BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Aug 6, 2009 (AFP) - Brunei, one of the world's top oil and gas producers, is venturing into alternative energy with the construction of Southeast Asia's largest solar power plant, officials said Thursday.
The plant will supply 1.2 megawatts of electricity to the national grid, the equivalent of powering about 400 homes, according to Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation which is fully funding the project.
Osamu Ito, general manager of Mitsubishi's operations in the tiny kingdom, said construction was under way after a groundbreaking ceremony this week, and that the facility will be operational by mid-2010.
Although Brunei is blessed with abundant natural energy reserves, the government is keen to pursue energy conservation, he said.
"The government wants to promote other energy sources in order to more effectively utilise their precious natural resources," Ito told AFP.
"Mitsubishi is funding the project to strengthen our relationship with the Brunei government," he added. Mitsubishi has a long history in Brunei's energy and agriculture sectors.
Ito would not disclose the cost of the project, Tenaga Suria Brunei (Solar Power Brunei), which will be built at the existing Seria Power Station.
The plant will save the burning of some 340,400 litres of crude oil and cut about 940 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Brunei, a Malay Muslim kingdom, is Southeast Asia's fourth-largest oil producer and the world's ninth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, according to a World Trade Organization report.