Sarawak Energy and Research Consortium Collaborate to Study and Enhance Resilience and Sustainability of SARES System

24 MAY 2022

The Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (SARES) is funded by the Sarawak Government and implemented by Sarawak Energy to light up Sarawak’s most remote communities not yet able to be connected to the grid. Its success in the electrification of hard-to-reach rural areas has won the innovative initiative numerous awards at regional and international levels and it has come to serve as a role model in the sustainable deployment of alternative energy.

In building a more sustainable energy future for the people of Sarawak, Sarawak Energy is partnering an international research consortium since 2018 on a research project known as Techno-Economic Framework for Resilient and Sustainable Electrification or TERSE to study and strengthen Sarawak’s energy infrastructure framework using SARES as its case study.

The University of Manchester, Newcastle University and Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) form the research consortium tasked to advance the research project.

The research project aims to enhance the reliability and resilience of the system by developing an innovative and integrated techno-economic framework. This will support the ongoing planning and deployment of sustainable, cost-effective and resilient energy infrastructure in Sarawak. Part of the research process included site surveys and social studies at seven remote villages in Sarawak with existing SARES systems.

Researchers from the consortium recently presented key findings and observations of the research project to Sarawak Energy.

Representing Sarawak Energy at the event was Dr Chen Shiun, its Vice President for Rural Electrification. He was joined by Professor Pierluigi Mancarella, Dr Eduardo Alejandro Martinez-Cesena and Professor Duncan Shaw from The University of Manchester; Professor Richard Dawson from Newcastle University; Dr Gan Chin Kim from UTeM; and Ir. Qaharuddin Abdullah from the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).

Dr Chen opened the session by providing a brief background on SARES system as part of Sarawak’s rural electrification strategies to achieve the state’s full electrification target by 2025 or earlier.

“Off-grid solutions like SARES have helped to light up remote villages located in Sarawak’s rural areas with poor accessibility, accelerating Sarawak’s rural electrification coverage. We are able to now reach 96.5% rural electrification from just 87% in 2016 and 56% in 2009 through the simultaneous implementation of various grid and off-grid strategies,” he said.

The government-community initiative has lighted up more than 13,000 households in about 450 villages in Sarawak’s hinterland with 24/7 renewable energy since it was launched in 2016. The initiative utilises standalone solar-powered systems to displace existing diesel gensets. The beneficiary communities are also provided technical support and training to undertake basic operations and maintenance of the systems.

“The findings from this research will help us to identify system gaps that we can improve on and build on its strengths so that we can enable rural community to take further ownership in operating and maintaining the SARES system,” he added.

Researchers presented on four main topics on techno-economic assessment of electrification options; hazard modelling for electricity network; integration of economics, reliability and resilience to multi-hazard events in power system planning; as well as community narratives and socio-technical aspects. The discussion also included recommendations for the development of alternative electrification solutions for sustainable electrification.

Other key recommendations were to connect the existing SARES system to the grid when grid extension reaches these remote villages to maximise the utilisation of solar energy produced by SARES. Connecting SARES system to the grid can also help reducing network power loss and increasing grid supply reliability.

Dr Chen thanked the consortium, all researchers and the team from Sarawak Energy who were involved in completing the research project, with support from its Malaysian partners including Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) and MIGHT.

Representatives from Sarawak Energy, research consortium and Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) at the virtual TERSE event.