Electricity (Amendment) Act 2023: Strengthening Sarawak’s Commitment To Renewable Energy

30 JANUARY 2024

In November 2023, the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) passed the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, reinforcing Sarawak’s longstanding commitment to advancing energy transition policies. The focus of the amendment is to update the Electricity Ordinance, with a primary emphasis on promoting renewable energy sources.

This amendment encourages public and investor participation, facilitating electricity production through solar panels and cascading dams in Sarawak.

To realise these objectives, the Minister for Utility and Telecommunication Sarawak, The Honourable Dato Sri Haji Julaihi Haji Narawi said the amendment institutionalises the Single Buyer concept. Sarawak Energy is designated as the Single Buyer, which authorises the power developer to purchase power generated by other producers and deliver it through its transmission and distribution grid. Prospective solar power producers can enter agreements to sell power to Sarawak Energy or another consumer, if the Single Buyer does not require the solar power.

To promote solar power, the amendment raises the installation threshold requiring a licence from 5 kW to 50kW. This adjustment makes 50kW solar systems easily installable on typical rooftops for domestic, small commercial, and industrial premises, enabling self-consumption or participation in the Net Energy Metering (NEM) scheme, with the Single Buyer procuring excess electricity.

The amendment also introduces provisions for special agreements between licensees, consumers, or Single Buyers, particularly for electricity exceeding 5 megawatts (MW). These agreements address terms related to offtake, reliability of supply, and payment security, mutually agreed upon by the parties.

Additionally, the Act introduces the licensing of cascading hydro stations along selected rivers, ensuring sustainable water use for hydroelectricity. Cascading dams along rivers reduce land inundation for reservoirs, enabling the Sarawak Government to explore pumped storage for hydropower, ensuring reliable power generation, especially during seasonal water level variations.

The legislation empowers the Superintendent of the Land and Survey Department to exercise the rights for infrastructure implementation by Sarawak Energy or licensee which is reserved for the Government under section 37(a) of the Sarawak Land Code. The amendments also allow for any wayleave agreements between landowners or occupiers and the licensee to be utilised as a Caveat to protect the "right of way" for transmission lines passing across land, as per section 173(a) of the Sarawak Land Code.

The Electricity (Amendment) Act 2023 marks a vital step in Sarawak’s continuous commitment to renewable energy. By building on existing initiatives, institutionalising the Single Buyer concept, promoting solar and hydropower and addressing licensing thresholds, the amendments pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient energy future.