Thursday, January 03, 2008

Scenes - Sarikei SESCO



SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1993


Blackout! Blackout! Kids loved blackout and candles but blackouts were actually rare in Sarikei from the 1970s onwards. How did SESCO (Sarawak Electricity Supply Company Limited) begin? It had its humble roots in 1920 when J.R. Barnes, manager of the Sarawak Government Wireless Telegraphs and Telephones Department mooted the idea. In 1921, Charles Brooke gave instructions to the Public Works Department (PWD) to build the first power station in Kuching. In 1992, an Electrical Section was set up in PWD.


Sarikei Power Station, late 1950s.
At the historic Jalan Kubu Lama.
Source: SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1993



Charles Brooke and United Engineers Ltd of Singapore formed SESCO on 19 Nov 1932 to take over the government supply stations at Kuching and Sibu. SESCO took over the electricity supply to Sarikei (1934), Binatang (Bintangor, 1936) and Simanggang (Sri Aman, 1939). These were Direct Current (DC), not Alternating Current (AC), power stations and operations were on a 12-hour basis per day! Updated: The original location of the Sarikei electric generator was at the current army barracks where Market Road intersects Central Road.


Sarikei Kampung Apong late 1960s.
Where is this kampung, anyone?
Source: SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1993


In 1941, electricity was charged at 20 cents per unit before World War II. During WWII, the stations were operated under Japanese directions. SESCO personnel were forced to work on the power stations without enough spares or maintenance. In some stations, sections of the distribution networks were removed, likely for their copper wires.


Sarikei Power Station, Oct 2007.
Jalan Kubu Lama.


Just after WWII, the power stations were put under the control of the British Military Administration and then handed to SESCO on 1 Apr, 1946. In 1947, new DC generating sets were installed in Binatang and Sarikei. A surcharge of 50% on all tariffs was imposed to help finance post war reconstruction. This surcharge was replaced with a 27.5 cents per unit charge on 1 Jan 1948. By 1952, Sarikei and Binatang power stations had 50kW and 41.5kW respectively. What is the Sarikei electricity charge per unit now?


Sarikei Power Station, Oct 2007
Jalan Kubu Lama.


On 29 Aug, 1952, the State Council passed the Electricity Supply Ordinance No. 17 to give the Sarawak Government wide powers over electricity. The Sarawak Government bought all the shares of United Engineers (UE) in Sep 1953. UE became an managing agent till 30 Jun 1958. In the late 1950s, SESCO focused on converting its remaining stations from D.C. to A.C. In 1963, Sarawak joined Malaysia and SESCO's focus (as a corporation) up to 1970 was to increase capacities for existing stations and Sarikei's increased by 888kW (nice number!).


Sarikei Power Station, Oct 2006
Jalan Kubu Lama.
Source: Lam Lai Chee



In 1963, SESCO implemented a policy of establishing 1 new rural station per year using its own fund. In late 1972, the Federal and State Governments shared the capital costs with SESCO equally. In 1976, the Federal Government paid 2/3 and SESCO 1/3. In 1980, the Federal Government paid for the full costs.

Examples of rural stations established: Julau (1966), Kabong (1970), Belawai & Saratok (1975), Roban (1979), S.Paoh (1980), Rejang & Jerijeh (1980), Pakan (1982), Selalang (1983). When did Bolen (across Nyelong River) and Petelit (across Sarikei River) have electricity? Do you remember studying by the lamps?


Batang Ai Hydro Electricity Station, circa 1985
Source: SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1993


SESCO Transmission System, 1991
Source: SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1993


Updated: The 108MW Batang Ai Hydroelectric Station and the Kuching-Batang Ai 275kV transmission Line, costing RM$560M, started construction in 1981 and was completed in 1985. This represented a technological jump from diesel to hydro and from 33kV to 275kV systems.

The construction of the Engkilili-Sibu line started in 1986 and Sibu-Bintulu line in 1989 and were were energised in 1988 and 1991 respectively. Sarikei is on the Engkilili (2nd Division) to Sibu line which means Sarikei got converted to hydro electric power in 1988.


Sarikei SESCO office, 1989.
Source: SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1993



Sarikei SESCO office, Oct 2007


In 1989, SESCO moved to a new building opposite the new fire station near the Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik).


Sarikei Kampung Seberang, Feb 2007.
Swallows across Sarikei River.



Denizens of Sarikei are not the only ones benefiting from the electricity supply. The swallows get a swinging good time on the cables and they do not have to remember to pay the bills.

Will the last person to leave the room please turn off the lights?


Source:
SESCO 30th Anniversary Magazine, 1963-1993

7 comments:

Daniel Yiek said...

The SESCO power station is at the historic Old Fort Road (Jln Kubu Lama)but then the power play was of a different kind: Colonial masters vs the natives. Stay tuned for a future post.

Kanga said...

Anyone knows in which year was the SESCO power station in Sarikei officially shut down? (was it when the Batang Ayer hydro power station started?) I understand that it is only a backup power station now. Is this correct?

Lidasar said...

Long before the SESCO Jalan Kubu Lama Power Station in the late 50s as shown in the photo was the earlier generator right at the corner where Jalan Market intercept Jalan Central. The place is occupied by army barracks now. The generator only operates from 6:00pm till next morning 6:00am and every month the in-charge will come door to door to collect the meter charges.

Daniel Yiek said...

Kanga,
I think you are right. Excerpt from the 30th anniversary SESCO magazine, page 49:

"The 108MW Batang Ai Hydroelectric Station and the related Kuching-Batang Ai 275kV transmission Line, costing RM$560M, commenced construction in 1981 and was completed and commissioned in 1985....This unprecedented project...meant a technological jump from diesel to hydro and from 33kV to 275kV systems"...

"...the construction of the Engkilili-Sibu line in 1986 and Sibu-Bintulu line in 1989 which were energised in 1988 and 1991 respectively"

Sarikei is on the Engkilili (2nd Divn) to Sibu line which means Sarikei got converted to hydro electric power in 1988. Not sure whether there was a reduction of electricity charges though.

Lidasar,
Wow, you nailed the location of the original power generator before the Jalan Kubu Lama location.

Daniel Yiek said...

On second thoughts, those were not swallows on the cables (the tails are not like swallows'). I recall watching these small birds (maybe burung pipit, ie. sparrows) at Kampung Seberang across Sarikei River.

Nelson said...

Btg Ai dam was built by a Japanese Company if I'm not wrong. I went there during a prefects' visit to KCH by bus in 2001 few days before september 11.

Daniel Yiek said...

Updated the post with pics of Batang Ai and the comments. This is an important event that was missed out. Thanks, Kanga.

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