SARAWAK has finally given its approval to the construction of the 275 megawatt (Mw) hydroelectric dam on the Trusan River in the state’s most northern district of Lawas.
Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg gave the approval amidst renewed interest from Brunei in buying “cheap” electricity from Sarawak to light up homes and power light industries in its territory of Temburong – sandwiched between Limbang and Lawas.
Speaking at Sarawak Energy Bhd’s (SEB) Hari Raya gathering in Kuching on 21st July, Abang Johari said Sabah had also shown similar interest to buy hydro power from the state.
He said work on the dam could start “in a few years time”, but had previously said the state could start supplying power to Brunei as soon as 2019.
SEB is already supplying 230Mw of electricity to West Kalimantan via a 275Kv transmission line connecting Mambong in Sarawak to Bengkayang in West Kalimantan.
The Trusan dam is considered very small compared to the state’s three mega dams – Bakun with a 2,400Mw installed capacity, Murum (944Mw) and Baleh (1,285Mw).
SEB chairman Hamed Sepawi told reporters that the Sultan of Brunei had shown renewed interest when the chief minister accompanied Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud to Brunei for the Sultan’s birthday celebrations.
He said apart from earning foreign exchange, cheap hydro-generated power could help ease SEB’s costs in generating electricity in Limbang and Lawas.
Hamed said SEB was using diesel to generate electricity and was losing RM100 million annually to subsidise consumers in Limbang and Lawas.
“The diesel costs RM1 per kilowatt per hour (Kwh) and consumers are only paying 28sen per Kwh. We are therefore subsidising 72sen per Kwh.”
Hamed said the cost per Kwh would drop below 20sen with hydro-electric power,
“That saving alone would be enough to justify building the dam.”
“If Brunei wants it, it’s fantastic for us. As long as money comes to the state, it’s important for us.”
Deputy Chief Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan had said Brunei last agreed to buy 100Mw of electricity with an option to buy another 50Mw 10 years ago
Hamed said he was surprised by the chief minister’s announcement and that the state utility company would have to revisit the study they did 3 to 4 years ago.
“We have to do more studies.”
The Trusan dam is one of 12 hydroelectric dams the state had proposed to build to satisfy the state’s projected power needs and the demands of its neighbours.
While the Bakun and Murum hydroelectric dams are already commissioned, work on the Baleh dam had just started.
It is scheduled to be completed in 2025.
Earlier in his welcoming address, Hamed said SEB aimed to generate 7,000Mw by 2026 to meet the state’s projected demand.
He said the accelerated growth brought by power guzzling industries in Sarawak’s industrial belt, known as the Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (Score), had seen energy demand grew three-fold to just over 3,400Mw from about 1,000Mw a decade ago.