Tuesday, November 28, 2006

World's longest undersea power link

World's longest undersea power link

28 Nov 2006
Azlan Abu Bakar


PETALING JAYA: One of the country’s most ambitious projects — to lay undersea power cables from Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia — may be revived.

Costing RM9 billion, the cables will transport up to 5,000 kilowatts of electricity from the Bakun hydroelectric dam and two other new proposed plants in Sarawak from 2014.

Stretching from the tip of Sarawak to Ulu Sedili in Johor, the 670km-long network of cables would be the longest in the world, longer than the 580km line between Norway and the Netherlands. But this plan to lay cables under the South China Sea hinges on Cabinet approval and a feasibility study.

The project was taken off the table after the financial crisis in 1997. It is being revived amid concerns about excess capacity from Bakun dam, which is due for completion by 2009. Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said: "Coming so far from Sarawak, that means we have to invest in big cables.

"It is all economics, so we have to work out whether it is worthwhile but most certainly it would be after 2014 and beyond.

"We will seek approval from the prime minister to invest RM9 billion on the cables."

The minister, who chairs the Electricity and Tariff Planning Development Committee, will seek approval from the Cabinet for the investment needed to lay out the cables.

"The committee will meet on Dec 8 to discuss, among others, the two proposed hydro plants in Sarawak.

"We will also look into ways to solve the Bakun issue which is scheduled to be completed by 2009 and a request made by Sarawak to set up an aluminium smelting plant," he said.

The two proposed hydro plants are in Murum and Baleh. Other members of the committee include the Finance Ministry, Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Energy Commission and Tenaga Nasional Bhd. Malaysia faces the tough question of how to secure future power supply for Peninsular Malaysia, amidst rising costs of gas and coal. Hydro plants are an alternative, but there is limited hydro plant potential in the peninsular.

One option has been to import power from Sarawak.

"While rivers in Peninsula Malaysia are capable of producing about 1,000 megawatts of electricity, the Rejang River can produce about 20,000MW," Dr Lim said.

He added that the ministry will try to keep the cost at below 20 sen per kilowatt per hour. Dr Lim told this to reporters after opening the International Energy Conference For Sustainable Energy 2006, and introducing the National Suria 1000 Programme here yesterday.

"The cables will have to travel almost 700km from Bakun to the tip of Sarawak and another 670km under sea crossing Indonesian territory to Ulu Sedili before it is channelled to Yong Peng, Johor, where the national grid is located," he said.

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