KUALA LUMPUR: The proposed Nenggiri Hydroelectric Dam Project, to be sited 30 km away from Gua Musang in Kelantan, will add another 300 MW to Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s (TNB) total installed hydro capacity of 2,536.1 MW, once approved by the Energy Commission.
It will not only enhance the grid system’s reliability and security to serve 6.96 million registered users of electricity in the peninsula but will also play a multifold role for the country and the state of Kelantan.
Over the last 72 years, TNB has only operated three hydro-electric dam schemes in the country, namely the Sungai Perak Hydro Scheme (1,249.1MW), Cameron Highlands Scheme (622MW) and Kenyir Scheme (665MW).
“Green” hydro energy only accounts for 18% of TNB’s Peninsular Malaysia’s capacity at present, followed by solar at 0.6%.
On the other hand, coal represented 45.6%, while gas 35.9%.
The combination of these green and fossil fuels allows TNB to have a total generation capacity of 16,030.53MW.
Back in 2016, hydro contributed less than 5% to Malaysia’s energy supply, notably below the peak of 29.3% in 1988.
As another promising source of renewable energy, the proposed Nenggiri Dam is poised to increase Malaysia’s renewed interest in green energy.
Rising Importance of Renewal Energy
The Nenggiri Dam Project, once awarded to TNB will embody the national electric utility corporation’s adherence to the government’s strategy to increase power generation from renewal energy (RE) resources.
It also mirrors TNB’s pro-active efforts towards using more RE, now that it is more affordable to pursue RE generation as a result of technological advances, amidst greater awareness towards mitigating climate change.
Green energy’s low contribution to TNB’s generation mix will gradually change as TNB’s aim is to make RE account for 40% of its total capacity mix by 2025, as it grows its capacity domestically and in selected international markets.
It is not without merit that TNB is emphasising on the RE path. Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said the government had set a RE target of 31% of generation capacity for 2025.
Additionally, with the ongoing global energy transition, the future energy source is weighted heavily on green and renewable initiatives, as the world strives to decarbonise and mitigate climate change.
Positive Contribution to National Economy
TNB president and chief executive officer Datuk Ir. Baharin Din had meanwhile said the group’s investments towards achieving an effective energy transition will contribute positively to the national economy, as the RE industry is estimated to generate 2.5 times to 3.0 times more employment per dollar of investment than fossil fuel technologies.
TNB, after taking stock of its 10-year development strategy, has targeted to push towards a low carbon economy by increasing its RE capacity to 8,300MW by 2025, inclusive of large hydro projects. As at end 2020, TNB had achieved 3,398.2MW of RE capacity, of which 2,732.3MW is within Malaysia and 665.9MW internationally.
Besides electricity generation, the Nenggiri dam project will be supporting Kelantan in a number of areas, primarily in terms of flood mitigation and providing clean water supply, as well as electricity to rural areas, social infrastructure, and local job opportunities.
Heavy rainfall and high tides during the Northeast Monsoon months of November to February had always caused considerable hardship to the Kelantanese in low-lying areas as a result of devastating floods, as well as financial burden to the state government.
With the Nenggiri Dam playing a multi-fold role of flood mitigation and providing clean water besides power generation, this would benefit not only river fishermen downstream but also padi farmers who are dependent on irrigation canals.
Multiple Roles for Nation, State and Rakyat of Kelantan
As such, the Nenggiri Dam will deliver positive socio-economic impact to the country in terms of additional power to the national grid and bring other benefits to Kelantan and its people, especially those staying in the vicinity of the dam project.
To put it simply, they will have better access to modern amenities, better-paying jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, especially in expanded eco-tourism activities.
Feasibility studies on the Nenggiri dam project took place as far back as 1986 and the land area expected to be impacted is about 53.84 square km, less than six times of Kenyir dam.
As with massive hydropower projects of this size, there has been no shortage of resistance, especially from people who still hold dear to their traditional ways of life.
Utterances of loss of ancestral land, natural habitat, loss of income opportunities, disruption of customs and practices, and dislocation of family ties are often cited.
