Power Supply in Sabah

This subject has been given wide media coverage for many years. Insufficient power supply is a bane on our lives, not to mention on the effects it has on our economic development. The other basic need, water, or making a profit from selling it, is another problem the state government seems unable to solve.

By Hj Ramlee Dua, Kadayan Journal

Much opposition on the use of coal to generate electricity has highlighted the problem of insufficient power supply even more. First, the people of Lahad Datu objected to having a coal-powered in Silam, citing pollution could impact the Danum Valley, amongst others. Then there was a plan to shift the project to Sandakan, which also met with vehement opposition.

The last throw of the dice seems to point to the building of the plant in the Dent Peninsula, far away from people except for several thousand Indonesian workers working in the FELDA oil palm plantations. The smoke from burning coal, the proponents’ feel, will not directly impact the health of Sabahans because it is so far away from them.

I cannot claim to be an expert in the pros and cons of having a coal-powered power station but I am concerned about the long-term effects of having something that discharges huge amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere. What the coal emissions will do to the thousands of acres of oil palm trees (and probable loss to FELDA), only time will tell but what burning fossil fuels does to the planet is well-documented. There would be no need to have an important summit in Copenhagen otherwise.

What I am currently concerned about the implementations of mega projects in this country does not point to the benefits to the populace and nation as a whole, but rather at the politics of the implementation processes. Every time a huge project is planned, certain vested interests somehow play a huge part, for the huge profits to be amassed by certain individuals figure prominently in all equations.

To narrow my point, if this power plant does get the go-ahead, who will get the huge contract, who will corner the contract to supply the coal, who gets to transport the raw materials and who in the corridors of power get to lay their hands on these lucrative deals? To my mind, these considerations play vital roles in seeing whether so-called beneficial projects get done or otherwise. Prove me wrong.

Over the past 3 decades, much has been said about the huge Bakun hydroelectric dam. Until today, the dam is not even commissioned. One can write a very thick book about the politics, and shenanigans about this project. How much public fund, how much timber has been cut and sold, will never be known to Malaysians. Every so often, some important announcement is made that seem to point to more expenditure. Now the talk of sending electricity via hugely expensive submarine cables to the peninsula is back again.

This brings me to an important question which no state or national leader has so far addressed. Why spend billions of ringgits piping gas to Bintulu from Sabah? Further, why plan a medium size power plant in Kimanis and then spend billions on pipes and related works so that the industries in Bintulu get to utilise our gas?

More importantly, the Bakun hydro project is meant to benefit the entire nation and not just the peninsula and Sarawak. Sarawak is in fact, planning to build more dams to generate power. Why is Sabah left out of this equation? Why can’t some power to be generated from Bakun be spared for use in Sabah?

If the cost of connecting power lines from Bakun to the Beaufort grid is prohibitively expensive, then why is the cost of piping gas from Kimanis to Bintulu not so? Anyone can tell that this does not make sense.

Read more at: http://kadayanjournal.com/?p=2829