TNB's CEO Che Khalib quits

KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) CEO Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohd Noh will be calling it quits when his contract expires in June this year after heading the national utility for the past seven years.

“In any organisation, you need new faces,” he told StarBiz. “I am recommending a new face ... the organisation needs a fresh face. It is like that in any organisation. If a person stays on for too long, people tend to get bored with him.”

The board has accepted Che Khalib's request for his contract not to be renewed and has begun finding a replacement.

“It is entirely up to the board to decide. It is getting consultants to identify the candidates; the process started last month (when Che Khalib indicated his request not to be renewed).

“The priority would probably be internal candidates; naturally, the most suitable person would be the current chief operating officer/executive director Datuk Azman Mohd. But ultimately, it is up to the board whether it is an internal or external candidate,” he said.

Che Khalib said leaving TNB did not mean he was ready for retirement.

“I am still young ... I still have a few more years to go. I can work for other people or other companies,” said Che Khalib, who at 47, feels he has quite a number of years more to contribute.

Besides, he felt it was good to learn something new or do something different before reaching 50.

After campaigning for competitive bidding of power plants, how does he feel now that the Government has agreed to embark on it?

“I think that is the way to move forward. I have been drumming on this since the first day I came to TNB. I have been pushing for bidding and transparency.

“I have been in TNB for seven years and we have seen the light of this. I think the Government also agrees that moving forward, we want the process to be competitive ... based on bidding. When we go through this process, we should be able to secure electricity at the most competitive price.

“I am quite happy with the development,” he said. “We are not against extension of power purchase agreements (PPAs) for the independent power producers (IPPs) or any of that, so long as at the end of the day, we get the most competitive price. We can't keep on blaming the IPPs. If we say the IPPs are expensive, what have we done about it?

“We approach this exercise of bidding and transparency with only one goal in mind, that is, to get the most competitive price and set the benchmark which translates into lower tariffs,” he said.

He acknowledged there had been a few oversights in the way TNB had awarded the PPAs in the past.

“That doesn't mean we made complete mistakes but some could have been done in a better way. We want to make sure that whatever we do now, we do not repeat the previous oversights. We want to make sure that whatever oversight or terms that were not so good are made good this time. Whatever mistakes in the past should be corrected in this tender or process of awarding the PPA.

“I'm not against the IPPs as long as they can be efficient. Why not? At the end of the day, what people want is efficiency and electricity at the cheapest and most competitive price.

“We are all into this. If TNB can do it cheaper, give to TNB. If TNB cannot do it cheaper, give to other people so long as price is to the benefit of the public at large,” he added.

Should all 4,500MW (that is coming up for extension among the first generation IPPs) be open for bidding at one go?

To Che Khalib, it doesn't matter as long as the process is conducted transparently.

On Petronas' decision to set a gas reserve margin, he said: “That is good. It never had that before. It is not just TNB but also the petrochemical, steel cement industries that would like Petronas to maintain a buffer for gas.

“For instance, we have currently used up all the gas. When we go for maintenance, there is no buffer.

“Just like in the power sector, people ask why do we have a high reserve margin of 20% and over? When one plant is down, we can still run with no supply disruption,” he said.

However, the reserve margin is also a cost, hence the need for balance and an optimum reserve margin so as not to burden the company.

“TNB used to have reserve margin of 40% which carried a very high cost. We are in the process of reducing this margin to an optimum level of about 20%,” said Che Khalib.

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