Overview of Sarawak Energy’s Hydropower Development
Blessed with high rainfall and an abundance of rivers, Sarawak harnesses renewable energy through hydropower development.
With greater global awareness on carbon mitigation measures to combat greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, there are now more concerted efforts to promote and encourage the use of renewables for power generation. In Malaysia, the Government approved the National Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan on 2 April 2010.
All these factors point to shifting to a more sustainable energy supply which is readily available, economical to produce, renewable and non-polluting. The push for this shift appears to come increasingly from the need for lower carbon emission in power generation.
Sarawak’s first foray into hydropower began in 1962 when a pre-feasibility study was conducted at Batang Ai. Follow up studies were conducted in the 1970s and construction commenced in 1981. Batang Ai HEP, with installed capacity of 108 MW, was completed in 1985.
After 30 years, it continues to generate and deliver clean and renewable energy smoothly and reliably. After its first turbine was commissioned in 2014, Murum HEP was fully commissioned in June 2015. The plant delivers 944 MW of clean and reliable energy for Sarawak. Sarawak Energy also purchases the entire output from Bakun HEP (2400MW) through a power purchase agreement signed in 2011.
Sarawak Energy is pursuing the development of indigenous hydropower resources and has identified further sites as being highly promising for the construction of hydroelectric projects. In developing hydropower, the Sarawak Energy project development model - Sarawak Energy Project Model or SPM - requires projects to pass through three formal decision gates before a final investment decision is taken, namely Initiation phase (decision to start), Concept phase and Pre-Engineering phase.
Batang Ai Hydroelectric Plant
Pioneering Hydropower in East Malaysia
Batang Ai, Sarawak’s first hydroelectric plant, commenced operations in 1985, captures the stored energy of a 90 sq km reservoir impounded by a dam 85 m high and 649 m wide. It has functioned smoothly for over 30 years, delivering up to 108 MW of power to Kuching via a purpose-built 275kV transmission line. The station is refurbished and upgraded to serve for another 30 years.
The project has transformed the lives of local communities, who enjoy much better access to education and healthcare and to markets for their agricultural produce. Many have also become involved in ecotourism, driven by the unique culture of the local Iban people and the spectacular rainforest of the project catchment area.
The local orangutan population has risen steadily since the establishment of the 120,000-hectare catchment area, which is now one of the most densely populated orangutan habitats in Borneo with more than 1.7 animals per sq km.
Murum Hydroelectric Plant
Murum HEP is located on the Murum River in the upper Rajang River basin, 200 km from Bintulu. It is designed to produce 635 MW (constant) and 944 MW (peak) from a 2,750 sq km catchment area feeding a 270 sq km reservoir. Construction began in 2008 and by mid-2015 the station was fully operational, delivering its specified power into the state grid.
Murum’s ecological features include the world’s tallest stepped chute spillway, which aerates overflow water and reduces its kinetic energy. This helps preserve the riverine ecosystem, which is further protected by a 7.5 MW ecological power station that supplies power to the nearby resettlement areas and also conserves the 13 km stretch of the Murum River between the dam and the powerhouse. In addition, the dam crest was redesigned to preserve the Batu Tungun rock formation, sacred to the local Penan community.
Baleh Hydroelectric Project
Sustainable Energy with Minimal Human Impact
The Baleh hydroelectric project, 95 km upriver from Kapit, will be Sarawak Energy’s biggest, producing 1,285 MW of power from a 5,625 sq km catchment area, harnessed through a 700 sq km reservoir impounded by a 204 m high concrete faced rockfill dam.
Sarawak Energy received SEIA approval for Baleh HEP in 2015 from Natural Resources and Environment Sarawak, NREB, and State Cabinet approval in 2016.