KOTA KINABALU, Jan 18 — Putrajaya has agreed to returning utility company Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) to the Sabah government, said Yeo Bee Yin.
The energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister said the federal government decided at the end of last year that it was agreeable to returning the right of power to Sabah which includes decisions on electricity generation, transmissions, distribution and tariff.
SESB was previously a state-owned firm but a majority of shares was given to Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) some 35 years ago.
“To facilitate the transition, two task forces have been set up — a financial task force with the Ministry of Finance and a technical task force that will discuss in detail the return of ownership to Sabah,” she said to reporters after meeting Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal here.
She said she had personally delivered a letter from the federal government to Shafie to formalise the decision as well as the setting up of the task forces to begin the process.
“What we want to achieve is that eventually SESB will be sustainable with a good financial model, less loss in terms of theft and transmission, and an efficient transmission and distribution system,” she said.
Yeo targets two years to complete the transition process, but acknowledged that it will hinge on negotiations between the state and federal governments.
“There are a lot of technical details to discuss — the Energy Commission will have its own regulations for the state and we will also bring in an electricity planning team to discuss options.
“Right now, Putrajaya is planning the power in Sabah so the Sabah government has to be able to plan the supply and demand, capacity building, industry regulations — discussions will take time as they are highly technical and very detailed.
The state government has sought the return of the ailing utility firm even after it was reported to be in bad financial shape after Yeo’s predecessor Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili claimed it was on the verge of insolvency.
When asked about the assets and liabilities of SESB, Yeo said the task forces will take that into account during negotiations.
“It will be discussed. We have agreed in principle to return it. Now that we have committed to returning SESB, we can begin the process.
“The chief minister has welcomed the decision but ultimately, he hopes Sabahans will get the most benefit out of it. There is no point in returning SESB if there is no benefit to the people,” she said.