Coal power may cause blackout for BN

By Queville To, Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU: Barisan Nasional has been warned that it could lose its “fixed deposit” state if the coalition continues to press ahead with the controversial coal-fired power plant. The terse warning came from Green Surf (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future) spokesman Wong Tack.

He said the government should use the plentiful and locally available natural gas and improve the efficiency of existing power plants as an immediate step to overcome electricity shortage in Sabah while keeping tariffs low, instead of opting for a dirty source of power such as coal.

He added that even if the coal plant in Lahad Datu is eventually forced on Sabahans, it will not solve the current shortage as the first phase will only be ready in three years.

“The coal plant is not a solution if there is an urgency to improve power supply. We believe that the prime minister was misinformed and the decision to build a coal plant misguided.

“The government should be able to expand natural gas plants and upgrade the grid system before the next election. By doing this, the government won’t risk losing power in the election,” he said.

Wong noted that it should not take more than two years to expand on gas-powered plants and to also upgrade the East-West grid if there are problems with the facility.

PM has been misinformed

Responding to a statement by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak that the cost of alternative energy is too high for consumers in Sabah, Wong said the nation’s leader has been misinformed.

“We want to stress that we have natural gas which we should be using locally for our power needs,” he said, adding that studies have shown that renewable energy from biomass waste is a cost competitive option to coal.

Sabahans have also been questioning the rationale behind both the federal and state government’s decision to construct the RM3 billion, 500km gas pipeline from Kimanis, Papar to siphon the natural gas from offshore of Sabah all the way to Bintulu, Sarawak, instead of local consumption.

The gas is expected to flow in 2013.

The prime minister had said on Sunday that in the short term, there are not many alternatives to a coal plant for Sabah to get continuous and uninterrupted supply at a reasonable cost.

Green Surf is concerned that a dirty source of energy is being proposed for a biodiversity-rich area known as the “seafood basket”.

The proposed coal plant has the potential to cause destruction to the delicate marine ecosystem, which is also a valuable environmental asset at the apex of the joint initiative among six nations, including Malaysia, called Coral Triangle.

Though it covers only 1% of the earth’s surface, Wong said, the Coral Triangle is home to over 30% of the world’s coral reefs and slightly more than a third of the world’s coral reef fish species.

The controversial 300 megawatt proposed coal plant at Kampung Sinakut on the shores of the Dent peninsula, was cancelled twice.

It was initially sited at Silam in Lahad Datu and then Seguntur in Sandakan but was moved due to overwhelming protests at both sites by residents citing environment and health reasons.

Most are aware that coal burning is one of the main causes of acid rain, which damages buildings and can be detrimental to aquatic and plant life.

Unable to meet Najib again

Wong pointed out that once greater amounts of natural gas are used and inefficiencies corrected, green, alternative energy sources could be introduced.

He said both international and local energy experts have come up with reports to show that Sabah stands to gain from venturing into the green economy.