Using a case-study, inductive, narrative approach, this article explores the history, drivers, benefits, and barriers to the Bakun Hydroelectric Project in East Malaysia. Situated on the island of Borneo, Bakun Dam is a 204Â m high concrete face, rock filled dam on the Balui River in the Upper Rajang Basin in the rainforests of Sarawak. Bakun Dam and its affiliated infrastructure could be the single largest and most expensive energy project ever undertaken in Southeast Asia. Based on data collected through site visits, original field research in Sarawak, and more than 80 research interviews, the article begins by teasing out the complex history and drivers behind the Bakun project before identifying a set of potential social, political, and economic benefits the project could deliver. It then delves into six sets of barriers in the technical, economic, political, legal and regulatory, social, and environmental realms. We find that Bakun illustrates how centralized energy megaprojects, while ostensibly championed for reasons of economies of scale and the ability to bring about transformational change in the shortest period of time, often fail to address broader development goals such as fighting energy poverty and improving the livelihoods of the local communities they are supposed to serve.