Nor Mohamed: TNB can lay cables for Bakun project

Posted by SM Maulana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Tenaga Nasional Bhd can take up the role of laying the cables from the Bakun hydroelectric power project in Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia if it wants to, Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said today.

“TNB can request to manage the project. We don’t have any obstacles (but) whether or not the government will approve it, that’s another question,” he told reporters after officiating a business leaders’ forum.

“The laying of the cables is important,” he said when asked if TNB can take up a stake in the project or lay the cables.

He said the government feels that laying of the underground cables was crucial to optimise hydro power usage and that the government will discuss with TNB and relevant parties to find ways.

To a question whether the project will be offered to foreign companies, he said: “We have not made a decision yet at the moment, we feel that it would be better for it to be given to local firms (but) we have not closed that option.”

On the operations of the Bakun dam, he said: “That is not an issue as it will be owned by the government and it could continued to so (but) what is important are the underground cables.”

As for the cost of the project reportedly at RM9 billion to RM10 billion, he said: “We have to make sure costs do not increase significantly. Price increases have to be reasonable, we don’t want any suppliers to quote too high a price and we have to be careful.”

As to whether the project could be delayed if the price was too high, he declined to answer, saying it was a policy decision.

It was reported yesterday that Sime Darby Berhad, the world’s largest listed oil palm company, has declined to invest in the submarine cable project as it does not fit with its business strategy.

The government had offered Sime Darby, the plantation-to-power conglomerate, a 60 per cent stake in Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the owner of the dam project in November 2007 after years of delay. The project was announced a decade ago and the government had also offered Sime Darby a similar stake in the cable project.

“We are withdrawing our proposal to take up an equity interest in the project but will continue in our role as a contractor to complete the construction of the (Bakun) dam,” Sime Darby chief executive Datuk Ahmad Zubir Murshid said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Nor Mohamed said “the government accepts Sime Darby’s decision to withdraw from the equity participation,” but added that the government would take alternative steps to proceed with the plan to ensure stability of power supply in Malaysia.

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