Sarawak Energy Illuminates Two Longhouses in Batang Ai's Interior Through Solar

KUCHING, 24th FEBRUARY 2015, TUESDAY: Some 200 villagers from two longhouses in Batang Ai’s interior are now enjoying continuous 24-hour power supply, benefitting from Sarawak Energy’s continuous quest for sustainable power generation.

Each household at Rumah Kino and Rumah Manggat are now equipped with a Solar Home System (SHS) set comprising eight ceiling lights and four switch socket outlets to power basic electrical appliances like fans, stereos, televisions and more.

This is made possible under Sarawak Energy’s corporate social responsibility initiative to connect both longhouses which are located away from the main power grid to renewable energy alternatives.

Dr Chen Shiun, Sarawak Energy's General Manager for Research and Development, said “This initiative is to complement the government's rural electrification programme, aimed at providing 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.”

Rumah Kino and Rumah Manggat are not connected to the main power grid due to their remoteness. Travelling to both longhouses is only possible via longboat over the Batang Ai reservoir - 45 minutes to Rumah Manggat and 1 hour 30 minutes to Rumah Kino respectively. The journey can become challenging during adverse weather conditions.

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 serves as the best alternative source of power for the folks at Rumah Kino and Rumah Manggat for now.  

Sarawak Energy worked closely with the villagers in developing the initiative, starting with a series of stakeholder dialogues to determine the project’s feasibility for both longhouses before implementation began in November last year.

Once the project go-ahead was given, the villagers assisted the Sarawak Energy’s Research and Development team to make sure the implementation ran smoothly. Since both longhouses are only accessible by boat, the villagers 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. Sarawak Energy continues to provide technical support to the longhouses.

While going solar doesn't cater for appliances requiring higher power like a refrigerator and washing machine, having a constant supply is already making a real difference.

Commenting on the development, Rumah Manggat headman, Manggat Meringai said villagers can now turn on their lights and use electrical appliances anytime of the day.

“Prior to this, each family had to own a generator set and spend on average RM80 per month on diesel fuel. If they use a petrol generator set, then they will need to spend more than RM100 per month. On generator, lights are turned on only between 6.30pm to 10pm.

“On a festive occasion like Gawai Dayak and during a wedding, the generator set will run till midnight or wee hours of the morning. We also provide homestay to tourists so having a continuous supply helps a lot,” said the 58-year-old farmer.

At Rumah Kino, farmer William Indap, 46, said the longhouse had a 15 kilowatt diesel generator which runs 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,” he said.

“Now with the solar system, the children can watch television during the day and there is no need to use torch light during the early morning or late at night. It has made life more convenient for us all!" said the father of two who is also a member of the village security and development committee.

Villagers assisting in transporting the equipment from Batang Ai Jetty to the longhouses.

Solar panels line the rooftop of Rumah Manggat

Solar panels on top of Rumah Kino

The Solar Home System

A technician sets up the Solar Home System in one of the households.

The handing-over dinner after the successful implementation of the solar project at Rumah Kino

Children gather around a laptop that is being powered by solar.

Watching television during the day eversince the Solar Home System’s installation.

An elderly continues her weaving under the light that is powered by solar.