Sarawak: Score an own goal (part 2)

 

By LC Bulan

In line with the Sarawak state’s vision of becoming Malaysia’s next economic powerhouse, the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score) exists to serve heavy industry and economic growth, rather than social equity.

The Sarawak state government has targeted the development of at least 70,000 sq km of land in the central region of the state, primarily occupied by indigenous communities. These communities do not view the natural environment as ‘natural resources’ to be exploited, and depend on it for their way of life.

Score is targeted to have at least 20, 000MW installed capacity of electricity by 2030. It is the most capital-intensive and ambitious energy project ever undertaken in Southeast Asia.

Sarawak is the largest Malaysian state, encompassing some 124,450 sq km, or almost 38 percent of the land mass of the country. It is home to some of the oldest and most prized tropical highland and lowland rainforests in the world, which collectively contain 8,000 endemic types of flora and 20,000 species of fauna, with many more undiscovered, and the most extensive cave system.

The front side of the Bakun Hydroelectric Project (above), as at July 2010. When the project was given the go-ahead, it was to be the world’s tallest concrete-faced, rock-filled dam. A dominant feature of its landscape is its extensive riverine system, comprising 55 rivers with a combined length of approximately 5,000km, of which 3,300km are navigable. Key among the large-scale energy infrastructure projects being proposed are the development of 12 hydroelectric dams scattered across the state’s 55 rivers.

The Bakun HEP powerhouse (above). The project’s history has been troubled and tumultuous, being formally proposed in 1986, shelved in 1990 due to an economic recession, approved by the Malaysian cabinet in 1994, cancelled in 1997 during the Asian economic crisis, revived again in 2000, with multiple changes in ownership and responsibility. Construction of the dam has taken more than 13 years at a cost of RM8 billion.

A major reason for the cost overruns was related to how the project was eventually financed, with borrowings from the pension funds, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP), which compounded interest rates as the project was delayed.

Continue Sarawak: Score an own goal? (Part 3)