An Australian project bringing solar power to remote villages in Papua New Guinea is transforming children’s and villagers’ lives.
The Light for Learning project installs small scale solar units into households and community buildings, providing reliable, clean solar lighting and power -– improving lives and livelihoods. Replacing fires and kerosene lamps, it enables studying and other activities at night.
The Schneider Electric Foundation has partnered with the Kokoda Track Foundation to support Light
for Learning – which also trains locals to maintain the technology and build small businesses –
supported by a consortium of donors.
Light for Learning is delivered through the Pawarim Komuniti grant program, funded by the PNG-Australia Partnership as part of Australia’s commitment under the PNG Electrification Partnership to help PNG meet its electrification targets.
In the villages of PNG’s Tufi region, locals previously relied on firelight and kerosene lamps at night, hampering lives, businesses, and study. (See accompanying video.)
Locals say the new solar units and the light they bring have changed their lives, with children able to study into the night, small businesses growing, and a sense of safety and security in the evenings.
“More than 80% of PNG’s population is without access to electricity, which is crucial for human wellbeing and socioeconomic development,” said Tam Johnston, head of the Schneider Electric Foundation.
“Schneider Electric believes efficient and sustainable energy must be accessible to all and supports projects globally to advance this goal.”
“Solar lighting and energy technology present a significant opportunity to provide clean, sustainable and affordable lighting solutions, making a real difference to these off-grid communities. It also demonstrates how remote regions can develop and join the energy transition.”
“We are delighted to support the inspiring work of the Kokoda Track Foundation and see such a significant impact in these villages.”
“Light for Learning is simply life-changing for people living in remote communities in PNG,” said Dr Genevieve Nelson, CEO of the Kokoda Track Foundation.
“The implications are far-reaching: in addition to study and business improvements, toxic fumes and smoke are removed from households, women and girls feel safer moving around the village after dark, and households save the money they spent on fuel sources,” Dr Nelson said.
“Data shows that solar units are life-changing for recipients. Parents report a 246% increase in the time children spent on homework after dark and therefore a consequent positive impact on academic results.”
Under the project, households receive a home solar unit that has three lights and USB charging capability for phones, radios, and other small devices. Community facilities (schools, aid posts, community hall, churches, etc) receive a larger unit capable of lighting and powering a television.
The project also creates small business opportunities by establishing groups of ‘solar champions’ in each village. Women and men from the community are trained in solar installation and maintenance, and empowered to operate micro-enterprises in their area.
So far, the Schneider Electric Foundation has helped the Kokoda Track Foundation install solar and lighting systems in 537 households and schools, aid posts and community buildings in seven villages, and trained 56 women and men as Solar Champions.
Light for Learning is a KTF project funded and supported by a consortium of donors and partners including the Australian Government’s Pawarim Komuniti initiative, Schneider Electric Foundation, PNG Sustainable Development Program, Puma Energy Foundation, and Little Hearts Learning.
This consortium together funded the installation of more than 6,000 solar systems across PNG’s Western and Oro Provinces; connecting and illuminating the educational journeys of hundreds of students and improving lives of thousands of families across remote and rural PNG.