Energy players defend coal-powered plant

  • Nation
  • Monday, 05 Apr 2010

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s energy players are fighting back against a campaign by an influential environmental lobby to push for the scrapping of a controversial 300MW coal-powered plant in Lahad Datu.

Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd took out a full-page advertisement in major dailies here yesterday to debunk any immediate and practical green energy alternative to the plant.

The advertisement featured SESB general manager for corporate services Wan Maria Wan Othman as saying that alternative sources like biomass, solar and wind were too expensive to implement and that these would not be able to provide enough energy as required at 300MW.

SESB, Wan Maria pointed out, had already committed to taking 120MW from other parties providing renewable energy in the future although the 30MW given to the company currently was not performing as expected.

“We all need a world fit to live in. We also need a secure energy supply. Balancing the two needs is a matter of both ecology and economics. Both have advantages and disadvantages,” she said, calling for the “rational calculation on the potential cost and risks” between the coal-fired plant and green energy.

Wan Maria said bringing power from Sarawak’s Bakun Dam was too expensive and would also put Sabah’s east coast in a vulnerable position as it would have to continue relying on power from a source outside the state.

She said the main aim for the proposed coal-fired plant was to provide stable power for the east coast as it now had to get its supply from Sabah’s west coast via the power grid.

The advertisement also contained graph tables indicating the use of coal-powered plants around the world and how these had improved with environmentally acceptable technology.

The utility company, which has already come under fire for failing to provide stable and reliable power supply, has been caught up in the controversy after the plant proposal was questioned by a coalition of five environmental non-governmental bodies calling themselves Green SURF.

SESB first proposed the plant in Lahad Datu’s Silam area but subsequently moved it to Sandakan after it was rejected by the Sabah government, and then to the Felda area in Tungku in Lahad Datu after local residents objected.

The state government had said that its decision to approve the coal plant would depend on the Detailed Environment Impact Assessment report.

Influential Sabah east coast leaders such as Kalabakan MP Datuk Abdul Ghapur Salleh and former Chief Minister Datuk Harris Salleh are among those backing moves for cleaner energy sources to meet the state’s power needs.

They have all argued that the state could be powered by green energy, especially from the availability of oil palm biomass.

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