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Rural communities light up

Weekender

MORE than 100 households and a school in the Selau constituency on the northern tip of Bougainville are now accessing electricity services from PNG Power Ltd (PPL).
This was made possible through the Improved Energy Access for Rural Communities Project implemented by PPL through the funding of the New Zealand Government and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFFPR).
New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully was on hand to officially switch-on the lights at Sorom Primary School in Bougainville with the ADB Country Director Marcello Minc on Wednesday February 15.
Also present to assist them switch on the lights was the Asian Development Bank PNG Country Director Marcello Minc. The momentus events were witnessed by the PPL General Manager Asset Development Obed Batia, ABG Minister for Public Utilities Luke Karaston, Bougainville Regional Member Joe Lera and Bougainville Affairs Director John Avira.
McCully said that the New Zealand Government was very fond of development initiatives in Papua New Guinea and one way of giving back was through the funding of electricity connections.
He said that New Zealand is pleased to see that 115 households have already been connected with many more to benefit through the funding.
“Officially switching on the lights here shows the commitment we (New Zealand Government) have made and we are happy to see the locals finally receiving electricity services,” he said.
The official switching-on of lights in Bougainville means there is already a lot of excitement being generated with the locals of villages of Manob and Sorom now enjoying lights at night. They can also afford to have cold drinks and watch TV without the hassle of looking for fuel to run their portable generators.
One such person benefiting from new free connections is Manob is trade store owner George Nima.
George’s was the first household connected in Bougainville and for the project. He is now selling cold soft drinks and ice blocks for the villagers at his trade store.
“When I saw PPL constructing the power lines, I bought a fridge and a freezer in anticipation of getting connected to the power supply,” said George.
George’s business is booming and is attracting a lot of happy customers who turn up to buy cold drinks and ice cream. George’s next plan is to expand his business to selling freezer goods.
Sorom Primary School Head Teacher Talania Joseph said that with the electricity supply, the school will now be able to cut down on its costs of operating the school’s portable diesel generator and also input more school lessons that will improve student learning.
“It will definitely enhance the teaching and learning skills of the teachers and students and I look forward to utilising the electricity services provided by this project,” said Joseph.
Local villager Brenda Wanes says with the access to electricity services, women will now limit the need to chop firewood for cooking.
She said that women no longer have to look for firewood to cook and is slowly changing their way of living.
“We will now be able to prepare family meals using some basic electrical appliances. We can boil water for drinking tea on electrical jugs and use rice cookers and deep fryers to prepare meals,” said Brenda.
Manob Chief Alphonse Hareke is happy that the project is now benefiting the locals.
“It’s been years and it’s been a long time coming. It is finally here and we are very happy and privileged to be benefiting from this.
“Thank you to the Asian Development Bank, the New Zealand Government and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction,” said Chief Hareke.
The Improved Energy Access for Rural Communities project runs in parallel with the Town Electrification Investment Program (TEIP) and is funded through a US$7 million (K21.5m) grant by the New Zealand Government and US$2.5 million (K7.6m) by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction. A total of US$9.5 million (K29 million). The funding will enable and further expand the access of rural communities along the transmission and distribution lines at three main TEIP project sites.
PPL is implementing the TEIP under a loan provided by the Asian Development Bank and this project will increase the supply of clean hydropower energy in Northern, West New Britain, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The project will replace high-cost diesel generation with low-cost hydropower generation and construct transmission lines along main population corridors to connect the hydropower sites to the main urban areas, substantially reducing costs required to connect rural communities along the alignment.
The funding will enable PPL to connect approximately 5,000 households, 20 schools and 20 medical facilities to the electricity grid.
The three projects sites under the TEIP are the Ramazon Hydropower Project in Bougainville, the Divune Hydropower Project in Northern and the Kimbe-Bialla Transmission Lines project in West New Britain.
Twenty households in Kakandetta, Asonato, Kohogo and Toputuru in Northern have been connected and many more along the highway to Divune and Kokoda town to be linked as well. In West New Britain, 48 households at the Buvussi Station have been connected.
All household connections are continuing at the three project sites and are expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The writer is Team Leader Corporate Relations, PNG Power Ltd.

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