In the early 2000s, less than 10 percent of the population in Papua New Guinea (PNG) had access to electricity. Recently, the PNG government announced an ambitious target to accelerate progress: 70 percent of its people will have access to reliable electricity by 2030. Turning on the lights in homes and businesses will undoubtedly improve living standards and drive economic growth across the country.
The U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is helping achieve this goal through its USAID Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership (USAID-PEP) Activity (2020-2025). As lead implementer on the project, RTI International works in partnership with the PNG government to increase access to affordable and reliable electricity as an important part of advancing inclusive growth, development, and empowerment in communities throughout the country. Our work to improve the financial viability and operational efficiency of PNG’s energy utility, enhance the regulator and regulatory environment, develop and advance off-grid connections in remote communities, and catalyze private sector investment will facilitate at least 200,000 new on- and off-grid household electricity connections and institutionalize key reforms that will enable PNG to achieve its 70 percent target.
Improving financial viability and operational efficiency of the country’s electricity provider
USAID-PEP is helping the country’s energy utility, PNG Power Limited (PPL), become a strong institution that can provide reliable energy, effective customer service, and a wide range of electricity connections. Through various internal capacity-building activities, the program supports PPL to reduce system and commercial losses, increase revenues, and develop more on- and off-grid connections. Other high-impact strategic tasks to improve operations include fuel switching of existing generation plants, extension and densification of on-grid connections, and reducing aggregate technical, commercial, and collection (ATC&C) losses. With improved financial viability, PPL can enhance private sector partnerships and take on more capital investments.
Developing viable off-grid electrification models
Despite challenges, the off-grid market in PNG is at an exciting crossroads; advances are being made in solar lanterns, small solar systems, and mini-grids. USAID-PEP is developing viable off-grid electrification models that will provide electricity to remote communities. For example, we are helping move the emerging mini-grid sector to market-based development, supporting SHS companies to increase access through Tier 1 or higher quality-verified products and supporting the development of off-grid regulations and standards.
Improving PNG’s energy regulator
PNG recently established a regulatory body for the electricity sector, the National Energy Authority (NEA), to oversee the improvement and implementation of energy regulations in the country. Our technical assistance will help the NEA develop and implement stakeholder-informed rules, guidelines, and standards, including for off-grid electrification. This support will create a stronger enabling environment and facilitate private sector investment.
Catalyzing private investments
To generate private investment for key energy projects, we help develop a pipeline of bankable projects, provide transaction advisory support, and collaborate with financial institutions on energy project opportunities. Our efforts to increase private sector engagement in the PNG energy sector is geared towards strengthening sustainability and self-reliance—all partnerships built as part of USAID-PEP establish and support the shared targets and interests of PNG partners and the private sector.
The USAID-PEP Activity is expected to run through October 2025. We are proud to support the U.S. government in this important partnership bringing electricity and inclusive development to the people of Papua New Guinea.