Posted on October 10, 2010, SundayKUCHING: Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan on Friday night brushed aside talk of Bakun hydroelectric dam turning into a white elephant if it is not sold to the state government.
Asked to comment on a recent analysis, he said a lot of things have to be considered before the dam could be sold to Sarawak.
He also said apart from profit, the federal government will have to think about the overall purpose of selling the dam.
“One of the purposes of the dam is to facilitate the process of industrialisation. I think the federal government would use a holistic approach,” he said after attending an Aidilfitri gathering held by Malaysia Communication and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) and Communication and Multimedia Industry at a hotel here.
According to Awang Tengah, who is also Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management, the state was still negotiating the buyover of the dam from the federal government.
“I’m not saying we are confident. But we are still discussing the matter with the prime minister, especially regarding the benefits to the whole nation,” he said.
He, however, did not want to comment much on the sale of the dam as it was up to the federal government to decide.
On Sept 26, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the state might not pay more than RM7 billion to take over Bakun hydroelectric dam.
He also mentioned that the federal government had not stated any price yet.
However, there is a limitation to their bid because of the desire to be able to attract heavy industries, adding that the bid for the dam might go up to RM7 billion under specific conditions.
He also said negotiation on power purchase agreement between Sarawak Energy Berhad and Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd was still going on.
Reports have it that the state is keen to take over the dam to power the energy-intensive industries in Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) such as aluminium smelting.
The dam is expected to be operational by December this year after 16 years of construction and the electricity it is expected to produce can reach 2,400 megawatts.
It is owned by the Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd which is owned by the federal Ministry of Finance.
Awang Tengah said the state would continue to build coal-fired power stations based on demand even though SEB is planning to build seven more hydroelectric dams.
He said after the 275 MW station in Mukah which is now operational, they will build a station each in Kapit and Balingian.
“These are very important because the dams will take time to construct. The coal-fired plants are for backup in case of drought,” he said.
During the gathering, SKMM handed over gifts and ‘duit raya’ to orphans from Sarawak Orphans Welfare Organisation.
Other companies which contributed to the orphans included Sacofa Sdn Bhd, Pos Malaysia Berhad, Celcom Axiata (Malaysia) Berhad, Pernect PayPoint Sdn Bhd, Astro and Maxis Telecommunication Berhad.