Reprinted from Good Return’s blog. See the original here.
Like 60% of Kalimantan, the village of Ansok is not connected to subsidised government electricity.
Those that can afford it have a personal generator. And in fuel costs alone, they pay around 25 times as much as they would if the network reached them – for only 3-4 hours of light every night.
For the rest, there is the “pilitah,” or kerosene lantern. The consumers that use this light pay the same in kerosene costs as a family just a few hours away pays for full electricity access – with lights and television for as many hours as they’d like.
This massive disparity in prices in not unusual in serving the poor. In C.K. Prahalad’s book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (2005), he surveys prices paid by slum dwellers in Mumbai compared to the middle class and “finds the poor paying considerably more for basics like water, phone calls, diarrhea medicine and rice.” *
Here in Ansok they decided to do something about it.
They knew of a hydropower company on another island, who had installed a system in their district back in the 90s. The only barrier was capital – and this is where Keling Kumang, Good Return’s new Indonesian partner, stepped in.
They formed groups of 20 families and took out a AUD $10,000 loan. Now they each pay just $1 every month to access enough energy for 5 lights and 1 television for each family. They look after routine maintenance themselves, and the company flies in for significant repairs when required – like the day I was in town, when they were replacing some failed circuitry.
I asked the manager, Mr Antong, whether people were happy and whether the loan had been repaid. The answer was clear in the spread of the technology. Another 4 groups of families in the district already have micro hydro systems, and there are another six on the way.
Seeing Ansok made me excited about what is possible – and not just because of the trail biking I got to go on to visit the plant (!!).
Ansok, like Jakarta, reminded me of the Holstee Manifesto: “Life is about the people we meet, and the things we create with them.”
* Quote taken from Portfolios of the Poor (Rutherford et al, 2009)