Sarawak on sustainable growth trajectory

While hydro is a good option to generate clean electricity, it also takes a long time to develop.

KUALA LUMPUR: Renewable energy (RE) investments will be a key focus area under Sarawak’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 to position the state on a sustainable growth trajectory.

According to InvestSarawak chief executive officer Timothy Ong, one of the immediate goals to be undertaken for the rest of 2024 involved firming up the strategic direction of the agency in terms of focus investment areas.

InvestSarawak is the Investment Promotion, Industry Development and International Trade agency that operates under the purview of the International Trade, Industry and Investment Ministry of Sarawak.

It was incorporated with the aim to serve as a one-stop centre for investors.

“We have had interest from investors from quite a balanced pipeline of countries including the United States, China, Singapore, South Korea and members of the European Union,” Ong said during the Sarawak Corporate Day here yesterday.

He noted that high-quality foreign and domestic investments must be nurtured correctly into a climate where both the private and public sector can flourish.

“Our mission is to transform and position Sarawak into the preferred location for sustainable investments while remaining reliable to investors providing sustained growth, anchored on strong economic and investment policies,” added Ong.

The state welcomes investments into priority areas such as high-tech industries, a highly skilled workforce and sustainability efforts which will drive its growth, according to Ong.

As such, Sarawak aims to become a developed state by 2030 and achieve RM282bil in gross domestic product (GDP) with a monthly household income median of RM15,000.

The World Bank had recognised Sarawak as a high-income state last year.

“Achieving RM282bil will mean an 8% annual growth under PCDS 2030. We foresee a 3% growth if we continue with business as usual.

“PCDS is a common target for all, one that would help rally the troops and galvanise us towards a concrete goal.

“I’m hopeful to be able to achieve that. Let’s say we fall short of achieving RM282bil, but achieve RM250bil, I don’t think anyone would fault us for an additional RM110bil to Sarawak’s GDP,” he said.

Leveraging on Sarawak’s inherent strengths such as having 56.5% of forest, four million ha of land used for agriculture, and 1.4 million ha for settlement and water bodies, Ong said the state’s abundant natural resources will further elevate its potential.

“In terms of RE, it is important to become self-sufficient, if we are not producing enough power for our own, then we will be held hostage to those who are. We must try our best to do this,” he said.

While hydro is a good option to generate clean electricity, it also takes a long time to develop.

“Hydro takes up to 10 years for it to be fully functional, as we have seen in the Batang Ai hydro dam, as well Bakun, Murum and the anticipated Baleh dam. The goal is to have produced 60% of RE mix by 2030 so it’s vital we look at other means of producing clean energy,” he said.

The mix will include biomass, floating solar, solar and wave.

For now, the state has been utilising hydro particularly in its hydrogen buses as well as Petroleum Sarawak Bhd’s multi-fuel station with electric charging and a hydrogen pump.

The hydrogen bus is currently able to travel up to 300km using a single refill, and gives out zero emissions.

Its transportation system, also known as the Kuching Urban Transportation System has adopted the green hydrogen methods in its decarbonisation efforts.

“Green hydrogen provides a higher efficiency range of 40% to 60% compared with a combustion engine which has 30% to 40% in efficiency. It also has a cleaner output,” Ong said.

The transit system that will span 70km is expected to be fully completed by 2027.

He said four units of the official cars used by the Sarawak premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and deputy premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah utilised hydrogen.

“We are either looking into or already producing RE. These include carbon capture and storage, cultivating renewable sustainable feedstock like algae and renewable oil for sustainable aviation fuel,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ong also said some of the other plans under the PCDS 2030 would include revamping their education system, whereby a free tertiary-level education policy would be implemented in 2026.

“We expect some 25,000 students to be able to access free education. This will include free education in international schools for the bottom 40 segment. Science and Mathematics will also be taught in English,” he said.

A good education system will go hand in hand with good talent, which has been a part of their efforts in bringing back skilled Sarawakians to grow the economy, according to Ong.

Additionally, the Sarawak Digital Economy Blueprint 2030 will act as a framework and guide in helping the state realise its goals.

“This will include creating 39,000 to 48,750 new skilled jobs, 50% growth in investment and partnerships, 96% high-speed connectivity and 20% contribution to Malaysia’s GDP.

“We also want to cultivate 500 high-tech startups. We need a strong digital infrastructure, talent, data governance, research and development as well as digital inclusivity,” he added.

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