Saving Lives with Reliable Electricity in Samoa

Feature | 8 July 2014

An expanded and improved power supply has increased investment and improved public services.

For years, electricity in many parts of Samoa - particularly in the countryside - has been problematic. Long blackouts and voltage fluctuations damaged appliances. The supply of electricity was unreliable as well as unaffordable for many.

In recent years, the situation has improved. The power is on longer, rates have come down, and voltage is more consistent.

Sosefina Taulauta, a 37-year-old health worker, has seen a dramatic improvement in the power supply to the National Health Service hospital on the main island of Upolu. This has benefited the public at large, including her 8-year-old twin daughters, Kathryn and Katrina.

"Their health has improved because the facility has better power supply," she said. "After visiting the doctor, their health gets better and this means they are active in education, church, and the village. I believe they have a promising future."

Sustainable energy supply

The improvements are the result of the Power Sector Expansion Project, approved in 2007 and supported by ADB with cofinancing from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Government of Australia. "The project sought to help the Government of Samoa develop an effective energy policy and provide sustainable and reliable electricity services at affordable prices to all consumers," says Jude Kohlhase, an infrastructure specialist at ADB. It was designed to improve power reliability and upgrade the transmission and generation of power.

"The project sought to help the Government of Samoa develop an effective energy policy and provide sustainable and reliable electricity services at affordable prices to all consumers."

- Jude Kohlhase, an infrastructure specialist at ADB

The project was undertaken to address long-standing problems with electricity supply in Samoa. Due to unreliable electricity in the country, many consumers had resorted to generating their own electricity at high cost. Some investors had avoided the country because of the poor access to electricity.

The government recognized that a reliable power supply is essential for enhancing the quality of life of people in Samoa. Affordable and reliable electricity services are also vital for promoting investment to grow the economy and create jobs to reduce poverty.

The project also sought to reduce Samoa's reliance on imported fuels by promoting clean, indigenous, and renewable energy resources. The country remains dependent on expensive imported fuels and is vulnerable to global price increases.

Vital health care facilities

One aspect of the project sought to improve the supply of electricity to hospitals, clinics, and other vital health care facilities. This involved the expansion of the national hospital power supply on the main island of Upolu. The project also put electricity transmission wires underground to avoid disruption caused by storms and disasters.

The project has helped the government and private power providers to deliver sustainable, reliable electricity services to consumers in Samoa, with a particular focus on the poor. This has improved the quality of life for many people in Samoa and improved basic social services, such as health care, education, and water supply.

Investing in the power sector

Samoa's Electric Power Corporation is now operating more efficiently. Its financial performance has also improved, which means that it will be able to provide reliable power for a longer period of time. The corporation is also increasing investment in power plants that will help meet future demand.

The laws that govern the power sector have been streamlined and improved to encourage private investment, which is needed to keep electricity service dependable and sustainable.

Tupai Mau Simanu, a project engineer with Electric Power Corporation, noted that power outages were more than an inconvenience at hospitals in Samoa. They endangered lives.

"It is because of the project that we were able to improve the reliability of electricity for the national hospital," he said. "This has had a direct impact on improving health care services."

For more articles like this, read Together We Deliver, a publication highlighting successful ADB projects across Asia and the Pacific that demonstrated development impacts, best practice, and innovation.