The RM4.1 billion Murum hydro-electric power dam, able to provide 944MW in power, was officially launched by Yang di-Pertua Negeri Abdul Taib Mahmud today.
The state government has said the dam, located 840km from Kuching, will provide power for a new development corridor in central Sarawak, dubbed the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).
Present at today’s ceremony was Chief Minister Adenan Satem, Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas, Deputy Chief Minister James Jemut Masing, State Secretary Morshidi Abdul Ghani, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) Chairman Hamed Sepawi and SEB CEO Torstein Dale Sjotveit.
The Murum dam is a SEB hydro energy development project under the Score programme.
It is the second project after the Batang Ai HEP project in Lubuk Antu some 30 years ago.
Its construction was carried out by the Three Gorges Development Company (M) Sdn Bhd in 2008.
The dam is a 100 per cent Sarawak state government-owned project. It has the world’s tallest steeped chute spillway, 141 metres high.
The Murum dam began commercial operations in December 2014 and was operating at full capacity by June this year.
In a statement today, the state government said the dam’s full operations came at a time when domestic electric tariffs for commercial and industrial users outside of the Score region had been lowered.
The state government said consumers enjoyed the lowest electricity rate nationwide and in the region.
Murum dam would also help Sarawak achieve a high-income level by 2030, the statement said.
About 2,500 people were involved in the construction of the mega-structure.
The water catchment was filled in September 2013, allowing the average annual energy output to be 5,925 gigawatt hours (GWH).
Much of the power will be utilised by industrial plants in Samalaju Industrial Park, located 60km northeast of Bintulu and in Mukah.
Since 2010, SEB has signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) with 14 firms, ranging from power-intensive industries and export-oriented manufacturing, with power demands exceeding 3,000MW.
SEB said Murum is expected to provide power to meet a third of Score’s needs, excluding power output from the Baku and Arang Batu Balingian Power Plant, which have yet to be fully constructed.
SEB said the dam’s construction followed the protocols set by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD).
The power company claimed these protocols reduced the social impact of population relocation.
Land rights activists and some members of the local community had resisted the construction of the dam.
The Murum HEP dam relocated some 1,500 Penans as well as the 18 Kenyah-Badeng families in Long Umpa village near Long Malim in Danum River, on the upper course of the Murum River.
Penan activists had held road blockades, demanding RM500,000 per family for loss of land and villages, 25 hectares to be allocated to each family, a forest area of 30,000 hectares, a 10 per cent royalty from the Murum dam and that all areas which are not submerged be declared as belonging to the Penans.
The state government rejected all their claims.
Activists have said the Murum dam is only the first of 12 mega dams that the Sarawak Government would build over the next 30 years.