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Coal plant idea being revived
Published on: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
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Kota Kinabalu: The Federal Government plans to revive the controversial coal-fired power plant that was scrapped in 2011 as part of a long-term plan to solve the State's power woes. The proposed RM1.3 billion 300MW project which was cancelled on Feb.

26, 2011 after being heavily opposed by a local environmental group is now being discussed at ministerial-level, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, Monday.

He named Tawau as the plant's new location but later stated the project would be within the East Coast as "there are still various issues to be concluded and details of the plan are not yet available."

Mahdzir said this after chairing the first meeting of a task force that was set up to ensure the roadmap to the implementation of better electricity supply in Sabah is achieved.

He added Sabahans would be enjoying better supply by now if the coal-fired plant project had followed through five years ago, laying the blame on the leader of an environmental group who has since left Sabah.

"Because of this NGO leader, Sabah is still facing a power supply problem," he said, adding that the Ministry is now prepared for another round of opposition over the said plan.

Without naming the group's leader, Mahdzir said the leader left Sabah to the peninsula to head a peninsula-based environmental group and subsequently became a politician, in a veiled reference to Wong Tack who headed Sepa and thereafter Himpunan Hijau. Soon after the plan was scrapped, another lady activist also decided to claim credit on the Internet for the Government's decision.

Mahdzir said the country is now facing the possibility of higher electricity tariff and there is a need to find another venue to solve the issue from now and beyond 2020. He said the task force was set up to ensure the implementation of all the long, medium and short-term plans, including monitoring the implementation of electrical supply projects, advice on power-generating capacity and affordability and others.

Short-term plans include power generation from the 300MW Kimanis Power Project and the SPR Energy Power Projects which are expected to come on stream by end of this year and by 2014 respectively.

Also, an additional 14MW capacity from 5-9MW from the Sepanggar Bay Power Corporation, 20MW from Batu Sapi since March and 64MW from the Kubota Power plant.

All of which, he said, will cover Sandakan, Tawau and Kota Kinabalu in the short-term range from 2013 to 2015.

Medium-term, he said, involved 180MW from the Upper Padas Hydro Electric project which would begin end of next year, a 30MW Renewable Energy (geothermal) plant in Tawau and the Southern link transmission from Sipitang and to Kalumpang, which will link loops in the middle of the State crossing underneath the Crocker Range.

The project would be from 2013 to 2019, while the long-term plan would go beyond 2020, said Mahdzir, adding that it depends on the demand of local industries, which are expanding.

The taskforce comprises the Energy Commission, Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd, Rural Electric Supply Projects under the Rural Development and Regional Ministry and various related State agencies.

When contacted, State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said he was not aware of the plan. He said the State Government has made a commitment to safeguard the environment in view of the strategic importance of the tourism industry to the economy of the State.

"The tourism industry hinges on our ability to safeguard the environment, which is what is drawing millions to visit the State annually.

The Federal Government respected this stand, thus the decision to scrap off the proposed coat-fired plant in Lahabd Datu a few years ago.

As far as I know this stand has not changed ," said Masidi, in response to revived fears of potentially millions of litres of toxic coolant waste waters be dumped into Cowie Bay every day over the next 100 years or even a longer life span of a typical open waste water disposal system used in coal-fired plants in Peninsula Malaysia.

Omar Kadir, national Honorary Secretary of the Malaysian Nature Society, said the Federal Government definitely should not revive the RM1.3 billion plant.

"Instead , first priority should be given to complete the unfinished southern interconnecting grid planned for 2005 to round off the Sabah loop that can transfer power to Serudong from two upcoming sources - the 180MW Ulu Padas hydro-dam that is being built and the 300MW Kimanis gas-fired power plant ," Omar said.

"That gives Sabah a new capacity totaling nearly 500MW of electricity lying in wait for distribution to the East Coast, a lot of power, " Omar said.

"But it seems some people had dragged their feet and just didn't want to complete that grid just so they could do the coal-fired power plant," Omar alleged.

"Furthermore, Energy Minister Datuk Maximus Ongkili had just visited the new 64MW power plant in Kubota two weeks ago while Tawau Green Energy is in the process of building a 36MW geothermal power plant capable of a maximum 64MW in future, in Tawau Hill Park," Omar noted.

"So if they decide to go ahead with the plant, they make Sabahans feel the Prime Minister is a liar and was not serious when he called off the coal plant in deference to Sabah's pristine environment and you can quote me on that," Omar asserted.

A close-looped system which recycles cooling water would avoid such blatant discharge of industrial waste water into Sabah's eastern coastal waters which have already been recognised as part of the epi-center of global marine biodiversity and apex of the 6 million sq km Coral Triangle.

But coal plant proponents in the country are not likely to adopt a close-looped waste water disposal system because of its higher internal operating cost .





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