An article by Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post.

The residents of Senamat Ulu village, Bungo regency, Jambi, have been developing renewable sources of energy for the past several years by optimizing the available natural resources in the area.

The energy resources being developed are watermills (PLTKAs) and micro-hydro power plants (PLTMHs) and biogas.

The residents have taken advantage of the abundant water resources from the Batang Senamat River to develop three PLTKAs, each of them managed by a group of villagers made up of 10 household heads.

Although of limited capacity the residents now have access to electricity to light their homes.

Thanks to the swift current of the Batang Senamat River the homes of residents now have access to electricity from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Each of the community members are entitled to three power outlet points in their homes.

“One obstacle is when the river level is low the watermill cannot operate,” said Semanat Ulu Village Representative Council head M. Ali on Monday.

He added that the low river levels were attributable to the condition of the village forest, which is now surrounded by oil palm plantations.

According to him, the massive expansion of oil palm plantations around their village has had a negative impact on the river as the plantations generally absorb huge volumes of water from the river.

“We couldn’t do anything much about this because we have no authority [to prevent oil palm development],” said Ali.

However, the residents still have high hopes for the village forest which they have been managing since 1990.

They insisted that the forest could not be disturbed, as the traditional forest is the source of the swift and clear water that flows into their village.

Consequently, the Bungo regency administration has set aside Rp 1.5 billion (US$130,219) to develop PLTMHs since mid 2013.

According to Ali, the PLTMHs, with a total output of 30,000 watts, have been very beneficial to the residents in obtaining electricity for their homes.

As a consequence, regulations have been drawn up for users. Of the total 160 families in the village, 104 families have now been supplied with power.

Each home is supplied with 250 watts of power and each of the families must pay a monthly fee of
Rp 50,000.

The funds are used for the PLTMH maintenance, to pay four operators and the rest goes to the village coffers.

“Thanks to the PLTMHs, each home can now get electricity to light their homes and power their televisions,” said Ali.

Power usage starts from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m., except on Fridays and Sundays when electricity is available around the clock.

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