Indonesia and Malaysia plan hydropower hook-up

February 29, 2012
Power grid to bridge an historical divide

How times have changed. Indonesia’s state power company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) plans to begin large-scale electricity trading with Malaysia in 2014.

The company is building a new high-capacity transmission network connecting the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan with the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, where the two countries fought an undeclared war in the 1960s.

PLN president director Nur Pamudji told The Jakarta Post that he expected between 50 and 100-MW of electricity could be traded via the planned 275-kilovolt (kV) transmission line.

Confirmation of the development will no doubt come as some relief to the Sarawak State Government, which has been led by its notorious Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud (Taib), for the last three decades. Sarawak has recently come under severe criticism for creating a massive hydroelectric power glut.

The PLN link-up, which is to be built in conjunction with Taib-controlled Sarawak Energy Berhad will, however, only account for a fraction of the 2.4-GW output from the Bakun hydroelectric dam, and plenty more hydro capacity is also being built in Sarawak.

Nur Pamudji said PLN is also planning another cross-border transmission line – a 250-kV undersea cable – to connect Indonesia’s South Sumatra with Peninsular Malaysia, enabling power export from thermal generating plants in the coal-rich province.

According to Murtaqi Syamsuddin, PLN’s director of planning and risk management, the power tariff for exports and imports would be determined through business-to-business negotiations with partners, subject to approval from the Indonesian government.

Tendering for the West Kalimantan-Sarawak transmission link is likely to begin this year while PLN’s aim is to have the undersea transmission cable is commercial operation by 2017.