Efforts to power up hinterland wins international accolade

Rundi (fourth left) receiving the award from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development energy sector head Georgios Pantoulis.

KUCHING: Sarawak’s initiative to expedite electricity supply in the hinterland has achieved international recognition.

At the 4th Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) Energy Access Investment Summit in Catania, Italy, this week, the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares) received the ARE Award under the Government in Africa, Asia and Latin America category.

A partnership between the state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), Sares uses standalone alternative systems comprising solar and microhydro technologies for remote communities.

The RM500mil project, which started in 2016, aims to provide 24-hour electricity to over 40,000 rural folk in 8,700 households in remote Ulu Skrang, Katibas, Nanga Merit, Bukit Mabong, Tinjar, Long Bedian, Telang Usan, Bario, Julau, Tatau, Sungai Gaat, Sungai Pila and Medamit by 2020.

By the end of this year, 90 villages will be powered up through Sares, while another 210 villages will benefit from it by 2020.

Utilities Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi, who received the award, said Sarawak aimed to reach 100% electricity coverage by 2025.

“This is challenging given that about 45% of Sarawak’s people live in rural areas, dispersed sparsely across a mountainous interior with winding rivers and remote coastal villages,” he said.

He added that Sarawak’s rural electrification coverage rose from 56% in 2009 to 90% today through funding from the Federal and state governments, paving the way for socioeconomic development and opportunities for rural communities. Thanking ARE for the award, he said Sarawak could learn from the experience of other countries besides sharing its success in lighting up rural communities.

SEB group chief executive officer Sharbini Suhaili said the award was a testament to the dedication and hard work put in by the parties involved, including the communities themselves.

He said SEB was determined to help the state achieve its goal of full electricity coverage by 2025 for the benefit of Sarawakians, whether in cities or the remotest part of the state.

“Meeting basic needs by having 24-hour electricity supply represents a start for a brighter future ahead,” he added.

Sares provides sufficient electricity for household lighting, fans, television and other electrical and telecommunication appliances. It replaces expensive, noisy and polluting generators that can only provide limited hours of supply for villagers.

The 4th ARE Energy Access Investment Summit was attended by over 250 participants from developing organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as the private sector, financing bodies and technology providers in the off-grid sector.

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