MCO forces ministry to push rural electrification targets to early 2021

Lightbulb. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

KUCHING, July 21: The Ministry of Utilities has revised its aims for 97 per cent of rural households to be connected with electricity from 2020 to early 2021, as rural electrification work schedules were affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed in response to Covid 19.

The ministry, in a media release today, emphasised that an additional 12,000 rural households will be lighted up under these post-MCO projects.

“Under the RM2.37 billion Accelerated Rural Electrification Masterplan being implemented by Sarawak Energy, Sarawak had a target aim of 97 per cent rural electrification by 2020.

“The delays have affected the progress of projects under the Rural Electrification Scheme (RES) and Rural Power Supply Scheme (RPSS) by several months,” the statement read.

The ministry added that project work resumed in May under the Conditional MCO in full compliance with the relevant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

“At the end of 2019, rural electricity coverage stood at 93 per cent. Sarawak aims to achieve full electrification by 2025 and expects to power up 97 per cent of rural Sarawak in the coming months.”

Under these projects, the Ministry explained that the grid was extended into the rural heartlands through the construction of substations as well transmission and distribution lines into rural villages, providing them with access to reliable, renewable and affordable power 24/7.

“The Master Plan also includes projects under the government-community partnership Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares) for remote villages that are very distant from the grid,” it added.

Funded under the Sarawak government’s People’s Project, the ministry highlighted that Sares was conceptualised as a fast track solution to provide remote households with electricity via solar or micro hydro powered systems.

“Since Sares was launched in 2016, about 8,000 remote households now enjoy reliable, renewable and free electricity while another 3,000 households will have their electricity requirements met by 2020 through this programme.

“Sares has been relatively unaffected by the MCO as current projects were only in the pre-implementation early planning phase.”

The ministry pointed out that electrifying the remaining seven per cent of rural Sarawak has been even more challenging as these communities were located in ever more distant locations, presenting logistical challenges especially transporting materials with some villages lacking road access.

“Sarawak Energy will continue to work with the ministry to achieve full electricity coverage across Sarawak by 2025,” the ministry reassured.

Meanwhile, urban electrification rates were at 100 per cent since the necessary electrification infrastructure is in place such as roads and transmission and distribution substations and lines. — DayakDaily