Abstracts of the interview with Tenaga Nasional Berhad chairman Tan Sri Leo Moggie on the proposed 300MW coal fired power plant at Silam in Lahad Datu District in the east of Sabah where people are opposed to it because of coal toxin pollutants that could affect both health and the environment.
He spoke with journalists after attending a Hari Raya Open House hosted by Tenaga subsidiary Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB). Present were Tenaga president and CEO Datuk Che Khalib Mohamad Noh and the SESB managing director Safian Abu Talib.
On Why Tenaga Nasional is using coal technology for its proposed power plant near Lahad Datu.
Tan Sri Leo Moggie: Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd decided to use coal fuel. In this country, we have various possible sources of fuel. At the same time, it is always prudent to diversify our sources (power generation) in planning for security in supply.
When you look at the possible choices of fuel to use, gas has a limited capacity and fuel oil is certainly not a workable option.Renewable energy of wind, solar, biomass has not reached a stage where it can give you assurance of continual source of supply.
Some of it can be used in a limited scale and in specific isolated areas. In terms of providing the overall source, the technology is still not proven yet.
Hydropower is a potential. (But) if you develop hydropower, it also raises questions on the environment and inundation of areas.
Coal supply compared to oil is more dependable, so in future coal will play an important part in our power generation diversification.
In the peninsula, we are already using a number of coal-based power plants. Coal, gas and hydropower are the sources of diversification and it a practical policy.
In the east coast of Sabah, gas is not available. Hydropower also tiada (not available). Biomass is still a very marginal way of power supply. So coal is the most practical fuel source and that’s why we decided on it. As I said that it not just us who is using coal but the world is using it. On why the proposed site is in an eco-sensitive area that could possibly affect environment stretching from Darvel Bay to pristine Danum Valley.
SESB looked at a number of potential sites and identified this site (a portion of state-owned Yayasan Sabah land where the abandoned Pacific Hardwood complex stood sandwiched by Darvel Bay and Silam Hill) as the most logical in terms of its centralised position for a power plant. So it is a logical place to build a power plant near to the coast.
There is not that much option.
Coal fired technology have been developed to be clean, good and used well enough worldwide. And the environmental impact is marginal. Obviously you have to make sure the equipment and plant you use fulfilled all the necessary environmental impact requirements.
We will make sure this will be done in Lahad Datu. When you look at coal fired power being developed worldwide, the technology utilised will demonstrate to you that the impact on the environment is not at an unacceptable level. Every development project will have some environmental impact but it is marginal and acceptable.
That is why we feel this particular location is appropriate. Will it affect the surrounding (Danum Valley and Maliau Basin) national parks? I don’t think it will principally because once the requirements of EIA are met, whatever damage and impact will be minimised.
We in the country are experienced in developing coal fire power. It is not something new to us. We have one in Klang which is a very heavily-populated area since the 1980s. It is functioning well although we are using a lot of coal in that plant as we have made sure the environmental impact technology is incorporated in its design.
We have another one in populated Lumut for four years now. The Janamanjung plant is just across Pangkor Laut which is still rated as one of the top holiday resorts worldwide. There is a five star hotel in Pangkor Laut. No problem at all.
In Johor, phase one of the coal power plant at Tanjung Bin with 700MW capacity is already in operation and will produce 1,400MW by next year. We will be constructing another IPP coal fuel plant at Port Dickson (Negri Sembilan) next year. We are also planning another coal plant in Kuching (Sarawak) similar to the one in Lahad Datu.
We don’t see any real negative impact on the environment in areas where coal power plants are operating It is important for us to realise that SSEB is equally conscious to make sure that environmental impact studies are properly conducted and put in place.
Datuk Khalib has reminded me to say that when people do power planning it is important (to look) at that location of the plant to the centre of usage of power so that the transmission is not too long.
We have power plants in the west coast and we have diesel set power plants in the east coast of Sabah. We are building the east west grid that will connect the east and west coast (of Sabah). But at the same time, we think it is prudent power utility to site a sizeable plant to handle a load requirement of a particular geographical region. The transfer of power from east to west and west to east grid will be continued. But we will not be relying on one particular source of power supply. In a break down at any particular source, at least the impact will be reduced. So when we look at the east coast of Sabah, Lahad Datu is a very logical place for the plant.
On whether Tenaga will be looking at other sites in view of the environmental factor and opposition to the power plant near Lahad Datu.
We don’t see any other alternative sites for the immediate use. We have been looking at the hydro potential in Sabah and we don’t see it in the time frame. Secondly we hope that the press will explain to the consumers and the public the actual position. The press will have an important role to make the public understand. We need you to explain to the public and the SESB management will make sure the public understand it. We are equally concern over environment and health issues.
Which are the companies bidding for the 300MW coal fired power plant in Silam.
We will make it known at the right time as professional evaluation is being done. SESB has appointed external consultants, one for technical and one for financial. The decision (on the company chosen for the project estimated to cost between RM1.3bil to RM1.6bil) will be very much guided by their evaluation.
On whether coal is cheaper than diesel or gas.
Not necessarily. If there is gas (in the east coast of Sabah), we will use it.
On how will Tenaga monitor the environmental impact of the proposed plant as in Sabah there many environmental problems including oil palm companies discharging pollutants but getting away with it?
Even if it is an IPP, the investor is subjected to quality control, which is monitored by the Energy Commission of Malaysia and DOE as well Tenaga and SESB.It is all a matter of enforcement by our authorities. We have modern technology for it.
On whether the coal for the Sabah’s first coal fuel plant will be sourced from Tenaga’s coal mine in Kalimantan Indonesia?Not necessary from Tenaga’s coal mine but it could be from other mines in Kalimantan. Certainly not from the Tenaga coal mine.
On the fears of environmentalists that with coal power plant in Silam, Tenaga might ask Sabah to allow mining of coal under Maliau Basin known internationally as the Lost World?
The environmentalist always think of everything. Don’t worry we will take care of that. I don’t think we are in the business of coal mining. We are in the business of power supply industry.
Did you find this article insightful?