Amendments to Electricity Bill may allow Sarawak Energy to penalise landowners, says Ba’Kelalan rep

Baru presenting his debate on the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 in the DUN sitting on Nov 21, 2023. Screenshot taken from a TVS livestream on Facebook.

By Ashley Sim

KUCHING, Nov 21: Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian has expressed concern that amendments in the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 may allow Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy) to penalise landowners.

The amended section 27(3)(a) and (b) of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 state that the licensee is not obligated to supply to the applicant if (a) the supply to the applicant or the premises has been previously discontinued under section 29; or (b) any money due and owing by the applicant to the licensee has not been fully paid.

“The amended section 27 would mean that the licensee or electricity supplier or Sarawak Energy is able to penalise landowners who are not at fault, and not the errant electricity consumer who may be an entity/person distinct from the ownership of the premises.

“Legally, it entitles Sarawak Energy to withhold the supply of electricity for a new account in perpetuity until either the old account is cleared by the errant account holder, or the new account holder is forced to pay the old bill to get his account registered to the premise,” asserted Baru, when debating the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex today.

He said, in comparison, S.25 Electricity Supply Act 1990 (“the ESA”) (TNB’s Exception to the duty to supply) does not tie previous errant electricity accounts to affect the application of a subsequent electricity account holder’s right to be supplied electricity.

“In essence there is no privity of contract between the earlier account holder to the next. The ownership of the same land is not a nexus that extends the contractual matrix.

“Hence, it is worth asking whether or not it is prudent to allow this added exception to the duty to supply electricity.”

Baru further remarked that section 8 of the Bill amends section 4G of the Principal Ordinance to allow any person to develop, build, and maintain a solar power installation with a generation capacity not exceeding fifty kilowatts for their own use.

“However, for installations with a generation capacity in excess of 50 kilowatts, a licence is required,” he claimed.

Furthermore, the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman asserted that whilst the 50 kilowatt limit in the Amendment Bill might be sufficient for average households and some small farms, it could potentially restrict larger farms and other businesses with higher energy needs from being fully self-reliant on solar power.

“What is the rationale behind the limit of 50 kilowatts? What studies/numbers is this figure based on? Will this 50 kilowatt limit be a hindrance to larger farms?”

“The requirement to apply for a licence for generation of solar power in excess of 50 kilowatts, while understandable, should be made as simple as possible so that homeowners will not be inconvenienced or discouraged from installing solar energy systems due to confusing and/or prolonged red tape.”

He further noted that solar power will become an increasingly popular alternative or an important supplementation to grid electricity in the coming years.

“The generation of solar power is a positive step towards clean energy and should be promoted and incentivised by the government.

“It is yet another measure to push us towards net zero emission in 2050, which we are committed to achieving,” he added.

Utility and Telecommunications (MUT) Sarawak Minister Datuk Julaihi Narawi tabled the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 during the DUN sitting. — DayakDaily