Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sarawak Energy

Positions Itself as a Regional Leader in Sustainable Energy

 One of the fastest growing regions in the world, ASEAN is undergoing a surge in development owing to rapid urbanisation and rising living standards. As a result, regional GDP is expected to reach US$40 trillion by 2040. However, there is a price to be exacted for such growth. The ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) forecasts energy demand in the region to triple by 2050, resulting in ASEAN becoming a net importer of natural gas and coal, which presently accounts for approximately 80 percent of power generation in the region.

In order to mitigate the financial burdens of such an eventuality, and fulfil the commitments made by individual member states to net-zero emission targets, ASEAN needs to look for new ways of meeting energy demand. Sarawak Energy believes that the solution to resolving or achieving a balance in the energy trilemma- security, affordability and sustainability- is the forgotten giant of low-carbon electricity…Renewable Hydropower.

Sarawak Energy commissioned the first integrated hydrogen production and refuelling station in
Southeast Asia, which is part of its commitment to helping Sarawak realise its green hydrogen
economy aspirations.

One of the fastest growing regions in the world, ASEAN is undergoing a surge in development owing to rapid urbanisation and rising living standards. As a result, regional GDP is expected to reach US$40 trillion by 2040. However, there is a price to be exacted for such growth. The ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) forecasts energy demand in the region to triple by 2050, resulting in ASEAN becoming a net importer of natural gas and coal, which presently accounts for approximately 80 percent of power generation in the region.

In order to mitigate the financial burdens of such an eventuality, and fulfil the commitments made by individual member states to net-zero emission targets, ASEAN needs to look for new ways of meeting energy demand. Sarawak Energy believes that the solution to resolving or achieving a balance in the energy trilemma- security, affordability and sustainability- is the forgotten giant of low-carbon electricity…Renewable Hydropower.

Hydropower is expected to be a major contributor to global sustainable energy efforts. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that an additional 850 GW of hydropower capacity is required to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement.

Boasting a potential hydropower generation capacity of more than 8 GW, Sarawak has the capability to play a part in meeting that demand. At present, the State has three large hydro plants with a total installed capacity of 3.452 GW. These hydropower plants are owned, managed and operated by Sarawak Energy – the State-owned utility and energy developer under the purview of the Sarawak’s Ministry of Energy and Environmental Sustainability and the Ministry of Utility and Telecommunication – and renewable hydropower makes up close to 70 percent of the generation mix in the State.

The Growth of Hydropower in Sarawak

Sarawak’s venture into hydropower can be traced back to the 1960s when initial studies were carried out to explore the possibility of harnessing the power of the State’s rivers to generate electricity. This was later realised in 1985 when Sarawak Energy, known back then as Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation (SESCO), commissioned the 108MW hydroelectric plant in Batang Ai.

The Batang Ai hydroelectric plant was a key step towards providing the people of Sarawak with reliable electricity supply and paved the way for renewable energy to become the mainstay for power generation in the State.

This was further reinforced in 2008, with the launch of the Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (SCORE), which aims to use renewable energy – particularly hydropower – to drive economic and industrial development in Sarawak.

Since then two more large hydroelectric plants in Sarawak, namely the 2.4 GW Bakun hydroelectric plant in 2011 and the 944 MW Murum hydroelectric plant in 2014 joined the stable. In addition, the 1.285 GW Baleh hydroelectric plant is currently under construction, and is expected to be operational by 2027. This will increase Sarawak’s installed hydroelectricity capacity to 4.737 GW.

Thanks to its portfolio of renewable hydroelectric plants, including smaller hydropower plants which generate electricity for remote and rural communities in Sarawak, Sarawak Energy has become the largest renewable energy producer in Malaysia. This has enabled Sarawak to provide electricity at very competitive unsubsidised tariffs in Malaysia which are also among the lowest in the region.

