Sarawak’s target for achieving high-income status in tandem with federal goals.

Driving these projects is Norwegian Torstein Dale Sjotveit, who was appointed CEO in November 2009 when he was given a clear directive as to what the company expects.

“SEB’s owners, the state government and the board of directors, have given me a mandate to deliver four things: 1, the SCORE infrastructure, by which they mean the hydro, coal and transmission projects; 2, attract the SCORE customers as soon as possible; 3, transform SEB from a stable but insular local monopoly into a modern corporation; and 4, to do this on our own two feet – without resorting to state government guarantees,” said Sjotveit.

“We are on track to deliver on all four fronts.  It’s important to note though that these achievements don’t belong to me.  None of this would be possible without the previous 70 years of prudent management.  Our predecessors have really done a great job of managing SEB to the point that these things are possible.”

Sarawak Energy Berhad was incorporated in 1967 as Dunlop Estates Berhad and was listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange that same year. In 1996, the company changed its name to Sarawak Enterprise Corporation Berhad following the Sarawak government’s acquisition of a majority stake. The name Sarawak Energy Berhad was adopted on 2 April 2007.

Apart from domestic projects, SEB recently signed a Term Sheet for a Power Exchange Agreement to export bulk electricity to West Kalimantan.  They are also exploring the possibility of selling power to Brunei and Sabah.

Sjotveit is excited about the future and he draws on his diverse experience to steer SEB through the obstacles and challenges they face.

Trained as a civil engineer, he was President and CEO of Europe’s biggest shipbuilding group, STX Europe AS (formerly known as Aker Yards).  For 27 years before that, he was with Norsk Hydro, gaining experience in the oil and gas, polymers and petrochemicals, aluminium and international business development sectors, including a six-year stint in West Africa.

Before he left Norsk Hydro, he was President of Aluminium Metal, leading operations across 13 countries and 5,000 employees.

“These experiences were great training for the challenges at SEB,” he said. “We are aiming to grow the business, in terms of output, by around 10 times in eight years. There aren’t many jobs in the power industry that offer this kind of challenge and opportunity.”

Sjotveit has a deep philosophical approach to management, insisting that humility is an important characteristic of a good leader.

“To get to the top, a leader must have had some good luck along the way,” he said. “Leaders who don’t recognise this can easily overrate their own contribution to success.  Particularly in a growing organisation like SEB in a culture with huge automatic respect for authority, humility is essential to provide people with the space they need to find their voice and give their best.”

He also places great importance on ensuring a close relationship with the community. Many people in Sarawak are to be resettled because of SEB’s projects and Sjotveit said the exercise must be completed responsibly.

“Our top priority is helping people directly affected by our projects by doing a top class job of resettlement,” he said. “We are also looking into projects to allow young people in these communities to record their history and culture and project it to the rest of the world.”

Indeed, SEB places great emphasis on ensuring that there are tangible benefits for people, inside and outside the company, from their business activities. The company’s decision-making processes also take this factor into account.

“The most important decisions relate to people,” said Sjotveit. “Things like who fits where?  Who has more to give?  How far can they go with the right support? What do they need to get there?

“This year at SEB, we have moved quite a few people around; some of them to positions a long way outside their comfort zone.

I’m sure that there are many people in SEB who are much more capable than they think they are, so a big part of my job is to create an environment in which they can thrive.”

“A utility business like ours requires strict procedures to make sure that we do our job safely and provide the kind of reliability of supply that our customers rightly expect.  Creativity in this environment is therefore about finding new solutions to old problems.

“The main way to foster innovation is to support a culture where people are encouraged to put forward their suggestions.  This is easy to say but it requires discipline to pause and really listen to what people are saying.”

Sjotveit praised the Board of Directors at SEB, who he said deserved credit for the company’s successes. He said management has put up more than 150 papers to the Board since December 2010, and every submission is carefully considered.

The Board comprises Chairman and Independent Executive Director Datuk Abdul Hamed Bin Sepawi, Non-Independent Non-Executive Director YB Datuk Amar Haji Mohamad, Senior Non-Independent Non-Executive Director Dato’ Haji Idris Bin Haji Buang, Non-Independent Non-Executive Director Datuk Fong Joo Chung and Independent Non-Executive Director YBhg. Tan Sri Dato Sri Mohd Hassan Marican.

“SEB is very fortunate to have a very strong Board of Directors,” he said. “Perhaps that’s what every CEO is supposed to say, but in SEB’s case it really is a key to our success.

“Our five Directors have tremendous experience, both in Sarawak and Malaysia, and in some cases around the world.

Given the speed and complexity of our agenda, it is a real credit to the Directors that so many of our decision have been timely and correct.

“We have also put a lot of work into improving the clarity of our communication.  It takes a lot of effort to be clear and precise and we have come a long way in this regard, not only in front of the Board, but in the decisions that we take in the Executive Management Committee.”

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Sarawak Energy Berhad, with Norwegian Torstein Dale Sjotveit at the helm, is poised to become a key player in the provision of hydro and coal power to satisfy the state’s never-ending need for cheap and efficient energy.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Sarawak Energy Berhad, with Norwegian Torstein Dale Sjotveit at the helm, is poised to become a key player in the provision of hydro and coal power to satisfy the state’s never-ending need for cheap and efficient energy.

As the state’s prime power provider, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) has the resources, experience, support and expertise to serve Sarawak’s vast energy needs.