With experience in developing three other hydro schemes, extreme care has been given by TNB in ensuring the interest of the Orang Asli community and even the wildlife that will be directly affected by the project is protected.
TNB has adopted the principle of “to be the greater good itself if that is the only way for the greater good to happen”.
As such, TNB has stated that it will continue to work closely with relevant stakeholders to carry out the Nenggiri project in full compliance with the legal and regulatory requirements besides being committed to ensuring the wellbeing of the local community and environment beyond the recommended mitigation action plans.
Addressing Concerns and Demands
TNB Power Generation Sdn Bhd managing director Nor Azman Mufti said TNB is committed that the Orang Asli community will be compensated and given assistance accordingly until the project is completed.
According to sources, the affected Orang Asli community totalling 1,115 from 257 families, who are currently residing in Pos Tohoi, Pos Pulat and Kampung Kuala Wias, will be relocated to two new sites with modern facilities. Those from Pos Tohoi will be relocated to Kuala Yai, while residents of Pos Pulat and Kampung Wias will be relocated to a plot of land, near Ladang Sungai Terah.
So far, the residents living within the site of the area demarcated for the dam project have been positive as was recently revealed by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), an independent organisation which investigates complaints for the violation of human rights in the country.
At an engagement with the Orang Asli community in early April this year in Kuala Lipis which lasted three hours, SUHAKAM revealed that the residents had actually asked that the project be expedited for them to reap the benefits of modernisation.
SUHAKAM also disclosed that the Orang Asli community had also asked that the project should address their concerns of clean water, flooding and improved job and business opportunities in eco-tourism-related areas.
Adhering to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)
Describing the recent meeting as harmonious, SUHAKAM Commissioner Jerald Joseph said it also addressed the concerns of the local residents who were represented by six Orang Asli community leaders living in Pos Tohoi, Pos Pulat and Kampung Kuala Wias, which are in the vicinity of the dam project. The meeting was also attended by four members of SUHAKAM, 11 representatives from Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (JKOAK), officials from the Kelantan State Secretariat, Gua Musang District Office, Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) and TNB.
Jerald, who chaired the engagement meeting, had alluded its smooth running to TNB’s detailed explanation to the affected communities who were also given opportunities to voice their thoughts.
The openness adopted by all interested parties, he said, was an important step for development to occur, based on the principles of human rights, adding that the meeting also prioritised information sharing with great openness, as it sought a more harmonious way towards addressing the various demands of all interest groups.
On this, TNB Power Generation Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Nor Azman Mufti adhering to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), said TNB, being a responsible government-linked company, was always open for discussions and engagement sessions with all interested parties in its development projects as it abided by the ESG.
Deputy Kelantan State Secretary (Development) Datuk Dr Tengku Mohamed Faziharudean Tengku Feissal said the engagement had enabled detailed information to be disseminated to those present and cited various benefits that would emerge from the project.
Ajeh Baharom, chairman of the Pos Tohoi Orang Asli Development and Village Security Committee, hoped the project could be expedited, as the Orang Asli community in the three settlements had been waiting for development to take place in the last eight years.
“The majority of the residents in Pos Tohoi, Pos Pulat and Kampung Kuala Wias have agreed to relocate to new areas to start life anew,” he said, perhaps alluding to one of life’s maxims, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
TNB is expected to develop new initiatives for the development of the Nenggiri hydroelectric project to minimise impacts from hydro dam development towards the surrounding environment.
For instance, habitat rehabilitation through various tree replanting activities, especially at sites affected by TNB operations have frequently been undertaken. TNB is also noted for its continuous biodiversity enhancement for the Sungai Perak hydroelectric station at the Temengor Dam.
In Hulu Terengganu, forest seedlings from trees and grass had been replanted for forest regeneration at sites that have undergone changes in environmental conditions as TNB fervently believes that this will enhance the habitat’s function as a wildlife corridor.
TNB also fulfils its responsibility in conservation efforts for fish species through various eco-tourism activities such as fish sanctuaries and sport fishing, which help increase tourism attractions in the affected areas to enhance the livelihood of the local communities.