Indonesian state electricity firm PT PLN and Malaysian state electricity firm Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) are to undertake a feasibility study of a power transmission project connecting the two countries via Sumatra. The project will bring the region one step closer to the realisation of an ideal – a fully integrated power highway among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The two utility companies have selected US-based Shaw Power Technology to conduct the six-month study starting in May.”If the project is feasible, we would like to start construction as soon as possible,” PLN’s Eddie Widiono said. The project is expected to be completed in 2009. PT PLN and TNB are dividing the

cost of the study equally.The interconnection is to stretch 50 to 60 km from the Malaysian peninsula to Riau, Sumatra. The link should be lucrative, as Sumatra has huge resources of coal and natural gas, but a power deficit of 300 MW out of its 1838 MW peak load, and it would enable the two countries to reduce generation costs and conserve power reserves.

Sumatra is one of six regions in Indonesia that are suffering power shortages. Once the Sumatra–Java interconnection is completed the system could be used to supply the power-hungry Java–Bali grid. The interconnection would also enable Malaysia to export its excessive reserves – at present, power demand in Malaysia stands at 11 700 MW, while it has a capacity of 17 000 MW.

Malaysia already has interconnections with Singapore and Thailand. This new project is one of three such under the ASEAN Interconnection Masterplan Study (AIMS) and was approved during the 2003 ASEAN Energy Ministerial Forum in Langkawi, Malaysia. The others are the transmission line project between Sarawak, East Malaysia, and Indonesia’s West Kalimantan, and the Vietnam-Laos transmission project. ASEAN countries have been working on a transnational power grid since 1997, and aim to establish a regional grid by 2020.