Sarawak Energy’s Batang Ai Solar Project Receives Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Award

7 JANUARY 2021

A corporate social responsibility project that successfully supplied 31 households of Rumah Bada, Nanga Talong at Batang Ai with 24-hour renewable solar power in 2019 won Sarawak Energy the Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Award in December.

Sarawak Energy’s winning entry under the ‘Utilities and Energy’ category reflects its innovative efforts to provide electricity to the most remote communities in Sarawak which seem impossible to be connected to the main grid.

Rumah Bada, with a population of 250 residents, is located 40 kilometres away from Batang Ai jetty at the end of the Engkari River on the Batang Ai Hydroelectric Plant lake and is only reachable by a five hour boat ride.

Prior to the completion of the solar project, electricity supply for the community was through individually owned diesel generators with high operating costs. Residents paid a monthly average of RM260 to RM300 for fuel stock. Coupled with logistical challenges, not all households were able to maintain regular electricity supply.

Receiving the award via a virtual ceremony was Hajah Siti Aisah Adenan, Senior Vice President for Corporate Services Sarawak Energy. She was joined by Polycarp Wong, Vice President for Hydro; Dr Ng Sing Muk, General Manager for Research and Development and Jiwari Abdullah, General Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. The award was presented by CSR Malaysia managing editor and co-chairman, Lee Seng Chee.

Siti Aisah expressed her appreciation that this effort to provide a more conducive living environment and improve the lives of residents at Rumah Bada through renewable 24/7 electricity supply was being recognised through this prestigious award.

Some of the longhouses at Batang Ai were supplied with solar power under Sarawak Energy’s CSR initiative even before the implementation of Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme or SARES, used to electrify the most remote rural households. As a result, distant settlements at Batang Ai are currently either equipped with solar power under Sarawak Energy CSR or SARES with Rumah Sambau most recently provided with SARES.

“Connecting electricity to rural households in Sarawak can be challenging especially for villages located in remote areas in tough geographical terrain and conditions. By working together with the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak, we are headed towards full electrification by 2025 and we have in place electrification strategies to accommodate the various conditions to the best of our ability,” said Siti Aisah.

“This recognition only motivates us to keep being innovative in our approaches. Rumah Bada is a community adjacent to our first hydropower plant, Batang Ai. For Rumah Bada, we initiated the CSR solar project that made use of a sustainable solution to provide continuous electricity supply. We wanted to alleviate their burden on having to transport and spend so much on fuel. After much consultation and discussion, we embarked on this project in partnership with the residents of Rumah Bada,” she explained.

Siti Aisah said Sarawak Energy adopts a holistic approach when it comes to achieving sustainable growth and prosperity for Sarawak.

“Our business operation are in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in particular Goal No 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy and Goal No 13 on climate action. We focus on striking a balance between profit, people and the planet and in accordance with this, we are committed to Environmental, Social and Governance good practices. With this, we will continue to work closely with the various stakeholders to ensure long-term environmental and livelihood sustainability for local communities while progressing development,” she added.

The RM1.45mln project commenced in June 2018 and was completed in May 2019. The solar system at Rumah Bada is designed to operate for up to 20 years and the batteries are replaced once they reach shelf life. While the community is informed and taught on how to operate and perform basic maintenance work, Sarawak Energy’s technical team will also be deployed to handle major repair works as well as perform periodic maintenance to ensure the system remains in good and safe condition to operate.

Since 2014, nine longhouses with a total of 172 households comprising a population of 873 in the Batang Ai area have benefitted from Sarawak Energy’s CSR Solar projects. The other longhouses are Rumah Manggat at Menyang Taih, Rumah Kino at Menyang Sedi, Rumah Griffin at Nanga Jengin, Rumah Jangong at Pala Taong, Rumah Ninting at Nanga Jambu, Rumah Brown at Nanga Stapang, Rumah Simon at Nanga Tutong and Rumah Andah at Nanga Jambu.

(From top, left) Lee, Jiwari, Siti (bottom, left) Ng and Polycarp during the virtual award presentation of the Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Award.

Aerial view of Rumah Bada longhouse and its solar powerhouse.

Residents of Rumah Bada together with Sarawak Energy team at the solar powerhouse after testing and commissioning of the solar system for the longhouse.