8.3 Qualification and motivation of the operator
Apart from very small plants (2-3 kW electric), even the private
owner will not do all the work himself. Commercial units and, of course, the
communal plants always are run by an operator, who is responsible for the fuel
supply, starting of the plant, maintenance work and repair. The work load of the
operator can vary considerably and depends on the size and the reliability of
A well designed gasifier should not need much care during
routine operation: Just to fill in the fuel, ignite it, and- after 10 minutes of
primary air supply by ventilation - start the engine. Once a week some cleaning
and once a month a checking-that should be enough.
But energy supply and consumption means much more. In fact,
especially village electrification is a very complex scheme, with the gasifier,
fuel preparation, combustion engine, electric generator, local electric grid,
and consumer instruments. Often it is not the gasifier, which causes trouble,
but the electric system (generator, cables, insulation, switches, electric
equipment) which may have a defect difficult to identify. The more complex the
system, the more qualification is needed. A good operator is a real technical
expert in his environment and deserves recognition.
A basic technical knowledge of the required level cannot be
expected in rural areas where technical infrastructure is virtually absent, it
has to be built up with patience. Very often, it is not enough to train the
operator in the handling of the gasifier in a training course. In the every-day
practice he must know much more, and he is not able to learn it all in just one
introductory course. He needs continuous advice for an extended period until he
has got the necessary experience. Therefore the introduction of any technical
equipment -not only gasifiers-has to be integrated into projects of rural
development, where regular visits of the concerned villages are established.
This regular backstopping was not always sufficient in the existing projects and
the results were rather frequent standstills of the plants until the problem was
identified and solved.
Even a high skilled operator is not motivated to care
intensively for a gasifier which is obviously badly designed. Especially the
skilled operator will be fascinated by a smoothly running plant and will be
motivated to keep the system alive, if it is worth the effort. There is no way
to deliver a badly designed equipment and hope for skill and motivation.
In common practice, the operator has a lot of responsibility,
but usually very little remuneration. It is often assumed that the operation of
a gasifier is something which can be done by a member of the community on a more
or less voluntary basis. This is not realistic. The qualification and
responsibility of the operator deserves adequate financial compensation.
Principally, this is accepted by the village communities: They use to collect
money for electricity supply. But electric light is not first priority. Light in
the houses, radio, television - that makes life more convenient, but is a luxury
that costs money. If they are in financial trouble (which happens very often),
they don't pay the operator. If they don't pay, the operator is frustrated and
will not do his work properly. This results in irregular electricity supply and
angry reactions of the users. A conflict is