Sabahans, especially those living in the east coast, have been experiencing frequent power supply interruptions since many, many years ago. The problem has become quite critical in recent years. So it’s no surprise that the government had to embark on actually doing something about it, rather than just winning elections.
And because we have so many clever people in our government, of all the possible means of improving the power supply situation in the state, we simply had to opt for the coal-fired power plant which is of course more expensive than other alternatives. Apparently, the proposed coal power plant has a capacity of generating 300 MW. If I’m not mistaken, it was mentioned in a recent news article that the cost of the coal power plant is about RM2 billion; whereas a hydrocarbon fuel power plant of similar capacity would cost about RM1.6 billion.
Now as we all know, the cost of hydrocarbon fuel had escalated sharply over the recent years. Strictly based on the market forces of supply and demand, I doubt that there is much hope for the cost of hydrocarbon fuel to ever come down back to the good old days of USD30 per barrel. Instead, I think it is likely to increase even further in the years to come! Therefore, although it may be several hundred million Ringgit cheaper to construct a fuel power plant now as opposed to the coal power plant, we may have serious cost implications in the future.
Nevertheless, cost is just one of the many factors in the equation. Apart from the issue of the emissions of CO2 and other contaminants into the environment, there are concerns of irreversible destruction of the environment and the many plant and animal species therein. I shall not go into the details of these concerns here, since one can quite easily google up on “coal-fired power plant in Sabah”, and there will be plenty of materials there.
I think most of us are aware of the potential negative effects of a coal-fired power plant in Sabah—that there is some truth in the potential detrimental consequences on our fragile environment. But we are not all environmental scientists, so we don’t really know the extent of those negative consequences.
But because of these concerns, we have had quite a number of the so-called Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) prepared by numerous parties. Needless to say, the EIAs prepared by professionals working for the government concluded that the coal-fired power plant is a good idea. Because our politicians are in favour of the coal-fired power plant—for reasons known only to them—I would have been extremely surprised if their professional environmentalists had concluded against their beloved coal-fired power plant. On the other hand, the EIAs prepared by the opposing side arrived at the opposite conclusion. So which of these “assessments” would you trust?
Well, maybe it’s me, but I'm inclined to trust the EIAs prepared by those opposing the coal-fired power plant. There appear to be sufficient evidence to support the drive against the coal power plant, but of course the government will always find ways to construct the forsaken plant, one way or another. I think this thing about trying to collect as many signatures as possible in the hope of sending a petition to the government against the coal power plant shall be in vain. We all know that when these people have made up their minds to build the power plant, they will build it sooner or later. The only way to stop the plan is currently unavailable. The people will just have to wait till a year or two from now.
And so we have since seen the production of the government's Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) (note that there is now that additional word “Detailed”), which, unfortunately, has been rejected by the Department of Environment (DOE). Apparently, this latest decision by the DOE was welcomed by various quarters, especially those non-governmental organizations which have been fighting hard against the coal-fired power plant.
Quite honestly, I don’t know what’s the excitement all about. It’s not like our government is gonna give it up on account of the DOE’s decision. Some people have too much to lose if that should happen. Out of nowhere, suddenly we have 1,500 villagers showing support for the coal-fired power plant. My guess is, we shall soon see an improved version of the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA)—in fact, I think it will be known as the Extremely Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EDEIA).