The National, Thursday 24th November 2011
By GABRIEL FITO
Rural electrification is much talked about by the government but little is being done and energy poverty will remain an unresolved development agenda, an engineer says.
Thompson Benguma, the engineer behind the promotion of jatropha in the country said the situation could change if and when the rural population planted and cultivated jatropha in the villages.
Benguma said villages in India, Pakistan and Africa already had electricity supplies from using jatropha.
He said to provide a village with electricity, all the people needed to do was grow jatropha and then contribute a bag of seeds each month as payment for supply of electricity to their respective houses.
The seeds would be pressed for oil in an expeller and used as fuel to generate electricity for the village.
Benguma said he could supply each village with a 14.5kva power generator, a jatropha oil expeller machine and a filter press – all that was needed to generate electricity in a village.
He is inviting MPs and their respective joint district planning and budget priority committees to talk to him if they wished to establish village electrification projects in their respective districts because the arrangement with PNG Power to extend its services to rural areas “is economically not viable considering the unit price of electricity”.
He said other alternative methods like mini-hydro and solar were not feasible when compared to jatropha, which could be grown to address many development issues, including poverty alleviation.
“When village people have electricity cheaply to their houses, living standards will naturally go up,” he said.
“It means they can now have things like generator, washing machine, fans and even air conditioning. They can now cook with rice cookers and even iron their clothes,” Benguma said.
He said jatropha fuel would be used by motor vehicles and boats by installing a conversion on the engine compartment to allow petrol and diesel engines to run on a dual fuel system.
He said such a system could fetch greater profit for PMVs while the government could run its fleet of vehicles on jatropha to help police maintain law and order while
ambulances could transport sick people to hospitals without having to worry about fuel.