UNDP and Laos government working together for power grid
The village lies across the Nam Theun reservoir, up to a small river, without any road connection.
"I sometimes I think, if we had electricity, we could power a light bulb. Then my children could study when we arrive back from the field and it's dark already," says Ard Saimanyphong, mother of ten, a villager of Kabong village in Nakai district of Khammouan province.
Kabong is too far away to be connected to the national power grid. The village lies across the Nam Theun reservoir, up to a small river, without any road connection. Only one-third of its 80 houses own home solar power systems. Most of these are only enough to power one light bulb. Shop owners can afford higher capacity systems, but there are only one television set and one refrigerator in the village.
In support of the Lao government's national rural electrification targets, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is looking into possible solutions for providing electricity to Kabong and its neighboring villages. The Ministry of Energy and Mines' Institute of Renewable Energy Promotion is implementing the project, supported by Germany and its International Climate Initiative IKI.
On a recent mission to Kabong, it was determined that the communities would need more reliable and stable power sources than what solar power home systems can supply. The Ministry of Energy and Mines is now looking into whether it's possible to combine solar power with another solution. A mini-hydro plant is in the discussion, generating power from the natural precipitation of a small river behind the village. This way, the power supply would be guaranteed regardless of the weather.
With the provision of electricity, the community health center could ensure better services for patients. "We will be able to do blood testing and properly refrigerate vaccines and medicines. Right now, since we have no means of refrigerated transportation, we can't send samples downstream. Patients have to make their way to the next city to get tested," says Peo, the village nurse.
UNDP and the Ministry are working closely together to find a solution that is both suitable for the needs of the community, and sustainable in its maintenance. One viable path discussed is the creation of village development funds, seed-funded by the community's payments for electricity. This fund will help the villagers to find new income generating activities.