Sarawak taps into vast power potential to fuel socio-economic growth

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Only 20 years ago, a small percentage of Sarawak’s population had access to electricity. Now, with the state on the verge of an economic surge, Sarawak’s massive potential for power generation could not only satisfy the demands of its people but also reach beyond its borders.

Sarawak, with a land area of more than 124,000 square kilometres, has the potential to generate vast amounts of power for an array of industries, commercial properties and residential households.

Oil, natural gas, coal and hydro-electric power are the major natural power sources for the state, which needs to serve a population of more than 2.5 million in addition to an increasing number of heavy industries that are setting up factories as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative.

More recently, the government has been promoting the use of biofuels as a viable and sustainable energy source. There are various organisations and government-linked companies responsible for the delivery of power to the state’s various sectors. The Ministry of Public Utilities Sarawak is the state government body responsible for regulating the power industry in the region and its policy.

However, the actual physical supply of power is performed by private-public companies tasked with delivering electricity to the different sectors of society.

Privatised Syarikat SESCO Berhad (formerly Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation, SESCO) has the task of generating, transmitting and distributing electricity for individual consumers in Sarawak, delivering power to almost 400,000 customers in the state. Its customer base is growing at an average of 8 per cent per annum as Sarawak attempts to meet its goal of 95 per cent consumer power penetration by 2012.

SESCO is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), the state’s leading power company with strong links to the government.

The organisation has 36 power stations with a total capacity of 1,315MW fuelled mainly by coal-fired thermal plants, gas turbines, combined cycle stations, hydro turbines and a small percentage of diesel turbines, which are located mostly in remote areas. The major towns are connected via a 275/132kV state transmission grid.

With the advent of SCORE, Sarawak’s energy landscape has changed dramatically, with more emphasis placed on catering to the power-intensive industries sprouting at the Samalaju Industrial Park. As SCORE’s monument to heavy industries, Samalaju houses manufacturers that need massive amounts of energy, almost all of it provided by hydro-electric power.

The first phase of the massive RM7- billion Bakun Dam project in Kapit has already been completed. When the Dam is fully functional, it is expected to generate 2,400MW of power, providing cheap and plentiful energy for the Samalaju manufacturers.

There is also the RM600-million Batang Ai Dam in Sri Aman while construction is on-going on the RM3-billion Murum Dam in Belaga. Sarawak has planned at least 12 hydro-electricity dam projects under SCORE in order to serve the needs of heavy industries, tourism and consumers. Five of these dams are planned for Pelagus, Balleh, Baram, Limbang and Lawas.

The hydro projects are expected to generate at least 7,000MW of energy in total. However, by making use of Sarawak’s diversity in energy resources, there is potential for several more thousands of MW that can be harnessed for domestic needs as well as exported.

SEB, which is increasingly becoming the most influential power entity in Sarawak, has bought up all of Bakun’s power and has a target of exporting up to 10,000MW of hydropower to peninsula Malaysia by 2030 via 500kV High Voltage Direct Current undersea cables.

In its “Master Plan for Power System Development in Sarawak”, SEB has identified 20,000MW of hydro potential in 52 sites throughout the state.

Coal is another energy resource available in bulk in Sarawak with the government planning to include 1.156 billion tonnes of coal reserves in its power-generating plan.

SEB, through its subsidiaries, operates several coal-fired power plants. Sejingkat Power Corporation Sdn Bhd operates a total capacity of 210MW via a coal-fired steam-turbine power plant at Kampung Geobilt, Kuching.

And through its wholly-owned subsidiary Mukah Power Generation Sdn Bhd (MPG), SEB has developed a coal-fired power station in Matadeng, Mukah with a total capacity of 270MW.

Other power stations exist using combined cycle, oil and gas.

SEB is targeting a generation mix of 70 per cent hydro, 20 per cent coal, 15 per cent gas and 5 per cent other renewable sources, such as biomass and solar energy, often referred to as the “Fifth Fuel”. Such alternative fuel sources are expected to provide 100MW of power by 2019.

At the 2009 Copenhagen meeting of the Conference of Parties on climate change, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak said the country was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity by 40 per cent by 2020, and biomass is one way of achieving this target.

Sarawak has plenty of biomass resources such as wood and palm oil residues. Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, a timber company that has built a RM26 million biomass power plant at its plywood complex at Sungai Bidut, is already producing this type of energy.

In Tanjung Manis, Homet Raya Sdn Bhd has built a 1.65MW wood waste-fired power plant, with the energy sent to a mill while part of the steam is used for kiln drying.

