According to a northern civil society group, remote villages in the North do not want “big” projects to light up their homes, they need just enough power to raise the quality of life of villagers accustomed to living a subsistence existence.
Sakda Jongkaewwattana, from the Chiang Mai-based Research and Development for Quality of Life Foundation, said there are many villages with no electricity in the northern region including Chiang Mai and Tak.
But this does not necessarily mean villagers want electricity so they can use appliances such as refrigerators and televisions to add convenience and colour to their lives, he said.
Villagers who depend largely on nature only need light for certain activities like reading for their kids and teaching for teachers, Mr Jongkaewwattana said.
Mr Jongkaewwattana, as a community developer, was speaking after YouTube celebrity Pimradaporn Benjawattanapat, known as Pimrypie, came to help out Ban Mae Kerb village in Chiang Mai’s Omkoi district.
Her video clip saying she spent 500,000 baht in the community development projects at the village last week went viral.
However, she came under fire for “seeking attention” after she donated the money to finance the projects to improve the livelihood of children in the mountains of Chiang Mai province, which included the installation of solar cell panels in the village.
Mr Jongkaewwattana said his foundation is also among organisations to have visited Ban Mae Kerb after learning they lacked electricity. Solar panels were later installed in their village.
Mr Jongkaewwattana disagreed with the arrival of urban living which may bring debt and other social problems.
But one benefit villagers will get from an electricity supply is less risk of fire accidents. His foundation once helped villagers put out a fire caused by a candle a family lit at night, Mr Jongkaewwattana recalled.
Preventing these avoidable incidents and enabling some activities that need electricity is enough for them, he said.
Mr Jongkaewwattana said state agencies have plans to help villages like Ban Mae Kerb under an energy fund, but they tend to “think big” to install costly solar panels, often with electricity voltage of 220 Volts.
But according to his research, 12 volts is enough for villagers to do their daily routines, Mr Jongkaewwattana said, who is a retired associate professor at Chiang Mai University.
“That’s why I can spend my own money installing a solar panel for a family. It only cost around 1,000 baht,” he said.