Malaysia seeks use for power from 2,400-MW Bakun

A Malaysian minister says the government has not decided how best to use the power to be generated by the 2,400-MW Bakun hydroelectric project being built in eastern Sarawak State.

Malaysian newspapers reported last month that the government is no longer keen on developing an aluminum smelter powered by Bakun and might call off the smelter project. The government was looking at an alternative use of Bakun’s electricity — an undersea cable feeding power from Sarawak on Borneo Island to peninsular Malaysia, the newspapers said.

�How best to use the energy that is produced is a decision that the government will have to finally make. No final decision has been made,� Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop said August 18. �A final decision on the usage of energy will be decided by the government based on national interest.”

Firms including Rio Tinto, Alcoa, BHP Billiton, and China’s State Grid Corp. are reported to have expressed interest in building an aluminum smelter in Sarawak powered by Bakun electricity. But the government felt some proposals lacked sufficient local participation and others failed to make a strong economic case, the Business Times said, quoting unnamed sources.

The paper also said Swiss engineer ABB and local firms Eden Enterprises and Malaysian Resources Corp. were among those vying to build an undersea cable. It could cost up to US$1 billion to build an undersea cable between sparsely populated Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia, which has the vast majority of Malaysia’s population and industry.

In 2005, Argentine hydro equipment supplier Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona SA (Impsa) was reported winner of a US$122 million contract to supply turbines to the project.

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