The government has invited Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation to take up the project to lay a 700-kilometre long submarine cable to transmit electricity from the Bakun hydroelectric dam in Sarawak to Peninsular Malaysia.

The cable linking Bakun with Tanjung Lemang in Johor will cost about US$1.5 billion, Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said today.

He said the Bakun dam was expected to be completed in 2010.

Dr Lim said during his recent visit to Japan, he had visited the Sumitomo submarine cable manufacturing facility in Osaka.

“I told them to work together with other cable manufacturers to ensure that we can lay this cable as soon as possible. Bakun should be ready by 2010, so there are three years left,” he told reporters after the ground-breaking ceremony of the Energy Commission Diamond building here.

Also present were Energy Commission chairman Datuk Pian Sukro and the ministry’s deputy secretary-general Loo Took Gee.

Dr Lim said it would take at least one year just to lay 250 kilometres of cable.

He said the country would be focusing on tapping hydroelectric power in the next 10 years in an effort to improve national energy security while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Bakun is one of the many hydro power sources that can be generated in Sarawak, mainly from the upper Rejang River, which has a potential of 20,000 megawatts,” Dr Lim said.

“So most of the hydro power plants will be in Sarawak and power will be transmitted through submarine cables,” he said.

Asked whether Sumitomo has taken up the offer, Dr Lim said the Japanese corporation was expected to though pricing and other issues needed to be sorted out.

“(For the trip to Japan) I brought along Sime Darby, the owner of Bakun dam, and Tenaga Nasional Bhd as well and they were able to talk about this,” he said.

Dr Lim said in Peninsular Malaysia, there are still about 900 megawatts of hydro power available in Hulu Terengganu, Terengganu, and Ulu Jelai in Pahang.

“We will be tapping into those but the bulk will be coming from Sarawak,” he said.