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Only 20 years ago, a small percentage of Sarawak’s population had access to electricity. Now, with the state on the verge of an economic surge, Sarawak’s massive potential for power generation could not only satisfy the demands of its people but also reach beyond its borders. Sarawak, with a land area of more than 124,000 square kilometres, has the potential to generate vast amounts of power for an array of industries, commercial properties and residential households. Oil, natural gas, coal and hydro-electric power are the major natural power sources for the state, which needs to serve a population of more...

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Only 20 years ago, a small percentage of Sarawak’s population had access to electricity. Now, with the state on the verge of an economic surge, Sarawak’s massive potential for power generation could not only satisfy the demands of its people but also reach beyond its borders.

Sarawak, with a land area of more than 124,000 square kilometres, has the potential to generate vast amounts of power for an array of industries, commercial properties and residential households.

Oil, natural gas, coal and hydro-electric power are the major natural power sources for the state, which needs to serve a population of more than 2.5 million in addition to an increasing number of heavy industries that are setting up factories as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative.

More recently, the government has been promoting the use of biofuels as a viable and sustainable energy source. There are various organisations and government-linked companies responsible for the delivery of power to the state’s various sectors. The Ministry of Public Utilities Sarawak is the state government body responsible for regulating the power industry in the region and its policy.

However, the actual physical supply of power is performed by private-public companies tasked with delivering electricity to the different sectors of society.

Privatised Syarikat SESCO Berhad (formerly Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation, SESCO) has the task of generating, transmitting and distributing electricity for individual consumers in Sarawak, delivering power to almost 400,000 customers in the state. Its customer base is growing at an average of 8 per cent per annum as Sarawak attempts to meet its goal of 95 per cent consumer power penetration by 2012.

SESCO is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), the state’s leading power company with strong links to the government.

The organisation has 36 power stations with a total capacity of 1,315MW fuelled mainly by coal-fired thermal plants, gas turbines, combined cycle stations, hydro turbines and a small percentage of diesel turbines, which are located mostly in remote areas. The major towns are connected via a 275/132kV state transmission grid.

With the advent of SCORE, Sarawak’s energy landscape has changed dramatically, with more emphasis placed on catering to the power-intensive industries sprouting at the Samalaju Industrial Park. As SCORE’s monument to heavy industries, Samalaju houses manufacturers that need massive amounts of energy, almost all of it provided by hydro-electric power.

The first phase of the massive RM7- billion Bakun Dam project in Kapit has already been completed. When the Dam is fully functional, it is expected to generate 2,400MW of power, providing cheap and plentiful energy for the Samalaju manufacturers.

There is also the RM600-million Batang Ai Dam in Sri Aman while construction is on-going on the RM3-billion Murum Dam in Belaga. Sarawak has planned at least 12 hydro-electricity dam projects under SCORE in order to serve the needs of heavy industries, tourism and consumers. Five of these dams are planned for Pelagus, Balleh, Baram, Limbang and Lawas.

The hydro projects are expected to generate at least 7,000MW of energy in total. However, by making use of Sarawak’s diversity in energy resources, there is potential for several more thousands of MW that can be harnessed for domestic needs as well as exported.

SEB, which is increasingly becoming the most influential power entity in Sarawak, has bought up all of Bakun’s power and has a target of exporting up to 10,000MW of hydropower to peninsula Malaysia by 2030 via 500kV High Voltage Direct Current undersea cables.

In its “Master Plan for Power System Development in Sarawak”, SEB has identified 20,000MW of hydro potential in 52 sites throughout the state.

Coal is another energy resource available in bulk in Sarawak with the government planning to include 1.156 billion tonnes of coal reserves in its power-generating plan.

SEB, through its subsidiaries, operates several coal-fired power plants. Sejingkat Power Corporation Sdn Bhd operates a total capacity of 210MW via a coal-fired steam-turbine power plant at Kampung Geobilt, Kuching.

And through its wholly-owned subsidiary Mukah Power Generation Sdn Bhd (MPG), SEB has developed a coal-fired power station in Matadeng, Mukah with a total capacity of 270MW.

Other power stations exist using combined cycle, oil and gas.

SEB is targeting a generation mix of 70 per cent hydro, 20 per cent coal, 15 per cent gas and 5 per cent other renewable sources, such as biomass and solar energy, often referred to as the “Fifth Fuel”. Such alternative fuel sources are expected to provide 100MW of power by 2019.

At the 2009 Copenhagen meeting of the Conference of Parties on climate change, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak said the country was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity by 40 per cent by 2020, and biomass is one way of achieving this target.

Sarawak has plenty of biomass resources such as wood and palm oil residues. Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, a timber company that has built a RM26 million biomass power plant at its plywood complex at Sungai Bidut, is already producing this type of energy.

In Tanjung Manis, Homet Raya Sdn Bhd has built a 1.65MW wood waste-fired power plant, with the energy sent to a mill while part of the steam is used for kiln drying.

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