Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sabah power supply scandal deepens

The electricity supply scandal in Sabah has taken a new twist.

Figures disclosed by the state and federal power utility companies are at variance with each other and do not add up, according to a top parliamentarian.

The discrepancies are so great that DAP Parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang has questioned whether the persisting poor and worsening System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) on power supply in the state was genuine, or a deliberate fix.

He believes it could be part of measures to create a ‘panic situation’, so as to compel the people to accept the controversial coal-fired power plant.

He said suspicion arose from the consistent disparity in the SAIDI figures that were given out by the Federal Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Peter Chin Fa Kui, the Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) and the Energy Commission Malaysia.

“There are doubts about the statistics that have been given out about SAIDI,” he said.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, he cited Chin’s comment recently that the SAIDI for Sabah for last year was 2870 minutes per consumer per year

However, a senior officer of SESB told the Public Forum on Energy Options for Sabah held at Asia City on Saturday, that the SAIDI for Sabah for last year was 2284 minutes.

Adding to the confusion is an Energy Commission Malaysia report that the SAIDI for Sabah for the first six months of 2009 was 423 minutes.

“How did this 423 minutes in the first six months have a big jump to 2870 in just six months time? Which is the correct figure - the one given by the minister – 2870 minutes or the one given by the SESB - 2284 minutes?” Lim asked.

SESB’s Managing Director, Baharin B. Din in April last year said the SAIDI for Sabah in 2006 was 4000 minutes and it had gone down to 1000 minutes. The Energy Commission’s report contradicts by saying that the SAIDI for Sabah for that year was 2778.

“What is the reason for this huge discrepancy? Is that genuine or deliberate to create a panic situation to push for the coal-fired power plant? Something is very, very fishy about the reliability and credibility of this SAIDI figures.

"I think there’s a need for a full inquiry as to why we have such an extraordinary leap in the SAIDI from 423 to 2870 or 2284 for the 12 months.

“I think what SESB must make public the SAIDI for each of the town in Sabah. There’s no reason for keeping this figures secret. It cannot be an Official Security Act (OSA) as we are supposed to be talking of era of transparency and accountability.

"The SESB after failing the people of Sabah for so long must now begin to behave like a responsible corporate organization by making public all these figures,” Lim said.

Lim who is also the MP for Ipoh Timor went on to cite the national SAIDI figures provided by the Energy Commission to show how bad was Sabah in terms of power supply as compared to the other states.

For the Peninsular Malaysia, the overall SAIDI for 2008 was 87.3 minutes per customer per year. The state with the highest SAIDI was Johor with 120.5 minutes and the lowest SAIDI were the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya at 6.6 minutes, something which is unimaginable for Sabah.

“Why can Peninsular have overall SAIDI of 87.3 minutes with an average of 20 minutes of breakdown as compared to Sabah which has a SAIDI of close to 3000 minutes and the best that the government can do is to reduce it to 700 minutes by the end of the year?” he questioned.

On Chin's promise to resign if he could not reduce Sabah's perennial power shortage by the end of this year, Lim said not only should the minister concerned resign but the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Sabah should step down too.

He explained that this was because the Prime Minister too had pledged in the reports on Government Transformation Program, to improve the reliability of electricity supply for Sabah from 1974 minutes in 2008 to 700 minutes, 273 minutes for Sarawak and 60 minutes for Peninsular Malaysia, by 2010.

Lim also asked if Chin was aware of the purchase of the second-hand generator sets for Sabah, and if so why he approved it.

"If he’s not aware then it clearly shows his incompetence,” he said.

Both Sabah DAP chief cum MP for Kota Kinabalu, Dr Hiew King Cheu and DAP Sri Tanjung State assemblyman, Jimmy Wong are pessimistic about the target of reducing the SAIDI for Sabah from 2870 minutes to 700 minutes by year end, citing the existing infrastructure of the SESB which is either obsolete or consisted of second-hand equipment.

Hiew said he had been told by some senior SESB officials and engineers that it was literally a “mission impossible”.

Wong said that the existing mess concerning the power supply in the state was the result of meddling and exploitation of the SESB by a senior politicians in collaboration with Peninsular Malaysia-based companies, in the maintenance and purchase of power generation equipment.

Hiew called on both the federal and the state governments to scrap the plan for the coal-fired plant, claiming that 99.4 per cent of the participants at the Public Forum on Energy Options for Sabah were against it.

“The government should scrap it and stop talking about it…that’s our stand.”

by FMT

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