Independent EIA welcomed: SESB
Coal-fired plant only solution to power shortage in East Coast : MD
Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) welcomes any independent Environmental Impact Assessment (ETA) on the proposed coal-fired plant in Sandakan. Its Managing Director, Jr Baharin Din, said SESB is in fact happy to hear that there are quarters interested to get their own EIA done on the project. “We are professionals and have nothing to hide so we welcome the independent ETA,” Baharin said when asked to comment on the Sandakan Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s intention to get an independent ETA done. Baharin during a media briefing yesterday, pointed out that SESB has not found any viable energy source other than a coal-fired plant to resolve the electricity shortage in Sabah’s East Coast. SESB had considered using gas, hydro, biomass, nuclear, solar, renewable energy and even wind but none was found suitable, he said. “There is no gas in Sabah’s east coast and it is very costly to lay a gas pipeline from the west coast (300km). So is shipping gas (LNG) from Peninsular Malaysia,” he said adding that to produce hydro power, a high gradient is needed for the required head pressure. This, he said, is not available in the East Coast, where there is no suitable water source or river. To produce energy from biomass, he said a large area of farmland is required for the supply of the fuel such as fruit bunches, adding this method of generation can never generate enough power to satisfy a major part of current demands. On nuclear power, Baharin said that while the power plants do not emit any greenhouse gases, safety is still a major concern and creating a secure as well as permanent system for disposing of spent nuclear fuel remains a challenge for the industry. Solar, he pointed out, is an alternative which can be used if the current demand is only 30kW but for 300MW, harnessing energy from the sun is still not cost-effective for large-scale power generation. “While the technology has great promise, it has not yet been proven to be cost competitive on a large scale,” he said. According to Baharin, there was a suggestion that wind power be used to generate power in the East Coast. “If the electricity demand was only for three seconds, yes we can use the wind because that is how long it blows for,” he said adding that wind needs to be blowing consistently to produce power. Baharin pointed out that if a large proportion of a power system’s electricity is wind power, then there may be a need for large ‘spinning reserve’ backup power supply. In the case of renewable energy, Baharin said that renewable technology offers high efficiency but it is not cheap. “Would anyone want to pay RM10 a unit instead of the current 25 sen now?” he asked. Baharin stressed that without a coal-fired plant, the electricity supply problem in Sabah will remain unresolved and added, “We want to bring the level of supply to where we can be proud of but if that cannot be done then we will remain where we are. “We don’t have much choice (except for the coal-fired plant) as much as we would like to consider other options,” he said. According to him, with the ‘green light’ from the State Government, SESB will proceed with the ETA which is expected to be completed in 10 months. He also assured Sabahans that SESB would not make any move without first going over the ETA and mitigating factors, including the social and economic cot. Meanwhile SESB, he said, would be embarking aggressively on a quest to educate the public on energy conservation as it would mean that fewer power plants would need to be built to meet the electricity demands. SESB has formed a steering committee headed by its General Manager of Operation, Peter Lajumin, to address the matter, he said, adding SESB will be working closely with Government departments and agencies, schools as well as associations such as Shareda on creating the need to educate people to conserve energy. Energy cost, he pointed out, is not getting cheaper and the sources are depleting so we want to encourage the public to review their electricity usage. “We are leaving no stones unturned and will conduct seminar, workshops and talks even in schools so that people are aware that conserving energy also results in less trees being cut down to make way for new power plants and the resources are saved for our future genera SESB, he said, is also considering offering incentives such as an ‘off peak tariff’ to its customers so that people would change the trend of the electricity usage. There are many ways to change the behaviour of consumers such as enforcement but this would have negative results, he said, adding that the Government could introduce laws and regulations to change the people’s behaviour but it hast to come to that level in Sabah.