Utility handover won't affect Sabah power transmission projects

PENAMPANG: Ongoing projects to improve electricity transmission in Sabah will not be affected by the federal government’s decision to hand back Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) to the state government.

Energy, Science Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said on Saturday (Jan 19) that the federal government would be completing 52 projects over the next three years to improve the distribution and transmission of electricity in Sabah.

Yeo explained that with an excess supply of 32%, Sabah did not have a problem in generating electricity but it faced issues like constant disruption and uneven distribution of power supply.

“I want to stress that Sabah does not have a generation problem, but an electricity reliability problem.

"The state has a reserve margin of 32%, which means that the electric supply here is higher than the peak demand. This is similar to Peninsular Malaysia.

“However, the rate of electricity supply disruption in Sabah is four times higher than in Peninsular Malaysia. This is not because the state does not have enough electricity, but because power supply cannot be distributed due to very weak transmission lines here.

“The rate of electricity theft in Sabah is also the highest in Malaysia, which also contributes to the instability of power supply in the state,” she said at the PACOS Trust office here, a day after announcing that the government has agreed to return SESB to Sabah.

Yeo said the projects to upgrade the transmission lines would see an overall improvement in electricity reliability in Sabah, especially in the east coast areas that were mired with power supply problems.

“We need to transfer electricity from Sabah’s west coast to the east coast.

“Right now, we are upgrading the transmission lines from 180 megawatts to 400MW. After the upgrades have been carried out, we need to have a power plant up in Sabah’s east coast by 2026 for energy security in the area,” she added.

Yeo said her ministry was targeting to halve the rate of electricity supply disruption in Sabah by 2021, and would be bringing Sabahans to Putrajaya to be part of the planning process.

On Friday (Jan 18), Yeo announced that the federal government had agreed in principle to return the ailing SESB to Sabah, 34 years after the state government ceded its powers over the energy company.

SESB, which was operated as a state statutory body, was handed over to the federal government by the Parti Berjaya state government in 1984 as it hoped that the federal government was positioned to develop the infrastructure for Sabah’s power needs.

The federal government later privatised the utility body with Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) owning 82.75% of the company while the state government held the rest of the shares.

The move to relook the future of SESB was first hinted in Dec 2017 by Yeo’s predecessor, former Barisan Nasional minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who disclosed that the lost-making utility company was on the verge of insolvency.


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