Sarawak Energy Shares Its Rural Electrification Story on an International Platform

11 DECEMBER 2021

Sarawak Energy shared its rural electrification story with an international audience during a virtual sharing session recently.

The session was organised by Chemonics Water Energy and Sustainable Cities Practice Area, in partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), as part of a series of six interlinked dialogues on the pathway to a lower carbon energy system.

Sarawak Energy was represented by its Vice President for Rural Electrification, Dr Chen Shiun at the session “Off Grid and Grid Interactive Microgrids”. He was joined by Dr Arindam Maitra and Dr Ben York from EPRI who spoke on microgrid solutions as part of resilience strategies to mitigate outages and speed up restorations, among others.

Dr Chen highlighted how Sarawak’s rural electricity coverage has risen from only 56% in 2009 to about 97% by end 2021 with the 30 Chemonics employees who are stationed in different countries around the world.

He shared, “Since 2009, about 130,000 rural households in Sarawak have been given access to 24-hour reliable electricity. This has been made possible in part due to an allocation of RM2.37 billion under Projek Rakyat in 2019 which has enabled the simultaneous implementation of various rural electrification strategies under the Accelerated Rural Electrification Masterplan.”

He added, “The Sarawak Government, through the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak and its implementing agency, Sarawak Energy, targets to fully electrify Sarawak by 2025 or earlier. We are doing this via a suite of grid and off grid solutions including Rural Electrification Scheme (RES) which extends the existing grid into the rural areas and Rural Power Supply Scheme (RPSS) where new substations, transmission and distribution lines are developed to extend existing gridlines to the interior.”

Placing particular emphasis on Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme or SARES, Dr Chen explained that the initiative is fully funded by the Sarawak Government and utilitises standalone solar-powered systems to displace existing diesel gensets and power up remote households in villages that are too distant from the grid.

“SARES is an innovative government-community initiative which has provided almost 12,000 households in more than 400 villages in Sarawak's hinterland with renewable and reliable 24/7 power. Under the initiative, the beneficiary communities are trained to undertake basic maintenance of the systems and does not have to pay for electricity supply,” he said.

“The system provides 3,000Wh of renewable electricity per day, sufficient to power up a typical rural household’s basic needs such as lighting, fans, television, small refrigerator and rice cooker which allows the communities to reduce the need to travel to town frequently to buy provisions and diesel for their former generator sets,” he concluded.

Founded in 1975, Chemonics is an employee-owned global development and consulting firm based in the US that helps United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other donors to develop and manage projects in developing nations around the world in areas that include public health, health supply chains, natural resource management, economic development and trade, agriculture, water and energy. They have worked in over 150 countries, designing projects that address complex problems with a multi-disciplinary approach. Chemonics currently has projects in about 80 countries.

Sarawak Energy Vice President for Rural Electrification, Dr Chen Shiun (first column from left, second row from top) shares Sarawak’s rural electrification story.