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MyPower team to help out SESB next

Published on: Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: A MyPower Corporation team will be sent in to drive reforms in Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) in addressing the State's power woes.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili said the team would consult SESB on "what needs to be done" in efforts to ensure reliable power supply in Sabah.

"They should be able to find out the micro and macro view of things (problems)," he said. He then apologised on behalf of SESB over the problems, saying they were "beyond human factors."

MyPower Corporation is a special-purpose agency set up to drive reforms in the country's electricity supply industry, where it will look into the problems faced in power generation and transmission sides.

He explained the constant power failures are caused from both ends, adding that the Government has allocated about RM1.8 billion to improve them in the next three years. The move was been approved in view of the 15 per cent tariff hike.

Ongkili said: "When the big generators undergo scheduled maintenance the margin of excess can reach below five per cent, just a small amount, forcing SESB to undertake load shedding."

On transmission, he said about 80 per cent of existing overhead cables are cheap and fragile "unwounded" and that snapped cables are also behind the power failures at present.

Ongkili came under fire after a former Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Tham Nyip Shen criticised the government for having given too many assurances only to see the problem continued. Tham noted there had been four blackouts the same day, saying that the constant blackouts are threatening businesses and mall operators.

Nonetheless, Ongkili said an additional supply of 400MW available by end of 2014 - 100MW from SPR Energy in May and 300MW from Kimanis Power Sdn Bhd in June - will boost the power generation margin by 18 per cent and can last for the next three years.

Beyond that, Ongkili said the government expects the 180MW Upper Padas Hydroeletric dam - also for flood mitigation - to be ready.

"These efforts, however, are in the process of being realised É but there are many things that need to be done," he said. Among others, he said the government will also be releasing the quota for Feed in Tariff (FiT) in the next two weeks, saying some subsidiary regulations still need to be gazetted, before it can be made public and training can be done.

The Ministry would also hold a discussion with the Energy Commission to set out a standard operating procedure (SOP) for independent power producers in view of the major blackout last Jan 17 in the State.

"Following the investigation held by the Energy Commission on the blackout, they had come out with a lot of recommendations over the long and short term in technical and administration, involving SESB and Independent Power Producers (IPPs)," he said.

He said the government is also considering to harness biomass power from empty fruit bunches where it can supplement the power generation.

However, the obstacle remains in the transport logistics of the empty fruit bunches to power plants where mills are all scattered in areas where road connections are still bad.

Earlier, Ongkili witnessed the signing of two memorandum of understanding (MoUs) between geothermal drilling firm, Atlas Copco and Unversiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to Tawau Green Energy - the country's first Geothermal Energy Plant.

The Atlas Copco arrangement will see the firm pulling in its expertise on drilling at the site in Apas Kiri, Tawau.

The other MoU will pave the way for UMS to supply the plant's capacity building, setting up training and short courses in the areas of applied geosciences, geothermal drilling, power plant design and operations.

He then announced the newly-formed Renewal Energy Association Sabah (REASabah) which he believes will provide the space for exchanging of ideas to strengthen the growing renewal energy industry.

"The set up of REASabah is very timely," he said.

Meanwhile, Ongkili said he would also look into concerns that local contractors are being sidelined from local electrical installation projects.

He also said the Government was retiring aging diesel power plants that are tough to restart, of low efficiency and which consume a lot of diesel.

"We have asked SESB to review these old diesel plants and look into their efficiency." He said many of them would be shut down by September this year, after the Kimanis Power and SPR Energy begin generating power in June.

Meanwhile, the excess diesel funds for the plants will be channelled into buying power from renewable energy plants.

"So apart from the FiT, we are also looking into introducing a new scheme in order to reach sufficient power generation through renewable energy," he said. Ongkili believes about 25 per cent of the total plants are now inefficient.