Power generation — coal or otherwise — not priority right now for Sabah, says Minister

Energy, Science, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the government will prioritise strengthening transmission first before dealing with power generation. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
Energy, Science, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the government will prioritise strengthening transmission first before dealing with power generation. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

KOTA KINABALU, Oct 23 — After criticism for considering coal as an option to solve Sabah’s power woes, Energy, Science, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the government will prioritise strengthening transmission first before dealing with power generation.

Yeo said that the state’s power reserve was at 32 per cent, similar to that of Peninsula Malaysia, but the quality of service here was not the same due to problems with the power network.

“The problem here is not just generation but transmission and distribution. The number of disruptions is four times higher than that in Peninsula Malaysia due to transmission and distribution lines. That will the top most priority in the near term.

“To deal with that we have to ensure than the basic fundamentals are strong to ensure there is no disruptions and Sabah enjoy the same quality of service,” she told reporters after a meeting with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal here today.

Yeo said that it will take time to see Sabah’s power woes solved completely even with the completion of federal projects within two years.

“There will be improvements but it won’t be as stable due to the connection. It will be about 50 per cent less but that’s still double the interruptions compared to Peninsula,” she said.

She said Sabahans can expect a System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) of 100 minutes of power interruption per user per year — which is still double that of Peninsula Malaysia by the end of 2021.

Shafie had earlier said that the State would consider the most reliable, sustainable and affordable option which included hydro dams, gas and coal.

Noting that coal was a controversial subject, he said that they discussed the option but there was no decision yet.

“We have to think about what’s best. In Sarawak, the Bakun dam was a big political issue and NGOs were against it, but now Sarawak is producing excess supply, and at very affordable rates.

“The Sarawak CM also offered to connect our power grid to theirs in Bakun so I will look at this option as well. If the price is too high, there’s no point as well. We have to make sure it meets the needs of the people and the industry as well,” he said.

Shafie also said that Sabah’s east coast bore the brunt of the problem even with the option of biomass as a fuel source from the palm oil plantations as it was logistically was too costly.

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