VANUATU HYDRO-ELECTRIC PROJECT EXPANDING SERVICES

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (June 21, 1998 - PACNEWS)---The Vanuatu Hydro-Power Project's technical committee has authorized over 33 million vatu ($US 246,000) to be spent at the Sarakata Hydro-Power plant this year to permit further electrification of the town of Luganville on Espiritu Santo Island.

Part of the fund will be used to extend the project's low voltage transmission lines and connect 40 houses in the town at a total cost of 2.4 million vatu ($US 178,000).

The project also will include the transmission of electricity to the rural village of Fanafo, 17 kilometers (10.2 miles) north-west of Luganville at a total cost of 2.1 million vatu ($US 155,800).

Hydro-Power Officer at the Department of Energy, Nathaniel Bue, says negotiations have also started on the possibility of using some of the available funds to extend the project to Matevulu College, a government school, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside Luganville.

The Sarakata Hydro-Power plant now earns an annual net profit of about 58 million vatu ($US 433,000), an increase from about 16 million vatu ($US 119,000) in profit in 1995, its first year of operation.

The Vanuatu government pays the French dominated electricity authority, UNELCO, 20 million vatu ($US 148,400) annually to operate the plant.

Ten million vatu ($US 74,206) from the project's gross profit is paid annually into the Sarakata Renewal Fund (SRF) to meet maintenance cost of the hydro-power plant.

Last year 7.4 million vatu ($US 54,000) was used to provide electricity to 119 houses in Luganville.

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