Hydropower helping Sarawak in digitalisation programme

KUCHING: Hydropower has paved the way for a sustainable future for Sarawak through industrialisation and is also providing the foundation for its next phase of development which is digitalisation by providing reliable, renewable and affordable electricity.

Minister of Utilities Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom shared the strategy that supports Sarawak’s roadmap to attaining developed status by 2030 at the 2019 World Hydropower Congress in Paris today.

The congress is organised by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) in collaboration with more than 40-partner organisations and attended by more than 700 delegates from over 70 countries.

The three-day congress featuring more than 200 speakers, provides a platform for sharing experiences and showcasing examples of best practice, guiding policies and strategies to strengthen the sector’s performance.

At the opening plenary session, Dr Rundi’s presentation entitled, ‘Hydropower: Sarawak’s foundation for the digital economy’ gave an overview of Sarawak’s journey in hydropower development and how this sustainable, renewable and affordable source of generation set the building block for Sarawak’s vision for a digital economy.

Dr Rundi (standing fifth left) and Sarawak Energy chairman Hamed Sepawi (standing sixth left) with the delegation from Sarawak comprising representatives from the Ministry of Utilities, Sarawak Energy Board members and senior management team, engineers, environmental experts and biologists.

“Indeed, for Sarawak, reliable hydropower provides us the competitive advantage to catalyse our dual strategy of industrialisation and digitalisation.

“Hydropower is enabling Sarawak to pursue various initiatives and establish infrastructure that would support a digital economy that requires reliable and affordable electricity.

“Hydropower has helped us build up our generation capacity to realise our first transmission interconnection with neighbouring West Kalimantan, Indonesia – a key milestone in our ambition to materialising the Borneo Grid and subsequently becoming the renewable energy power house in Asean.

“We are also accelerating electrification efforts to achieve full coverage by 2025. We are now working on securing high-speed broadband and looking to attract data centres to be set up in Sarawak,” he said.

In addition to energy security, he also shared with delegates how hydropower has provided Sarawakians a reduction in tariffs which are now the lowest in Malaysia and among the lowest unsubsidised tariffs in Asean.

He said with the development of hydropower, carbon intensity for power generation in Sarawak has also reduced significantly by 76.5 per cent since 2009 which makes for a major contribution to Malaysia achieving the Paris COP 21 target supporting the global agreement in dealing with climate change.

“Hydropower development drives economic sustainability, progresses social outcomes and improves our environmental footprint. This is a testament of the power of water in the development of a sustainable future for Sarawak and beyond,” he added.

Dr Rundi led the delegation from Sarawak which comprised representatives from his ministry and Sarawak Energy, Sarawak’s energy developer and utility.

Among those present were Assistant Minister for Utilities (Electricity Supply) Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi, Assistant Minister for Utilities (Water Supply) Datuk Liwan Lagang, and the ministry’s permanent secretary Datuk Alice Jawan.

The Sarawak Energy team comprising its board members, senior management team and executives was led by its chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi.

Sarawak Energy voluntarily adopted the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol and in 2011, formed a sustainability partnership with the IHA to ensure best practices in its hydropower development which includes resettlement of project affected communities.

The group is a sustainability partner and platinum member of the IHA since 2010 and its Group CEO Datuk Sharbini Suhaili is an elected member of the IHA Board.