Sarawak balances conventional energy and RE

The state will look into maintaining renewable hydropower in its generation, mix with indigenous coal and gas to ensure energy security

by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic credit: Sarawak Energy Bhd

SARAWAK’S rivers and mountainous landscapes make hydropower the best provider of renewable, reliable and affordable energy, Chief Minister (CM) Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (picture) said.

The state is currently operating three hydropower plants — namely Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum — that can produce 3,452MW or about 73.5% of the total mix, channelling to about 2.62 million people living in the state.

“While the calls are getting louder for the world to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources, Sarawak is pursuing a balanced and holistic energy development strategy to ensure energy security, sustainability and affordability.

“We believe that environmental sustainability is crucial, but energy affordability and security are key factors in how we develop our energy resources for the region and beyond,” Abang Johari said at the inauguration of Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum 2019 in Kuching, Sarawak yesterday.

He said the state would look into maintaining renewable hydropower in its generation, mix with indigenous coal and gas to ensure energy security.

Sarawak generates a total of 4,700MW of electricity and expects an increase to over 7,000MW in 2025 when the Baleh hydropower plant comes on stream with 1,285MW of power production.

The move is deemed crucial, as Sarawak Energy Bhd — the state utilities subsidiary — targets 100% of the state’s population to have access to a 24-hour electricity supply in the next five years.

State domestic coverage was at 95% in 2017, while rural coverage was at 90%. It was reported that there are about 1,600 villages and 36,000 households yet to have electricity.

“Nevertheless, we need to progress in a sustainable manner by learning from developed nations that have eradicated energy poverty by utilising traditional fossil fuel before the global shift to renewable.

“Therefore, we are formulating policies and implementing strategies that best suit our needs with sustainability embedded at the core of our processes,” Abang Johari said.

Sarawak also aims to achieve a high-income status by 2030, driven by its renewable energy (RE) sector.

The state first embarked on its hydropower journey with the first plant, Batang Ai in 1985, before commissioning Murum in 2014 and fully acquired Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) for RM2.5 billion from the federal government in 2017.

Bakun HEP is the largest hydropower plant in the country today.

Abang Johari said the state is also playing a role in contributing towards Malaysia’s Conference of the Parties target in the global fight against climate change.

“Sarawak has reduced its carbon emission intensity from its power system by 77% since 2009 since embarking on its hydropower development.

“We are also sharing our RE resources by the issuance of Sarawak’s first renewable energy certificates (RECs) today,” the CM added.

At the event, Sarawak Energy and Shell MDS (M) Sdn Bhd signed a memorandum of understanding to undertake a study on certified RE supply.

Both companies are expected to explore the development of RECs for Shell MDS, which could potentially stimulate RE deployment across Sarawak.

Sarawak Energy’s introduction of the REC provides for the corporate purchase of RE generated in the state. Hydropower is Sarawak Corridor’s foundation for RE, making the venture into RECs a natural progression.

Each REC given out represents the environmental benefits of 1MW of RE generated from the Batang Ai HEP.

The establishment is expected to provide a better practice guideline and carbon disclosure project standards for tracking and reporting of REC. This will also assure buyers of the integrity of each REC transaction.

Abang Johari said the government estimated only 2% of the total land area in Sarawak will be used once all the identified hydro projects are implemented, which is currently less than 1% of the state’s forest.

“Sarawak government is also implementing good sustainable management of its forests. Today, 63% of Sarawak’s landmass — or 7.8 million hectares — continues to be covered with forests,” he said.