Commitment to Sustainability

More than just being a leader in renewable energy, Sarawak Energy is also firmly committed to the goals of sustainability and has managed to reduce Sarawak’s grid emission intensity by 72 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Sarawak Energy is currently playing a key role in helping to realise Sarawak’s and Malaysia’s net-zero carbon emission targets by 2050. In fact, the company is the first in Malaysia to commit to setting a Science Based Emission Reduction Target to reduce its carbon emissions by the year 2030, as part of the Business Ambition for 1.5° Celsius plan under the United Nations Global Compact.

And while hydropower will continue to be the main source of renewable energy employed by Sarawak Energy for generating electricity, the company has also ventured into other forms of renewables. These include installing floating solar panels at the Batang Ai reservoir and commissioning the region’s first integrated hydrogen production plant and refuelling station. The latter is part of Sarawak Energy’s commitment to Sarawak’s green hydrogen economy aspirations.

The Premier of Sarawak, YAB Tan Sri (Dr) Abang Abdul Rahman Zohari Tun Abang Openg (6th from left) officiated the launch of the inaugural SAREF in Kuching, Sarawak. Also present was Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, who was at SAREF in her capacity as UN Goodwill Ambassador

Cementing Its Leadership

Sarawak Energy’s position as a leader in renewable energy and sustainability has been further reinforced by members of its senior management being invited to speak and share at various international forums.

For instance, in September this year, Group Chief Executive Officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili gave a keynote address on ‘Hydropower in the Energy Transition: Powering Sarawak and Beyond’ at the ASEAN Energy Business Forum (AEBF), which was held in conjunction with the 40th ASEAN Ministers On Energy Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

A board member of the International Hydropower Association, he also took part in the Ministers-CEOs Dialogue themed the ‘Accelerating Energy Transition – Economic Recovery & Sustainable Growth’ where he stated, “We are also sharing the benefits of renewable hydropower with neighbours through power exchange agreements – working towards realising the Borneo and ASEAN grids for energy security at the regional level. Partnerships are key to addressing the energy trilemma and achieving our sustainability goals at the regional level so everyone can work together towards a shared prosperity for ASEAN.”

In fact, collaboration was again the focus of Datu Sharbini’s message at the panel session on ‘Scaling Decarbonisation Technologies’ at the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), which was held in October this year.

Datuk Sharbini was among a select group of Global CEOs and senior UK government ministers who convened to discuss collective actions on climate and sustainable growth at the Global Business Leaders Event in London on 4 November. It was held to mark the conclusion of the UK’s Presidency of COP26 British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US Climate Envoy John Kerry. As part of the same event, Datu Sharbini was invited to attend a Royal Reception hosted King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.

Sarawak Energy was also well represented at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in November this year where it took part in a series of speaking engagements. COP27 builds on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on issues critical to tackling the climate emergency focused on the role of renewable hydropower in decarbonisation initiatives.

Enhancing the Sustainability Conversation

Sarawak Energy has also created the biennial Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum (SAREF) which brings together leaders in the energy and sustainability sectors from the government, private enterprises and civil society.

SAREF 1.0 was held physically in 2019 in Kuching, Sarawak, while the SAREF 2.0 was held virtually in 2021, thus showing that even the pandemic did not dim the conversation on sustainability and energy transition, instead catalyse strategies and strengthen partnerships to move things along. The forum touched on eradicating energy poverty, expanding Sarawak’s renewable energy footprints and on reaching net zero carbon emission targets by 2050.

Topics discussed during SAREF 2.0 included how nations and organisations can make the shift from brown to green energy spaces, the need for strong political will to accelerate the transition towards greater sustainability, the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact, and the San Jose Declaration on sustainable hydropower, as well as carbon capture and energy storage technologies.

Building upon the conversation in SAREF 1.0 and SAREF 2.0 Sarawak Energy is looking forward to organising SAREF 3.0, which is scheduled to be held in September 2023.

SAREF 3.0 aims to bring together likeminded experts and professionals in the energy sector and sustainability fields to push for a just energy transition and seriously consider sharing of resources through grid expansions and interconnections that would address the energy trilemma and create a more resilient energy landscape for ASEAN.

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