The Star Malaysia - Star2
Green light for Sarawak
IN the wake of global concerns of carbon footprint and calls for the widespread adoption of green technology and practices, Sarawak Energy Berhad is committed to not only meet the region’s need for reliable, renewable energy, but to drive sustainable growth and prosperity for Sarawak.
As a vertically integrated power utility and energy development company, Sarawak Energy generates, transmits, distributes and retails reliable and sufficient power to the state’s urban and rural areas.
Building on almost 100 years of experience in the supply of electricity, the company is currently embarking on a massive expansion programme with multiple strategies built around the state’s abundant natural resources.
In the process, the company is ensuring it meets its social and environmental obligations as a responsible corporate citizen.
In early 2009, the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy ( SCORE) was launched to stimulate economic growth, create employment and encourage foreign and domestic investment within the state.
The strategy hinged upon developing the state’s energy generation capacity so it could sell bulk power to industrial customers attracted by affordable, renewable energy, ultimately creating an economy comparable to other parts of the country to achieve a developed state status by 2030.
Sarawak Energy would have a key role in powering SCORE – developing and generating power from Sarawak’s indigenous resources.
To spearhead the company’s transformation and growth as part of the SCORE agenda, Datuk Torstein Dale Sjøtveit was recruited as group chief executive officer of Sarawak Energy in November 2009.
“It has been demonstrated that fast- track development is achievable through the increase of energy generation and consumption. This development model has been successfully undertaken by countries such as Canada, Austria and Norway where hydropower is a proven catalyst of growth,” he says.
Prior to SCORE, Sarawak’s energy grew organically, reaching about 1,000MW in 2009. SCORE’s success is evident in the accelerated demand growth – within five years, from 2010 to last year, energy capacity increased from 1,182MW to 4,600MW.
Installed capacity is planned to increase to 5,300MW by 2020 and rise further to 8,000MW by 2025. This is because of the demand from bulk- power customers.
Sarawak Energy has so far signed 14 long- term agreements to supply energy of more than 3,000MW to energy- intensive industries and for export.
“About 20,000 direct and indirect jobs have been created out of what we have done here in Sarawak Energy. These high- level jobs for skilled workers and graduates are exactly what Sarawak needs,” says Sjøtveit.
Providing the bulk power from hydro are the 944MW Murum Hydroelectric Project ( HEP), which was commissioned in 2014, and the federally owned 2,400MW Bakun HEP, which Sarawak Energy has been tapping into by purchasing its entire output since its 2011 commissioning.
The 2x300MW Balingian Coal Fired Plant, the first and largest circulating fluidised bed ( CFB) boiler in the Asean region, will come on- stream in 2018, while gas from offshore Sarawak will power the high- efficiency and low- emissions- intensity 400MW combined- cycle gas turbine ( CCGT) plants at Tanjung Kidurong.
To date, Sarawak has a total of three HEPs and five thermal plants with a generation portfolio of 75% hydro and 25% thermal ( coal and gas).
While a balanced generation mix is necessary for the effective development of Sarawak’s energy future, its hydropower generation has the best potential to supply Sarawak’s present and future needs. The cost of energy from hydropower is also relatively low compared to coal and gas.
“Hydropower is the most environmentally friendly energy source and can last for 100 years. Since 2009, Sarawak Energy has reduced its fossil fuel dependence and, in the process, brought down our carbon intensity by almost 60% with more hydropower generation,” adds Sjøtveit.
As its resources are developed, the generation mix will approximate 60% hydro, 20% coal and 20% gas in the future.
At the same time, the state’s transmission system is also being strengthened to effectively transmit the power produced.
When completed, the RM2.7bil 500kV transmission grid will become a second transmission backbone for Sarawak – complementing the existing 275kV grid – for a more reliable and secure power system.
By harnessing the hydropower potential upstream of the state’s major rivers and natural resources, the sustainable generation and supply of competitively priced renewable energy will no doubt continue to attract local and foreign investments to the state and expedite economic development.
According to Sjøtveit, the company is also actively pursuing other clean and renewable energy sources such as solar and micro hydro as alternative energy sources to supply off- grid remote areas of the state. Sarawak’s competitive advantage in renewable energy generation has made it possible for Sarawak Energy to supply energy beyond the state’s boundaries. This is in line with the company’s aspiration to be a regional powerhouse of Asean. Sjøtveit says, “In January this year, we started exporting electricity to Indonesian West Kalimantan and we are progressing plans to also export to Brunei and Sabah by 2025.
“We are expanding the horizon of our operations beyond the state borders and hope to be a semi- international player developing projects in the neighbouring countries by 2020. We have signed a letter of intent with Indonesia’s Northern Province of Kalimantan ( Kaltara) and are in talks with Myanmar to materialise this.
“For Sarawak, we are ready to advance the concept of Asean Power Grid and take up the role as a regional utility and energy development company.”
Since embarking on SCORE, Sarawak Energy’s revenue has increased by more than double from RM1.4bil in 2009 to RM3bil last year. However, the company is not driven by profit alone.
According to Sjøtveit, “Sarawak Energy’s mission captures broader objectives and responsibilities and commits us to honour the trust placed in us by the people of Sarawak, by acknowledging and respecting them and contributing to their well- being”.
Sarawak Energy strives for socioeconomic sustainability in its operations through strategic corporate social responsibility ( CSR) initiatives particularly towards project- affected communities.
“For Sarawak Energy, CSR means managing our business to minimise any negative impact of our operations and to maximise the positive impacts of what the company can do for the community.
“This is achieved by creating economic opportunities, support in community investment, sustainable project development and demonstrating high standards of transparency and community engagement,” he continues.
“Through CSR community investment, we are developing long- term, sustainable partnerships that meet real community needs, specifically in the four focus areas of education and young people; culture and heritage; environment SARAWAK Energy has been a member and sustainability partner of the International Hydropower Association ( IHA) since 2010.
The company’s operations are guided by the laws of Malaysia and Sarawak and adopt the best practices in accordance to the guidelines set out by the IHA’s Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol on a voluntary basis and beyond legislative requirements. management and conservation; and community development and entrepreneurship.
“We have a very positive story to tell about Murum. By working with and engaging the community affected by the Murum HEP, particularly the Penans, we have developed initiatives and programmes that include their own aspirations and are tailored to their needs.
“While our immediate resettlement plan focused on providing amenities and better facilities, we have developed long- term plans geared towards education, training, entrepreneurship as well as culture and heritage conservation meant to improve the community’s livelihood and well- being.”
With Sarawak Energy’s support, close to 1,000 members of the Penan community, who were semi- nomadic, now have national identification cards.
More than 500 have enrolled in a literacy programme, on top of the formal education that has benefited more than 300 young children.
Sarawak Energy has also worked with the community on a trust fund to encourage academic excellence through a programme with the Bakun Trust Fund.
Sjøtveit says the company’s commitment to sustainability is an integral part of the decision- making process of Sarawak Energy. For more information, visit