Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bakun plant triggered power cuts

Firemen putting out the blaze which engulfed three houses in Piasau Jaya, Miri, believed to have been caused by candles.

Energy drop at plant caused safety tripping to be activated

KUCHING: A SEVERE energy drop at the Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) has been identified as the main reason behind the massive power failure which plunged most of Sarawak into darkness on Thursday.

For nearly 10 hours, most major cities in the largest state was enveloped in darkness and thrown into chaos as public utility systems, such as street lights and traffic lights, failed to function.

Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) chief executive officer Torstein Dale Sjotveit yesterday said the problem originated from the Bakun HEP, which led to the shutdown of all power stations, including the Sejingkat, Batang Ai and Mukah coal plants, together with the Bintulu and Miri gas plants.

In apologising to those who had suffered from the blackout, Sjotveit said to protect the integrity of other generators in the system, the safety tripping was automatically activated, resulting in the shutdown of all other power stations in the grid.

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Following the power failure, SEB activated its blackout restoration plan to start up all the generation plants, with Batang Ai HEP restarted at 5.53pm, Tun Abdul Rahman power station (5.56pm), Bintulu Power Station (6.21pm) and Miri (7.45pm).

"Bakun was only able to be synchronised with the grid after 10pm," said Sjotveit.

Two power islands were created in north and south Sarawak while Bakun got delayed due to technical problems leading to a serious delay in restoring power supply to Sibu.

The state grid was re-established by 11.30pm and all loads were fully restored by 2.07am yesterday.

The state Public Utilities Ministry said it would launch an investigation into the incident.

"The state grid system is supplied by SEB and the Bakun HEP owned by Sarawak Hydro.

"The electrical inspectorate unit of the ministry has begun investigations to find the cause and to avoid such incidences from happening in the future," said electricity supply director Syed Mohamad Fauzy Shahab.

The blackout, which began at 5.40pm, resulted in massive traffic congestion in Kuching, Miri and Sibu.

Also affected was the Sibu Airport, where the power failure resulted in flights being grounded or turned away.

In Miri, three families lost their homes in Piasau Jaya after their houses caught fire due to the candles used during the power failure. No one was injured in the 7.50pm incident.

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