SOME 200 villagers from two longhouses in Batang Ai now enjoy 24-hour power supply after being equipped with solar home system (SHS) sets by Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB).
The sets, which have been installed at each household in Rumah Kino and Rumah Manggat, comprise eight ceiling lights and four sockets to power electrical appliances like fans, stereos and televisions.
This is made possible under SEB’s corporate social responsibility initiative to provide renewable energy to both longhouses, which are located away from the main power grid.
SEB research and development general manager Dr Chen Shiun said the initiative complemented the government’s rural electrification programme to provide basic electricity requirements to all rural households by 2020.
“The SHS provides a viable interim measure until a more permanent solution such as grid connection can be implemented.
“Although this is an interim solution for these longhouses, it shows how committed we are in making sure every household has a continuous supply of electricity,” he said.
Rumah Kino and Rumah Manggat are not connected to the main power grid due to their remote location. Both longhouses are only accessibly by boat across the Batang Ai reservoir, a journey of 45 minutes to Rumah Manggat and one-and-a-half hours to Rumah Kino.
In addition, connecting both longhouses to the main power grid will take years and may not be viable given their small population. As such, solar power is the best alternative for the villagers at Rumah Kino and Rumah Manggat for now.
SEB worked closely with the villagers to develop the initiative, starting with a series of stakeholder dialogues to determine the project’s feasibility before implementation began last November.
Once the project go-ahead was given, the villagers assisted SEB’s research and development team to make sure the implementation ran smoothly.
They joined hands in gotong royong to transport the equipment from Batang Ai jetty to the longhouses.
After rigorous testing of the solar sets, the villagers were briefed on how to operate and maintain the equipment. SEB continues to provide technical support to the longhouses.
Rumah Manggat headman Manggat Meringai said the villagers could now turn on their lights and use electrical appliances anytime in the day.
“Prior to this, each family had to have a generator set and spend an average of RM80 per month on diesel fuel. If they use a petrol generator set, then they will need to spend more than RM100 per month. With the generator, lights are turned on only between 6.30pm to 10pm.
“On festive occasions like Gawai Dayak and weddings, the generator set will run until midnight or the wee hours of the morning. We also provide homestay to tourists so having continuous power supply helps a lot,” the 58-year-old farmer said.
At Rumah Kino, farmer William Indap, 46, said the longhouse had a 15kW diesel generator which ran from 7pm to 10pm four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
“The installation of the system and internal wiring was done properly by contractors. I am happy with the savings I get by not running the generator.
“With the solar system, the children can watch television during the day and there is no need to use a torchlight during the early morning or late at night. It has made life more convenient for us all,” the father of two said.