Abdul Hamed (second left) presens a souvenir to Abang Johari at the opening ceremony, while (from second right) Dr Sim, Lee and others look on. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Sept 6): The Sarawak government will continue to explore hydrogen energy to accelerate the state towards a low carbon economy, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He explained that hydrogen has many applications in the state’s existing industries, including healthcare and transportation sectors, and the energy can be exported in various forms via different methods.

“Under our green energy agenda, we are exploring several ways to decarbonise the state transport system and further transition towards a low carbon economy that already has predominantly green electricity as a pillar,” he said.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability and Renewable Energy Forum (Saref) 3.0 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

Abang Johari remarked that the state is developing a sustainable Sarawak blueprint to prioritise environmental sustainability that aligns with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).

The state’s first electric bus has been operating on the roads since 2019, and another project is the ongoing engineering run of the prototype Autonomous Rail Transit (ART) near BCCK, he said.

“This focus on green mobility is further exemplified by our installation of electric vehicle or EV charging stations around Kuching to encourage adoption of green vehicles among citizens,” he said.

Speaking on the carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) initiative, Abang Johari said Sarawak has passed the Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2022 to comply with the latest practices for environmental sustainability.

“Petroleum Sarawak Bhd or Petros, also received the first license for carbon storage in March of this year, allowing them to begin their strategic role as resource manager for CCUS in Sarawak with support and collaboration from my relevant ministries.”

He also pointed out Sarawak Energy had collaborated with Chitose Group, Eneos and Sarawak Biodiversity Centre to launch the Chitose Carbon Capture Central Sarawak, the first industrial microalgae production facility in the state.

Moreover, Abang Johari shared with the audience the state is committed to not build new coal power plants, with the 600 megawatt (MW) Balingian coal-fired power plant commissioned in 2021 being the last.

He said Sarawak Energy has in fact commenced the decommissioning of older coal plants, starting with the unit in Sejingkat coal fired power generation.

However, he stressed the state will continue to maintain thermal plants in its energy generation mix for energy security.

As for hydropower, Abang Johari said previous studies had revealed 20,000MW of identified hydro potential in the state, with 12 prospective hydropower sites.

Aside from the Murum, Bakun and Batang Ai hydroelectric plants, a fourth 1,285MW hydroelectric project in Baleh is currently under construction and project completion is scheduled towards the end of the decade.

“Renewable hydropower’s lower levelised cost of electricity benefits Sarawak’s domestic, industrial and export customers by providing them with affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity, addressing the energy trilemma,” he said, pointing out state offers the lowest average unsubsidised tariffs in Southeast Asia.

With that said, Abang Johari said three main targets have been set for the state’s electricity sector over the next decade, namely maintaining at least 60 per cent renewable energy capacity mix by 2030; reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 600,000 tonnes per year by electrifying Sarawak mobility feet by 2030; and achieving more than 15 per cent income from foreign markets, including power exports.

Sarawak’s first floating solar farm at Batang Ai hydroelectric plant is expected to be commissioned in 2024, he added.

Among those present at the opening ceremony were Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin, Utility and Telecommunication Minister Datuk Julaihi Narawi, federal Deputy Minister of Economy Datuk Hanifah Taib, and Sarawak Energy chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi.