Six Districts in Central Sarawak to be Fully Electrified by 2022

26 AUGUST 2021

The Sarawak Government, through the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak and its implementing agency, Sarawak Energy, targets to fully electrify Sarawak by 2025. Six districts in the Central Region are on track to be fully electrified by 2022, said Sarawak's Minister for Utilities, Dato Sri Stephen Rundi Anak Utom.

“Despite the challenges of the movement control restrictions and land access issues, Sarawak is still on course to fully electrify the Central Region districts of Sibu, Sarikei, Mukah, Kapit, Bukit Mabong, and Song by the end of next year. Full access to electricity across Sarawak will bring real benefits by offering opportunities for a better standard of living, more convenience, greater savings and enable businesses in Sarawak's rural communities to thrive and grow,” he said.

“We have been able to achieve tremendous progress after our YAB Chief Minister agreed to allocate RM2.37 billion under Projek Rakyat to step up on our rural electrification efforts, covering rural transmission and distribution projects as well as the implementation of off-grid solutions for remote villages,” he explained.

The allocation has enabled the simultaneous implementation of the rural electrification strategies under the Accelerated Rural Electrification Masterplan.

For the Central Region, about 5,807 rural households have been provided with reliable 24-hour electricity supply through these initiatives since 2019. This includes 3,703 rural households in Kapit who now have access to reliable 24-hour electricity through the stand alone off-grid Sarawak Alternative Rural Electricity Supply or SARES scheme. This stop-gap initiative provides off-grid renewable electricity to the most remote households with difficult terrain before conventional electrification via grid makes its way to them.

By the end of this year, an additional 4,591 rural households in the Central Region will have access to reliable 24-hour electricity supply, of which 4,035 households will be grid-connected, while 133 rural households will be supplied through the off-grid SARES scheme.

A further 3,728 more rural households in the Central Region are to be given access to reliable 24-hour electricity supply by 2022 before electricity coverage in the region achieves 100%.

“Collaboration and cooperation are crucial towards ensuring smooth, safe and timely implementation of our electrification projects which are planned for the benefit of the rakyat. I truly appreciate these collaborative efforts between the Ministry and Sarawak Energy’s rural electrification team, including contractors and subcontractors, our partner agencies such as Resident & District Offices, the Public Works Department (JKR), village heads, and communities for making this possible," Rundi continued.

Rundi assured the public that his Ministry, working closely with Sarawak Energy, remains committed to ensuring that rural Sarawak will have access to 24-hour reliable and affordable electricity.

Datu Haji Sharbini Suhaili, Sarawak Energy Group Chief Executive Officer explained, "The challenges for the Central Region with its dispersed population include logistics difficulties due to the area’s vast remoteness as well more people related issues such as wayleave, acceptance from villagers and coordination with road projects undertaken by other agencies. In addition, the current COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted project timelines causing shortage of materials and challenges in logistics."

Despite the challenges, Sharbini said they were optimistic of meeting Sarawak’s target of full electrification by 2025 or earlier.

"We recently commissioned three new 33/11kV medium voltage substations at Pakan, Nanga Ngungun and Julau in the Central Region to improve the supply reliability in the area. These three new substations will be a vital interface between the transmission system and the distribution network, minimising the barriers to extend the distribution system further into the rural areas. Within the third quarter of 2021, another extra-high voltage substation in Kanowit will be commissioned, further reinforcing the energy security within the Central region," he said.

The projects in the Central Region adopt a new distribution system technology known as the Medium Voltage Covered Conductor (MVCC) that takes into consideration the area's harsh geographical conditions. Covered conductors can withstand momentary contact with crops or vegetation without causing interruptions, which will help strengthening supply reliability.

The electrification efforts for the six districts in the Central Region have been accelerated to 2022 in view of the ongoing Baleh Hydroelectric Project (HEP). Located in Central Sarawak under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), the 1,285MW Baleh Hydroelectric Plant is scheduled to be commissioned in 2026 and has accelerated infrastructure development in the area as bridges and roads have been built.

Sarawak Energy will be connecting the Selirik Substation at Kapit to the Baleh HEP using the MVCC distribution technology when Baleh is completed. The new Selirik Substation to Baleh HEP MVCC line will be the backbone for supplying rural villages in between Kapit and Baleh. Sarawak Energy will first connect the rural villages along these distribution lines to the grid while the more remote and inaccessible villages will be provided with SARES solar systems as the temporary electrification solution. The long-term plan is for all villages in the area to be gradually grid-connected as road access improves.

“Sarawak Energy aims to supply all the villages with 24-hour electricity, either using this new line or by temporary SARES systems under the Sarawak Government’s accelerated electrification under Projek Rakyat funding, before completion and commissioning of Baleh HEP and demonstrates that hydropower projects bring real benefits to neighbouring communities,” said Sharbini.

Medium Voltage Covered Conductor installation in the Central Region.

Three recently commissioned 33/11 kV medium voltage substations - Pakan Substation, Nanga Ngungun Substation and Julau Substation to improve supply reliability in the area.