Dam-it, what’s going on here?


It looks like some of our planners are on a dam-building spree, even though the Bakun Dam is expected to produce electricity that the country does not really need for now.

For one thing, Malaysia has a 40 per cent reserve capacity now – even without including the expected excess electricity from Bakun. Even by 2010, we would still have 30 per cent excess capacity. It is only by 2012 that the excess capacity would drop to around 20 per cent.

With all this surplus electricity floating around, it is surprising that they are even thinking of building more dams – and in Sarawak of all places. Imagine, they haven’t figured out what to do with all that electricity from Bakun, and they are talking of newer bigger dams.

Will Tenaga be forced to buy some of that excess electricity – and at what price? 12 sen per unit (the price recently negotiated with Independent Power Producers)? Or 17 sen per unit (the high price agreed when the original Bakun power purchase agreement was signed in 1996)? In the first place, why should Tenaga buy electricity at these prices when its own power generation plants are among the most cost efficient?

Or will the government approve the construction of polluting aluminium smelters in Sarawak to suck up the excess power from Bakun? Now there is even talk of Tenaga taking up a stake in the highly risky business of sending all that excess electricity by submarine cables to the peninsula.

And what about the catchment areas for Bakun? Is there sufficient protection to ensure they are not stripped?

Perhaps we can say thanks to Mahathir for getting us into this mess in the first place. If only we had the vision to use all that money to carry out research into cleaner, less environmentally damaging, alternative sources of energy. If only we could also think of conservation of energy instead of finding new ways of using up electricity that we didn’t really need in the first place. If only…

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 (IPS) – Even before the problem-ridden Bakun Dam in eastern Sarawak can be completed, officials are talking of plans to build two more hydroelectric dams in the state, one of which could make Bakun look puny by comparison.

Concerns over the necessity for such dams, how the surplus electricity will be used, the resettlement of indigenous people, and the ‘development’ of catchment areas appear to be going unheeded.

The turbines powering the 2,400 Mw Bakun Dam along the Balui River could start churning by 2009, but planners are still mulling over what to do with all that excess electricity.

Should they approve a power-guzzling — and extremely polluting — aluminium smelter plant in Sarawak? Or should they channel the excess power to the more industrialised Malaysian peninsula via submarine cables laid on the bed of the South China Sea?

The former option would require the participation of major transnational corporations with questionable benefits for the rural economy of Sarawak.

The option to lay cables, on the other hand, would be expensive and is fraught with technical uncertainties. Full article: Surplus electricity – But bigger dams planned

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