Tengah: DAP is being disruptive

KUCHING: The Sarawak government will not bow to DAP’s campaign on the reduction of electricity tariff by 30%.

At the Assembly here yesterday, Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan spent a third of his ministerial reply on the subject.

He called the opposition’s proposal, which has received more than 113,000 signatures so far, a “destructive” effort in the long term.

The tariff reduction campaign was one of the most hyped about matters preluding to this sitting.

Tengah began by saying that the state electricity tariff had been the cheapest in Malaysia since 2009, and among the lowest in the region.

At an average rate of 29.8 sen/kWh, it is about 30% lower than that in Peninsular Malaysia.

“The state government’s strategy of utilising hydro resources has stabilised the electricity tariff,” Tengah told the House.

“On the other hand, DAP’s attempts to reason by saying Sarawakians had paid higher tariff (compared to rates in other parts of Malaysia) in the past, they should therefore enjoy lower tariffs now.

“This does not make sense. The state’s consumer price index showed an increase of 58% between 1992 and 2013, yet its electricity tariff has remained stable.”

In addition, domestic consumers in Sarawak consuming below 100 units per month enjoyed a 10 sen/kWh discount from Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB).

“This is on top of the government’s assistance of free electricity for those consuming RM20 and below per month. About 60,000 to 70,000 domestic consumers are benefitting from this.

“It represents more than 10% of the total domestic consumers.”

In the minister’s rebuttal, he also pointed out faults with DAP’s campaigns, saying that it was untrue a 30% reduction would not impact SEB.

“Based on 2012 figures used by DAP, SEB’s revenue derived from consumers was RM1.6bil. If the tariff is reduced by 30%, even DAP can do this simple calculation, SEB’s revenue would be reduced by RM480mil.

“In 2012, SEB’s profit was RM266mil. Not only would its profit be wiped out, SEB would also have had a deficit.”

Calling the campaign reckless, Tengah said it could jeopardise existing plans to develop the economy.

“SEB is self-funded. It needs to be financially strong to sustain its operational improvement.

“If revenues were to be slashed by 30%, resulting in deficit, SEB would not be able to undertake system improvements, maintenance and upgrading works.”

On a related matter, Tengah who also Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister, said all the energy generation potential from Bakun (currently running) and Murum (to be operational by year-end) had already been taken up, dispelling rumours that the dams had become “white elephant” projects.

He said the state’s committed demand last year was at 2,286MW and would increase to 4,223MW by 2020.

Major developments being undertaken in the power sector for generation and transmission systems include:

• Full operation of eight generating units of Bakun hydroelectric dam.

• 944MW Murum dam expected to begin generating power in the fourth quarter of this year.

• Construction of 600MW Balingian coal power plant commencing this year.

• Ongoing pre-engineering studies for Baleh and Baram dams.

• On going pre-engineering studies for additional thermal plants.

• Construction of 600km second backbone 500kV transmission lines, which are expected to be completed in 2016.

• Construction of extra high-voltage sub-stations at Tada, Samalaju, Entinggan and Matang, which are expected to be completed in 2016.

Tengah also told the Assembly that it was suspected about 10% of electricity users in Sarawak were stealing power.

“About 90% of customers do not steal power. SEB has taken (action) against power thieves and so far, it has won all cases.

“The group is serious in tackling power theft.”

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