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Electrifying BIMP-EAGA Through Energy Cooperation and Connectivity

Date Published
September 1, 2021

The 2,400-megawatt Bakun hydroelectric plant in Sarawak is the largest in Malaysia. BIMP-EAGA is rich in energy resources, both conventional and renewable. Photo credit: iStock/Hashim Mahrin.

Top officials from the four BIMP-EAGA countries opened the 2-day BIMP-EAGA Energy Online Conference & Exhibition 2021 last month to discuss initiatives to strengthen energy security in the subregion and shift to clean and renewable energy. Held on 23 and 24 August, the virtual conference hosted by Kota Kinabalu-based Midas Events Management and supported by the BIMP-EAGA Business Council, Sabah discussed the challenges, opportunities, and solutions in the oil and gas industry and in the power and energy infrastructure sector.

The officials included Sabah Chief Minister and Sabah Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji bin Haji Mohd Noor of Malaysia, Indonesian Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) Chairman Emmanuel F. Piñol of the Philippines. They spoke about efforts to promote energy cooperation in BIMP-EAGA, including the transmission of clean and affordable electricity across borders.

According to their Vision 2025 plan, the four BIMP-EAGA countries Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines want to bring electricity to all rural households in the subregion by 2025.

One of the priority projects that has been completed in the subregion is the Trans-Borneo Power Grid Sarawak–West Kalimantan Interconnection Project, the first between Indonesia and Malaysia. The project is considered a model for future power grid interconnections in the subregion and ASEAN.

Hajiji said the recent power trade and interconnection agreements between Syarikat Sesco Bhd, a subsidiary of Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) are key to establishing the Borneo Grid and the ASEAN Power Grid. A 31-kilometer 275-kilovolt transmission line will be used to deliver 30 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Lawas in Sarawak to Mengalong in Sabah.

Given its strategic location, Hajiji sees Sabah playing an important role in electricity trade within BIMP-EAGA as it has the potential to connect with Palawan in the Philippines and North Kalimantan in Indonesia.

Piñol called for stronger cooperation in providing reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity to help achieve the subregion's long-term development goals. He cited efforts to electrify remote areas in Mindanao (such as Tawi-Tawi and Lanao del Sur) and the proposed Sabah–Palawan power interconnection. In Lanao del Sur, for example, MinDA is supporting a project that provides solar-powered irrigation systems that will support halal rice production.

Tasrif also mentioned the potential to connect Sabah and North Kalimantan, which is rich in hydropower.

In 2019, state-owned power company PLN said it is planning to build the country’s biggest hydropower plant in North Kalimantan.

Tasrif also talked about the Indonesia Nusantara Renewable Grid, which will increase renewables in the country’s energy mix and improve energy efficiency.

In the meantime, Madana Leela, lead energy analyst of the Energy Industries Council, presented on Brunei Darussalam’s Clean Energy Initiatives.

Brunei is transforming its highly dependent oil and gas economy into a dynamic and sustainable economy. It plans to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix to 10% by 2035 and scale up the use of solar energy.