Malaysia's Sarawak Energy aims for 400MW floating solar by 2030


Sarawak Energy plans to install at least 400 MW of floating solar capacity at its dams by 2030 as the Malaysian utility expands to meet rising demand for renewable energy from neighboring countries.

The company owned by the state of Sarawak, which produces most of its power from hydroelectric dams, is expanding into solar capacity as it seeks to lower reliance on coal and increase exports to neighboring Sabah state, and countries like Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore.

Sarawak Energy started construction at its first 50 MW floating solar unit at its Batang Ai dam in June which is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, CEO Sharbini Suhaili said on the sidelines of an Energy Asia conference.

He said studies found that the company could connect up to 1,500 MW across its three hydropower plants to its grid. Sarawak Energy is also building a fourth hydropower plant to be commissioned by 2028, which will bring its total hydropower capacity to 4,737 MW.

Sarawak Energy has signed agreements to export 30 MW to 50 MW of electricity to Sabah state in 2024.

The company exports about 80-100 MW of electricity to Indonesia's West Kalimantan and is building a 1,375 MW hydropower plant with its partner in North Kalimantan which may put into operation by 2030, Sharbini said.

Sarawak Energy is also in discussions with Brunei and Singapore, where it has completed a feasibility study to export hydropower via undersea cables around 2030, but the high cost and technical difficulties remain a challenge.

"About 70-80% of the cable will be in Indonesian waters, so that we need to manage as well," Sharbini said.

Sharbini thinks that a connection would help initiate an ASEAN power grid, an idea that has been long discussed but has remained on the drawing board.

The company aims to reduce the share of coal in its power mix to 10% by 2030 from the current 18%, in part by decommissioning its 210 MW Sejingkat power plant by 2028 and the 270 MW Mukah power plant after 2030, he said. Its 624 MW Balingian coal power plant which built in 2020, will be retained to ensure energy security.

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