Monday, July 29, 2013

Awang Tengah: Sarawak can sue Federal govt over June 27 blackout

BY YU JI thestar KUCHING: The Sarawak government is mulling legal action against the Federal government, which owns and operates the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam that has been determined as the cause of the statewide blackout last month. Sarawak Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan on Friday said legal action was an option. "Based on the commercial agreement we have between Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) and Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, we can take legal action," Awang Tengah told reporters when asked about the preliminary findings on the June 27 blackout that made regional headlines. Awang Tengah, also Second Resources Planning and Environment Minister, declined to comment on the likelihood of the state government pressing ahead with legal action. "We are getting the independent consultant to find out what was the root cause (at the dam). We will discuss with the federal government on measures to take to ensure no more reoccurrence. Awang Tengah said the blackout, which plunged the whole of Sarawak except Limbang into darkness, has affected public confidence in SEB, a state-owned entity. "Too many people, when the blackout happened, blamed SEB when in fact Bakun (hydroelectric dam) is a separate entity under Sarawak Hidro, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated Malaysia. "SEB and all the users were affected," he said. Sarawak Hidro was established on May 1, 2000, to develop and manage the Bakun Hydroelectric project. The mega dam, one of the largest in the world outside of China, began building the early 1990s, decades after proposals were first talked about in the 1960s. However, construction was halted following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. By the time Sarawak Hidro was set up to resume construction, the initial aim to provide power to Peninsula Malaysia was scrapped. Three years ago, the federal and Sarawak governments formalised an agreement to dedicate the entire power supply from Bakun to the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy. The deal was widely perceived by Sarawakians as a major boon. Within two years, SEB and state officials sold all 1,800MW of the dam's power to a series of energy intensive factories, including aluminium smelters. During the blackout, one of the smelter plants suffered catastrophic damages. A plant in Mukah comprising 200 smelting pots, believed to consume about 300MW, will be shut down for at least six months for repairs. In the days following the power disruption, SEB made clear in a series of public statements that it was not the cause of the blackout. The company repeatedly blamed "the frequency drop [at Bakun] created by the tripping of the three units that led to the shutdown of all our power stations". "The problem happened because of Bakun only. The blackout was entirely due to problems arising from Bakun. For 10 seconds, there was a big drop of 600MW. That affected the entire system and then the total blackout happened," Awang Tengah said. The preliminary findings on the blackout were presented to the Finance Ministry on July 18. SEB, Sarawak Hidro and a private consultant firm, Poyry Engineering Sdn Bhd, each presented separate reports. Interestingly, the Finance Ministry's Secretary-General Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah indicated at a recent press conference that the Sarawak government was aware of possible irregularities with Bakun prior to the blackout. “The engagement of the consultant is the result of a letter from the Chief Minister to the Prime Minister more than two months ago. The state government had requested for the consultation before it (blackout) happened,” Irwan had said.

Bakun Dam not cause of June 27 outage — Sarawak Hidro

Borneo Post July 29, 2013, Monday
KUCHING: Sarawak Hidro Berhad has again defended the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam as not the probable cause for the June 27 statewide blackout.
In a statement issued yesterday, Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkifle Osman said the blackout may have been due to other factors.
“Bakun plants’ drop in load would not have caused a blackout. There could be other contributing factors such as system under frequency load shedding scheme, response of other power plants in the system, and stress condition of the transmission network,” he said.
The statement was issued in the wake of the possible move by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) to sue Sarawak Hidro for the frequent blackouts including the statewide blackout on June 27.
Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan had said on Friday the legal recourse was one of the moves being looked into as it is provided under SEB’s power purchase agreement with Sarawak Hidro.
Awang Tengah had also said review of initial incident reports from both SEB and Sarawak Hidro and initial site investigations conducted by officers from the Electrical Inspectorate Unit of the ministry confirmed that the blackout originated from Bakun.
Awang Tengah explained it happened because of Bakun’s three generating units’ sudden and uncontrolled drop in load of about 650MW, while SEB’s system was not capable of supporting three large, simultaneous tripping of Bakun generating units.
However, according to Zulkifle, Sarawak Hidro, including Alstom engineering design and expert, to date have yet to conclude the findings into the cause of the blackout.
He said it was due to pending information from the relevant parties in Sarawak such as on sequence of events, disturbance records and other power plant behaviour during the incident.
Alstom is a leading energy solutions and transport company headquarted in France, which is active in the field of hydroelecric power generation.
On media report that the Public Utilities Ministry is appointing its independent consultant, he said Sarawak Hidro welcomes the move and hopes this exercise will be the check and balance of the whole scenario in Sarawak.
“And we hope we can compare notes to improve for the benefit of Sarawak. The findings of the study should be used to enforce Bakun’s plants as well as other defence plan in the grid system to avoid risks of another system collapse in the future,” he said.
The consultant, said to be international, was announced by Awang Tengah to undertake the independent study to identify the underlying factors contributing to the recent blackout incident and the measures to mitigate the incident.
It is expected to complete by end of August.
Zulkifle also said an independent consultant had been appointed by the federal Ministry of Finance to look into Bakun’s plants and Sarawak system. “However, the report is pending input from relevant parties,” he explained.
Despite what had happened between them, he assured discussions on technical and commercial matters are conducted between Sarawak Hidro and SEB on continuous basis.
SEB is Sarawak government-owned energy company, while Sarawak Hidro is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Minister of Finance Incorporated Malaysia under the federal government which owns, operates and manages Bakun.
The June 27 blackout which started during evening peak hours plunged most of Sarawak into darkness for several hours, and in some places until the next morning.
The business community were the worst affected by it as operations had to be shutdown.
Awang Tengah had also said the blackout had affected public confidence on SEB.

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