Sarawak inches closer to its rural electricity coverage target

Rundi (back row, eighth right) posing for a photo with the 11 community leaders whose villages are now lighted up with 24-hour reliable and renewable solar energy, as well as elected representatives.

MIRI, Feb 14: Sarawak’s rural population electricity coverage is now at 91 per cent, well within reach of its 97 per cent target by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2025.

Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom said the state government hoped to achieve its target with the allocation of RM2.37 billion under the Rural Electrification Master Plan that was recently approved by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Speaking at the handing-over ceremony of Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares) in Long Nakan earlier today, he said through Sares, the state was optimistic of achieving its mission to provide electricity supply to all corners of the state.

The ceremony today was to commemorate the completion of Sares projects and the lighting up of Long Nakan, Logan Sibong, Long Ikang, Long Kerangan, Long Nen, Long Sayan, Long Kesseh, Uma Bawang, Long Kawi, Ba Kabeng and Long Itam in Telang Usan.

Almost 5,000 residents from 556 households of these 11 longhouses now have access to reliable and renewable 24-hour electricity supply.

These 11 remote communities are part of 82 villages in the Baram area planned to be connected to reliable and renewable 24-hour electricity supply by 2020 via solar or micro-hydro under Sares.

So far, 38 communities in Baram have been connected to electricity supply, according to a press release from Sarawak Energy following the handover ceremony today.

Implemented by Sarawak Energy, Sares is expected to electrify 8,700 households in remote villages by 2020.

Launched in 2016, the RM500 million programme has accelerated electricity coverage in the state with completed projects for almost 4000 of the 8,700 households.

Sarawak Energy said the communities worked with them and its contractors to build solar-powered systems for their respective villages, chosen due to the challenge of connecting them to the grid.

“Each project involves the construction of standalone alternative systems, utilising solar technologies and replacing noisy and expensive diesel generator sets to meet basic household electricity needs with lighting, fans, a television, a freezer and a cooker.

“Once set up, the system is handed over to the community who operate and maintain it with technical support from Sarawak Energy,” it said.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili said Sares was different because it was designed to be sustainable in the longer term and involves the community from planning through to implementation.

“After the projects are completed and implemented, the Sares team continues to provide technical support and trains the beneficiary communities to operate and maintain the system.

“In the future, with infrastructure development such as roads, these longhouses will be connected to the main power grid, but in the meantime, Sares enables villages that are currently located very far from the grid to be able to have access to electricity supply,” he said.

Also present at the ceremony were Assistant Minister for Utilities (Rural Electrification) Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, Baram MP Anyi Ngau, Ministry of Utilities’ Electricity Supply director Syed Fauzi Shahab and Sarawak Energy’s Rural Electrification vice president Dr Chen Shiun. — DayakDaily