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Looking at Labuan’s electricity needs
Published on: Sunday, March 31, 2024
By: Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau
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ENERGY concerns extend beyond Sabah’s borders, casting a spotlight on the Federal Territory of Labuan as well.

In Labuan, the responsibility for catering to approximately 26 thousand consumers fall on Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), a number expected to burgeon in the years to come. Not only that, the territory’s basic needs such as water, electricity and the main generator of Labuan’s economy, the Asian Supply Base (ASB), are all under the Sabah Government.

Now at the heart of Labuan’s power supply is the Patau-patau Power Station, a major facility situated on a 4.7-acre expanse with a dependable capacity of 112 MW. 

Having stood the test of time for over four decades, the Patau-patau Power Station predates the transfer of F.T. Labuan to the federal government in 1984, offering a compelling narrative of transformation. 

Initially falling under the Sabah Gas Industry (SGI), the power station underwent a pivotal shift in 1992 when it was integrated into the then Lembaga Letrik Sabah (LLS), now known as Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB). 

In its early years under LLS, the power station held a distinct status as the largest plant in the organization and the sole facility in the state utilizing gas as its power source. At the time, this marked a significant milestone for energy infrastructure in the region.

Comprising three gas turbines, each boasting a capacity of 30 MW and a steam turbine with a dependable capacity of 13 MW, the power station has played a crucial role in Labuan’s power grid. 

Over time, two of the turbines encountered operational issues, necessitating their temporary shutdown. However, there is cause for optimism as Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) is actively seeking innovative solutions from our internal experts to enhance the production capacity of the Sabah grid, which remains critical.

Leveraging the collective expertise and experience of the company’s employees, SESB’s team successfully reconfigured the 132kV circuit breakers to 11kV.

This initiative expedited the electricity generation at the Patau-Patau power plant once two turbines (GT2 and GT3) resumes operation surpassing the scheduled target for December 2024.

The reactivation of the Patau-Patau power plant will add 60MW to Sabah’s daily electricity supply, easing grid strain and enhancing energy reliability for the region. 

In addition to its role in catering to Labuan’s energy needs, SJ Patau-Patau also plays a crucial part in serving customers in Sabah. The power generated at this facility is transmitted via the 132 kv transmission line to the mainland through submarine cables and integrated into the Sabah Grid System.  

Subsequently, the network transfers this power to Sabah, contributing an estimated 30 MW or more when all units are operational.

Despite SESB assuming ownership of the power station’s assets, it’s noteworthy that the land agreement involves a lump-sum payment for rental rights, a financial commitment that extends until 2043 to a third party.

Following the recent site visit by Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah Haji Yusof, the proposal for the construction of a new power plant has gained momentum, as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim disclosed that the new power plant would operate under the collaboration of three entities: Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), and Sabah Energy Corporation (SEC). After 40 years of service, consequently, the esteemed Patau-patau Power Station may be retired by December 2027 as part of this proposed initiative.

The proposed capacity of the new power plant is expected to range from 135 MW, positioning it as a substantial contributor to the region’s energy landscape. Where in this consortium, Petronas is anticipated to assume a major shareholder role.

It is worth mentioning that SESB has previously pursued independent development initiatives for this plant and submitted proposals to spearhead the development of the new power plant and even eagerness to engage in the Open Tender process facilitated by the Energy Commission.

However, the decision-making process, catalyzed by the Prime Minister’s announcement, inspires the hope that this decision will not only alleviate power woes in both Sabah and F.T. Labuan but also align with SESB’s strategic vision for sustained operational success as a company. 

As we look forward to the implementation of the proposed consortium and as Labuan prepares for the inevitable retirement of the Patau-patau Power Station by December 2027, we remain optimistic about the positive impact it will have on energy affairs in the region.

With the recent delegation of power on matters related to the supply of electricity from the federal government to the Sabah government on 3rd January this year, Labuan will remain under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Energy Commission (ST), while Sabah will be regulated by the Energy Commission of Sabah (ECoS).

While there may be discussions or perhaps even plans to explore alternative power supply options for Labuan, it’s important to note that Labuan currently relies solely on SESB via the Sabah Grid System for its electricity needs. Therefore, it seems prudent to continue having SESB supply power to Labuan, considering the practicality of the existing setup.

Nevertheless, the ultimate decision rests with the Federal Government Cabinet. It is imperative that all factors, including reliability, feasibility, and potential impacts, are carefully considered before any final determination is made regarding Labuan’s power supply arrangement.

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]



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