SEB, in which the state government has a majority stake, is undertaking a series of projects that would virtually cover the energy-intensive electricity requirements throughout the state, including the hot zones of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

They have recently agreed a Power Purchase Agreement with Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, operators of the Bakun Dam hydro power, which will produce 2400MW of electricity at its peak and is the largest hydro-electric power station in Southeast Asia.

The deal will allow SEB to take up the entire energy output of the dam. The company is also halfway through the Murum hydro power project that is expected to generate 944MW of power while plans are afoot for five more hydro-electric stations and two coal plants to be completed before 2020.

All this energy needs to be distributed to users and, to that end, SEB is building a 500-kilometre 500kV State Transmission Backbone.

The company estimates it will invest not more than RM30 billion in the years leading up to 2020, which is Sarawak’s target for achieving high-income status in tandem with federal goals.

Driving these projects is Norwegian Torstein Dale Sjotveit, who was appointed CEO in November 2009 when he was given a clear directive as to what the company expects.

“SEB’s owners, the state government and the board of directors, have given me a mandate to deliver four things: 1, the SCORE infrastructure, by which they mean the hydro, coal and transmission projects; 2, attract the SCORE customers as soon as possible; 3, transform SEB from a stable but insular local monopoly into a modern corporation; and 4, to do this on our own two feet – without resorting to state government guarantees,” said Sjotveit.

“We are on track to deliver on all four fronts.  It’s important to note though that these achievements don’t belong to me.  None of this would be possible without the previous 70 years of prudent management.  Our predecessors have really done a great job of managing SEB to the point that these things are possible.”

Sarawak Energy Berhad was incorporated in 1967 as Dunlop Estates Berhad and was listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange that same year. In 1996, the company changed its name to Sarawak Enterprise Corporation Berhad following the Sarawak government’s acquisition of a majority stake. The name Sarawak Energy Berhad was adopted on 2 April 2007.

Apart from domestic projects, SEB recently signed a Term Sheet for a Power Exchange Agreement to export bulk electricity to West Kalimantan.  They are also exploring the possibility of selling power to Brunei and Sabah.

Sjotveit is excited about the future and he draws on his diverse experience to steer SEB through the obstacles and challenges they face.

Trained as a civil engineer, he was President and CEO of Europe’s biggest shipbuilding group, STX Europe AS (formerly known as Aker Yards).  For 27 years before that, he was with Norsk Hydro, gaining experience in the oil and gas, polymers and petrochemicals, aluminium and international business development sectors, including a six-year stint in West Africa.

Before he left Norsk Hydro, he was President of Aluminium Metal, leading operations across 13 countries and 5,000 employees.

“These experiences were great training for the challenges at SEB,” he said. “We are aiming to grow the business, in terms of output, by around 10 times in eight years. There aren’t many jobs in the power industry that offer this kind of challenge and opportunity.”

Sjotveit has a deep philosophical approach to management, insisting that humility is an important characteristic of a good leader.

“To get to the top, a leader must have had some good luck along the way,” he said. “Leaders who don’t recognise this can easily overrate their own contribution to success.  Particularly in a growing organisation like SEB in a culture with huge automatic respect for authority, humility is essential to provide people with the space they need to find their voice and give their best.”

He also places great importance on ensuring a close relationship with the community. Many people in Sarawak are to be resettled because of SEB’s projects and Sjotveit said the exercise must be completed responsibly.

“Our top priority is helping people directly affected by our projects by doing a top class job of resettlement,” he said. “We are also looking into projects to allow young people in these communities to record their history and culture and project it to the rest of the world.”

Indeed, SEB places great emphasis on ensuring that there are tangible benefits for people, inside and outside the company, from their business activities. The company’s decision-making processes also take this factor into account.

“The most important decisions relate to people,” said Sjotveit. “Things like who fits where?  Who has more to give?  How far can they go with the right support? What do they need to get there?

“This year at SEB, we have moved quite a few people around; some of them to positions a long way outside their comfort zone.

I’m sure that there are many people in SEB who are much more capable than they think they are, so a big part of my job is to create an environment in which they can thrive.”

“A utility business like ours requires strict procedures to make sure that we do our job safely and provide the kind of reliability of supply that our customers rightly expect.  Creativity in this environment is therefore about finding new solutions to old problems.

“The main way to foster innovation is to support a culture where people are encouraged to put forward their suggestions.  This is easy to say but it requires discipline to pause and really listen to what people are saying.”

Sjotveit praised the Board of Directors at SEB, who he said deserved credit for the company’s successes. He said management has put up more than 150 papers to the Board since December 2010, and every submission is carefully considered.

The Board comprises Chairman and Independent Executive Director Datuk Abdul Hamed Bin Sepawi, Non-Independent Non-Executive Director YB Datuk Amar Haji Mohamad, Senior Non-Independent Non-Executive Director Dato’ Haji Idris Bin Haji Buang, Non-Independent Non-Executive Director Datuk Fong Joo Chung and Independent Non-Executive Director YBhg. Tan Sri Dato Sri Mohd Hassan Marican.

“SEB is very fortunate to have a very strong Board of Directors,” he said. “Perhaps that’s what every CEO is supposed to say, but in SEB’s case it really is a key to our success.

“Our five Directors have tremendous experience, both in Sarawak and Malaysia, and in some cases around the world.

Given the speed and complexity of our agenda, it is a real credit to the Directors that so many of our decision have been timely and correct.

“We have also put a lot of work into improving the clarity of our communication.  It takes a lot of effort to be clear and precise and we have come a long way in this regard, not only in front of the Board, but in the decisions that we take in the Executive Management Committee.”

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