Bending bamboo: Restructuring rural electrification in Sarawak, Malaysia

Benjamin K. Sovacool, Scott V. Valentine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the strategy of electrification for Sarawak which centers on large-scale hydroelectric projects. Drawing from extensive in-field interviews of stakeholders in Sarawak who are affected by the soon-to-be-completed 2400. megawatt (MW) Bakun Hydroelectric Project, this article presents documentary evidence that these "hard path" mega energy projects are economically, socially and ecologically sub-optimal. The study suggests that more rigorous development of "soft path" small-scale, decentralized renewable energy systems more effectively support development and electrification aspirations for the region. The paper concludes with an analysis which invalidates the rationale for supporting mega projects yet recognizes that powerful advocates pose significant threats to a transition from hard to soft energy paths. It puts forth a concluding recommendation that pressure to scale down these mega projects and bolster decentralized, small-scale initiatives represents the most feasible approach to optimizing rural electrification in Sarawak. Overall, this case study provides both a detailed analysis of the inadequacies of mega energy projects in supporting economic development in less affluent regions and insight into how to strategically facilitate ideological change from hard (mega projects) to soft (decentralized energy systems) energy paths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-253
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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