Bakun hydroelectric project can be delayed, says Tenaga

Business Times 13 Nov 08;

This is due to slowing growth in power demand

(KUALA LUMPUR) Malaysia can afford to delay the Bakun hydroelectric project, the country's biggest, because of slower electricity consumption growth, said Leo Moggie, chairman of state-controlled utility Tenaga Nasional Bhd. 'We're beginning to see a slowdown in the growth of power demand,' Mr Moggie told reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

'That gives us an opportunity to stretch the original target of getting transmission through.'

The 2,400-megawatt hydroelectric project, which will flood an area the size of Singapore in Malaysia's part of Borneo, is due for completion by 2010 while the submarine cable to transmit power from the island to Peninsular Malaysia is expected to be laid by 2013. Tenaga, in talks with the government and Sarawak Energy Bhd to acquire a stake in the project and to build the cable, said last year it needed Bakun to meet the nation's demand by 2013.

Slowing economic expansion amid a global financial crisis may limit electricity demand growth to 4 per cent in the year ending Aug 31 compared with 6.1 per cent a year earlier, the company said in October.

'The demand for power is not increasing as fast as it was two or three years ago,' Mr Moggie said.

Che Khalib Mohamad Noh, chief executive officer of Tenaga, wants to conclude talks with the government as soon as possible on the Bakun stake and purchase of power from the project. 'Metal prices have come down by almost half, copper prices came down over the last three months by almost 50 per cent, and construction prices will also come down because steel and cement prices are coming down,' Mr Che Khalib said\. \-- Bloomberg

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