Outage a wake-up call; time to have back-up: Masidi
The biggest power outage in Sabah history that left 90 percent of State in darkness on Monday night clearly signalled the urgent need for a back-up power system to be set in place, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. He said it was also a reminder to the Government, in particular the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), to immediately enhance the monitoring system of vital equipments in the electricity supply system to ensure they are all in reliable condition. “Clearly, we can’t rely on a single source. It’s time for SESB to seriously consider setting up a backup system to ensure we are prepared in case of similar incidents happening in the future,” he said when speaking to reporters after opening a seminar on Understanding of Environment Requirements at Pacific Sutera Harbour here yesterday. Stressing that he was not pointing a finger at anyone over the incident, Masidi said such a major power disruption could really hurt many businesses and cause huge losses to the State, including the tourism industry He said the impact of such a blackout on the State’s commercial and industrial sectors could be severe as it affected the operation of many businesses and factories, as those with no back-up power system were forced to stop production until the power was restored. In the tourism industry for instance, though most of the resorts and big hotels have their own generators to power their lights and some of their essential electrical equipments, their guests could have been uncomfortable throughout the Monday outage as the air conditioning system was shut down. Acknowledging power outages as a major problem in the State, Masidi said serious attention from everyone and a lot of money are needed to effectively address the issue. “The effect is huge. It goes beyond just households having uncomfortable night without TV, fan or air conditioner. Hotels, factories, traffic lights, just to name a few, are all affected. This is not good for our image, especially among the tourists,” he said. He said SESB’s quick action in rectifying the problem and ability to restore the electricity supply in considerably short time was commendable, considering the magnitude of the outage. But the incident should serve as a wake up call and a lesson to SESB that they cannot assume everything will always go well, he said. “Similar incidents may even happen again in the future. And when that happens, it’s better if we are prepared,” he said. “I believe with the current management of SESB, they would be able to do something to improve our readiness to face such such power trip in the future. Give them (SESB) time to rectify the problem, I believe they can,” he said, adding, the previous and current GM had done well in managing the State’s sole power provider. Asked if the incident would cause a change in the Government’s stance on the cancellation of a coal-fired power plant project in Lahad Datu, he said SESB has a compelling reason to build the plant and the power outage on Monday has further highlighted the State’s need for additional power source. However, he said, the State Government has a very strong reason not to go ahead with the construction of the power plant, taking into consideration the potential harm it could cause to the pristine environment in the area. “Sabah is noted for its serene and beautiful nature; the moment we destroy it, nobody will come. Thus, continuing the project would seem to be foolish. We may save some money now but lose a lot more in the future. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. He noted that water discharge from coal-fired power plant operation would cause an increase in the temperature of surrounding seawater by up to two degree Celsius.