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Power to the poor

Aug 13, 2007 - New Straits Times

THERE is a noticeable link between the provision of power and the incidence of poverty.

When electricity illuminates homes, schools and clinics, pumps water and powers machines, it lights up lives, brightens prospects and radiates hope for the future by kindling learning, opening up communications, unlocking income-generating activities and driving up living standards. This is why access to electricity has been recognised as a key tool against poverty and why investments in rural electrification has been a major feature of poverty eradication plans.

However, there are challenges in providing power to isolated rural communities where the majority of the country’s hard-core poor population live. The major constraint in hooking them up to the electricity grid has been the remoteness of the locations and the scattered nature of the settlement patterns.

This is why the idea of generating power through a hybrid solar power plant under the Mega Rural Quantum Leap Development Plan on Pulau Banggi in Sabah is a step in the right direction towards bringing electricity to poor rural households.

This project is a good example of the part that solar energy can play in sustainable development in this country. As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi rightly said, harnessing the abundance of sun, wind and water that we have to generate electricity will open up the rural areas to development and help to alleviate poverty.

Given their isolation, solar technology, wind turbines and other renewable energy schemes are often the only realistic options since the prospects of grid-supplied electricity seem distant.

In addition, as the prime minister pointed out, these alternative sources are more cost-effective than conventional fossil-fired plants.

Moreover, not only do they obviate the need to invest in capital-intensive infrastructure and meet economic and social needs, such renewable energy sources also meet the criteria for sustainable development.

The ability to generate emission-free power while improving rural lives makes them a good power source. In this context, it follows that we should be doing more in incorporating environmentally-friendly renewable energy in meeting all our power needs, and not just those in the remote rural areas.

As it is, despite the fact that opportunities exist for considerably increased use of clean energy such as solar, wind and biomass, their contributions to our energy supply is still quite negligible.

Given that the dangers of global warming and climate change are real, we should be making more intelligent use of solar, wind and water power.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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