$547 million budget to reduce Sabah blackouts

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) is set to spend some RM1.4bil (S$547 million) over the next five years to replace hundreds of kilometres of cables as part of a comprehensive effort to reduce blackouts in the state.

SESB is targeting to replace the bare lines that account for 80 per cent of distribution cables in Sabah with aerial bundled cables, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Mini­ster Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

Bare lines are essentially uninsulated high tension cables which can encounter power interruptions when touched by other objects such as tree branches.

"To strengthen the transmission component, we need to complete the loop from Tawau to Keningau to enable additional energy to be generated from the Ulu Padas hydro electric station. It is expected to come onstream in 2019," he said after visiting SESB facilities here.

These are among the measures taken to reduce power supply disruptions to 450 this year, from 1,000 in 2009, as targeted by the System Average Interruption Duration Index (Saidi).

Saidi represents the average electricity supply disruption measured in minutes experienced by a consumer annually.

"I have also directed SESB to work towards a Saidi of 300 by 2014," said Maximus.

He added that the Saidi, up till Oct 31, had shown a significant reduction to 371 minutes compared with 557 minutes in 2012.

Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, RM782.89mil had been allocated to upgrade electricity distribution, transmission and generation in Sabah, of which 91.17 per cent of the projects have been completed.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, RM321.84mil has been utilised for the same purpose, of which project completion is at 29.79 per cent.

Maximus said a major challenge faced by SESB was its financial sustainability as its revenues were only able to cover 80 per cent of operations cost.

He said the firm's parent company Tenaga Nasional Bhd had to subsidise some RM200mil annually.

"This does not include other capital expenditure provided to SESB such as RM300mil by the Federal Government as well as the annual subsidy for diesel and other oils for electricity power at RM550mil annual­ly," he said.