A just concluded three-year pilot project has shown that solar power can be an affordable and sustainable alternative energy source for the people of Timor-Leste, according to a senior United Nations official heading up the programme.
The solar project, just one of many initiatives carried out by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affair (UNDESA) in the tiny South East Asian nation, aimed to help rural communities harness the potential of this alternative energy source.
Under the pilot programme, carried out in communities on Atauro Island and in Aleiu District, community members agreed to pay $1.80 per month for the use of solar lanterns.
It is estimated that communities on Atauro using the lanterns have saved over $1,800, and now other communities have also expressed interest in using the lanterns.
“This pilot project has shown that solar can become a real energy option for rural communities. With proper support, communities have the potential to manage their energy needs in an affordable and sustainable way,” said UNDESA Chief Sarina Kilham. “However, the key is ongoing support.”
UNDESA’s Renewable Energy Officer Paulo de Silva agreed, noting that finding solutions to the country’s energy needs is critical to development.
“The way in which Timor-Leste attempts to meet the energy needs of its growing population will determine how quickly and sustainably the country can develop,” he stated. “It is critical that the Government continue to support alternative energy supplies. We have already seen that with the proper support, solar power does work.”
In addition to the solar project, UNDESA has also been working to help the Government strengthen management of water and renewable energy services at the community level.
The community water management project involves working with communities to establish and support sustainable water supply systems, including providing infrastructure in some areas.
Oscar de Silva, UNDESA’s Community Development Officer, stressed the importance of community participation in water management projects.
“Water management will not work without full community ownership of the water facilities. But communities also need adequate support to implement, maintain and manage them,” he noted.