Two milestones on the way to improved electricity in Papua New Guinea due this month


Two new milestones on the way to boosting electricity access to 70 per cent of Papua New Guineans households are due this month. Business Advantage PNG speaks with Roberto Aiello, Senior Energy Specialist with the World Bank, which is supporting the PNG government with its energy development plans.

Hydropower accounts for around 45% of all PNG electricity generation. Credit: PNG Tourism Promotion Authority

Hydropower accounts for around 45% of all PNG electricity generation. Credit: PNG Tourism Promotion Authority

Under the PNG government’s Vision 2050 Development Strategic Plan, the government wants to increase electricity access from the current 13% to 70% of households by 2030.

According to the Asian Development Bank, PNG currently has power generation capacity of around 580MW, but will need an estimated 2000MW of installed capacity by 2030 to keep pace with government targets.

The World bank's Roberto Aiello

The World Bank’s Roberto Aiello

‘This is very challenging, very ambitious,’ Aiello told Business Advantage PNG, ‘but a lot can be done over the next decade, if we get the foundations right. If we get the plan properly done, costed, agreed upon by all stakeholders, then the roll out of that plan is going to be a lot easier.

‘I think it is possible.’

He said two positive milestones due this month will help.

Geospatial study

The first is the launch of a geospatial study, he says, which will look at where electricity demand will be across the country, analysing the best available technologies for the individual locations and prepare the roll out, as well as put that analysis into an investment prospectus, which will provide the costing to build those power stations, as well as grid, off-grid and pre-electrification projects.

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‘The government is currently finalising a contract with a firm which will carry out the study to start very soon.’

He said the data will take four to five months to collate and that data will form the basis of PNG’s investment plan for power generation.

Naoro Brown hydro ‘good’

The second piece of good news, he says, is that the feasibility study for the 80MW Naoro Brown hydropower project to supply the Port Moresby grid, will be completed this month.

‘The original feasibility study for the hydro dam was suspended after leakage was spotted at the site in 2011. So, the IPBC [Independent Public Business Corporation] hired a company to undertake additional drilling and grout trials to verify the geotechnical solutions for performance of the dam.

‘We (the World Bank) financed a firm to manage the works and finalise the feasibility study, and the good news is that this dam site is good.

‘PNG Power will soon be in a position to advertise for a developer to build the Naoro Brown hydro-power project.’

Resource map for wind power

Aiello expects PNG to use a variety of energy sources to boost electricity access, including gas, hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar, as well as existing sources such as diesel, depending on the location, technical viability, economics, and engagement with the local people.

‘Any commercial enterprise wanting to install a wind farm will not need to repeat this study at industry standard. This information will be publicly available to them.’

‘With wind, we are doing a resource map to look at the hotspots and we are talking to landowners to put some wind measuring masts at eight-to-nine sites.

‘So, in two years’ time, PNG will have ground measurements of wind speed, and parameters at commercial standards.

‘That means that any commercial enterprise wanting to install a wind farm will not need to repeat this study at industry standard. This information will be publicly available to them.’

Privatisation of PNG Power

So, how important is a partial-privatisation of PNG Power to achieving the 70% target?

‘I would put the answer this way. I think if you want to lift power output to 70% then you will need a very strong utility, or a number of suppliers (grid and off-grid). You need strong providers of the service, regardless of ownership,’ says Aiello.

‘But a publicly-owned enterprise can benefit from the skills of the private sector in operating some technologies. For example, the country’s first wind farm. You need to have some capacity in knowing how to run a wind farm to its maximum capacity so it might be better to do it hand-in-hand with a private sector company in the form of a PPP [public-private partnership].

‘The other aspect is financing. Does PNG Power have enough finance to build its own plants in all cases? If not, the option would be to have someone else do it, and you buy the electrons from what we call independent power producers.’

Clean technologies

While the World Bank favours renewable energies, Aiello acknowledges that coal may have a place in range of energy sources in some specific cases.

‘PNG has very good other sources and I would encourage PNG to look at other cleaner and more sustainable sources. But that is a sovereign decision.

‘We support clean technologies. When it comes to financing, if it’s properly justified and if there is no other available option—which isn’t the case in PNG—then we could consider financing coal.’

Roberto Aiello will be presenting on Papua New Guinea’s National Electrification Roll out Plan at the 2015 Papua New Guinea Advantage Investment Summit, to be held in Brisbane on 27 and 28 August.


  1. The opportunity to utilise indigenous and inexhaustible Renewable Energy Resources especially when it is applied to local community development is becoming more important in PNG’s national energy development goals. The progress of rural electrification in PNG is inherently problematic because of its archipelagic geography. The major electricity grid is owned and operated by the national electric company, PNG Power Limited (PPL). A large number of isolated local grids cannot economically reach many rural areas.
    Many rural districts are not aware of the opportunities and advantages of microhydro resources such as Run-of-river (in-current) Hydrokinetic energy recovery in their areas.
    National policy and program encouraging microhydro application such as In-current Hydrokinetic Energy Recovery have not reached local units.
    Located in the tropics, and straddling the equator, PNG is fortunately endowed with abundant natural renewable energy resources.

  2. Wayangs says

    This is a great news for PNG from the World Bank. PNG has a billion potential to tap into such as hydro, windmill, coal etc. but the goverment has not put in money into Research and Development to be innovative and proactive to find such solutions […] PNG is blessed with most of the resources to produce electricity and therefore, alternatives can be easily sourced. However, the people of PNG continue to suffer expensive electricity tarriffs and to cover for the missmanagement, fraud and expensive lawyers costs at PNG Power Ltd […] May God bless you for reading and bless our leaders to make right decisions.

  3. 70% electrification to all PNG households is very achievable yet challenging. But that challenge is now not as great as it was 5years ago. Because we now have the opportunity to harness the very clean and reliable energy source through Natural Gas. Power Turbines that convert Natural Gas to electricity are now made with technology that equip them the ability to control emissions and increase power output at the same time.
    The best part is that a great mix of young and also very experienced Papua New Guineans are operating and maintaining this equipments and the processes and gaining more experience as the years go on.
    We have the recourses and the right skill set right in our backyard.

    Industrial Sparky.

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