Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 to enable power production through solar panels, cascading dams

Julaihi (second right) and other dignitaries photographed at Sarawak DUN Complex on Nov 21, 2023.

By Shikin Louis

KUCHING, Nov 21: The proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2023 seeks to enable the public and investors to participate in the production of electricity through solar panels and cascading dams in Sarawak.

To achieve these goals, Minister of Utility and Telecommunication Dato Sri Julaihi Narawi said the Bill would update the Electricity Ordinance to institutionalise the Single Buyer concept, with Sarawak Energy Berhad (Sarawak Energy) as the Single Buyer; incorporate new provisions that promote the development of renewable energy namely solar and hydro-power; provide regulation of water flow in rivers to be designated for the purpose of developing cascading hydro stations and installations; and provide for the export of electricity to places or countries outside Sarawak, among others.

As a Single Buyer, he said, Sarawak Energy is allowed to buy power generated by other producers and deliver through its transmission and distribution grid to supply the electricity to the customers.

“Prospective solar power producers may enter into agreement to sell power to Sarawak Energy or to another consumer where the Single Buyer does not require the solar power,” he said when tabling the Bill in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

At the same time, under the existing provision of Section 4(5) of the Electricity Ordinance, a licence is not required for any installation not exceeding 5 kilowatts (kW) rated capacity.

Therefore, the Bill proposed to increase this threshold to 50kW to facilitate and promote renewable energy sources especially solar and hydro for electricity generation.

“With the advancement in solar panel technology for higher wattage capacity, 50kW solar system can easily be installed on typical rooftops for domestic and small commercial and industrial premises for self-consumption or when connected to the grid, to participate in the Net Energy Metering (NEM) scheme with the Single Buyer procuring the excess electricity,” he added.

Additionally, the amendments have provisions for special agreements which will be entered between a licensee and a consumer or Single Buyer; or between a consumer and the Single Buyer where electricity is sold, purchased, or supplied in excess of 5 megawatts (MW) requiring special terms and conditions relating to offtake, reliability of supply, and arrangements for security of payment of electricity supplied at rates mutually agreed by the parties; and relating to sale and the conveyance of the solar power produced in excess of 50kW.

Julaihi further said the Bill also seeks to issue licences for development of cascading hydro stations or installations along some of the rivers in State through regulating the flow of waters or impounding.

“This creates greater sustainability in the use of water for hydroelectricity as cascading dams along rivers will reduce inundation of land areas for the reservoir and enable the Sarawak government to study and implement pumped storage for hydro-power to ensure reliability of power generation especially during seasonal variation of water levels in our rivers,” he elaborated.

On the other hand, he said, a provision is incorporated to strengthen the sale of electricity outside of Sarawak.

In the event that electrical infrastructures need to be implemented, the Bill has a provision that strengthens the access to the land needed to build transmission lines or any electricity supply installation.

This provision proposes that the Superintendent of Land and Survey Department discharge his power, in authorising the licensee to exercise the rights reserved to the Government as stipulated under section 37(a) of the Sarawak Land Code.

This amendment will also permit for any wayleave agreements signed between the landowner or occupier with the licensee, to be used as Caveat by the licensee to protect “right of way” for transmission lines passing under, through or above land by virtue of section 173(a) of the Sarawak Land Code.

The amendment also provides for the Minister to issue directives to licensees to adopt and comply with government policies and initiatives to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. — DayakDaily