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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Comeback for shelved coal plant?

The federal government's haunting stand on the contentious coal plant which was shelved in 2011 and putting it in ESSCOM zone washes over the state's latest assurance that it won't happen.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun’s reassurance that a shelved coal plant project will remain so because Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak “respected” the state’s wishes has underscored circulating talk of a ‘comeback’.
“No smoke without fire…it’s coming back,” was the response FMT received from an activist familiar with the project.
The activist, who declined to be named, was responding to whether or not plans for the contentious 300MW coal plant was back in the picture following Masidi’s statement yesterday (Friday).
The RM1.3 billion plant which was to be sited in Lahad Datu on the limits of the state’s wildlife reserve and coral-rich famed Davel Bay was cancelled in 2011 following massive protest.
At the time many saw Najib’s response to the project as an election gimmick.
In September, four months after the 13th general election, the issue was back when Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry Deputy Minister Mahadzir Khaled revealed that the coal plant plan was on the table.
Mahadzir blamed NGOs for Sabah’s power supply problem. Sabah suffers from constant power outages especially in its east cost belt. Electricity demand continues to rise at an annual average of about eight to 10%.
But Masidi was today reported here as saying that the proposed coal fired power to solve Sabah’s woes was as good as dead.
He said the state government had already clarified its stance and that Najib “respected our position on the issue”.
“He (Najib) announced his support for our decision and that the issue of the coal fired power plant to solve Sabah’s electricity needs does not arise,” he said.
Ironically another previous report claimed that the federal government was thinking of putting the coal plant away from environmental controversy further down the coastline south of Tawau, which incidentally comes under direct purview of federal-operated Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM).
Following the Lahad Datu incursion in February this year, the federal government set up ESSCOM which casts a 1,400km long security net along the coastline from Kudat to Tawau running some 500km deep.
The question now, on many minds, is does the state really have a say in the plant if the federal government decides to go ahead with it?
Contentious geo-thermal park
A fortnight ago, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman declared that the state was diversifying away from oil dependence and is commitment to exploiting renewable energy resources.
Musa said the government was looking into new renewable energy that is derived from the wind, solar, tidal, geothermal as well as from plants as future energy sources for Sabah.
To this end, Masidi said the state was happy with the 30 MW geo-thermal plant being built in Apas Kiri in Tawau.
The RM500 million plant, albeit contentious, when completed will be the first in Malaysia.
The plant is sited on the 28,000 hectare Tawau Hills Park which serves as the main water catchment area for Tawau.
Logging has been allowed on 150 hectares to enable seven wells, roads and pipelines to be built.

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