Clean off-grid power solutions for remote villages in Sabah can lead to low-carbon economies: NGO

KOTA KINABALU: Clean off-grid solutions used to power hard-to-reach villages in Sabah should be considered so that those communities can maintain their own supply and develop low-carbon economies, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) suggests.

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) said in a statement on Wednesday (Dec 1) that while most villages in the state are connected to the main grid, the connections lacked stability because of their remote locations.

“It is this same factor that has made regular maintenance of power lines a challenge.

“To connect these lower-income households to reliable energy – stable round-the-clock electricity – clean off-grid solutions are essential to consider to grow and sustain indigenous livelihoods.

“It will not only shift dependencies away from the financial and environmental impacts of fossil fuels, but also enable these rural communities to manage and maintain their own energy supply without outside support.

“This makes room for them to generate more income and develop their village economies, no longer needing to look outside to sustain themselves,” it suggested.

The NGO added that the multi-stakeholder initiative Sabah Renewable Energy Rural Electrification (RE2) Roadmap would support rural communities in designing and implementing community-managed solar and micro-hydro grids in their villages. One example is Kampung Sabibingkol in Pensiangan district, which has been powered by a hybrid micro-hydro/solar grid since 2017, allowing youths there to continue with their studies at night, among other benefits.

Sharing the Sabah RE2 Roadmap research discovery that Sabah is currently home to 72% of "unelectrified rural Malaysians", LEAP said it makes sense with eight of the 10 poorest districts in the country located in the state namely Tongod, Pitas, Kota Marudu, Beluran, Kudat, Nabawan, Telupid and Kota Belud.

The lack of basic amenities like power supply and road access in Sabah’s remote regions made income opportunities scarce there, leading to the younger generation leaving home in search of work and driving local economies further down.

At present, most interior villages in Sabah also rely on diesel generators for power, which can pose a heavy financial burden to its users who can only afford to use the generator for a few hours a day, not to mention the transportation cost of the fuel.

LEAP said the Sabah RE2 Roadmap initiative aspires to see renewable energy mini-grids for at least half of the state’s un-electrified remote villages by 2027 and it can be achieved through strong political and societal will.

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