Rwanda: Rural Communities to Get Solar Power

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Rural communities that do not have access to the national power grid could soon be able to acquire cheap power sources, thanks to a new GIZ project.

The Energising development of Rwanda through result based financing for renewable energy programme, which is looking to provide solar energy to over 1.7 million people in the rural areas. The German Development Co-operation (GIZ) project will soon start giving incentives to private sector players to install solar energy panels, build pico hydro power plants and rehabilitate micro-hydro power plants that are in poor condition across the country.

Under the project that will be rolled out early next year, investors in renewable energy will get incentives to operate and manage village grids to ensure that rural communities access power.

“Only those who will have invested in renewable energy will benefit. The idea is to encourage the private sector to take on the role of rural electrification, especially in remote areas that have no accesses to the national grid,” Benjamin Attigah, the GIZ Energising Development programme manager, said.

Attigah said the project will make it easy for poor people in rural areas to get power. Over 350,000 solar lanterns will be sold with the support of this project, Attigah noted.

“The development of appropriate business models in the solar business will also accelerate the roll out of renewable technologies in Rwanda,” he argued.

Accessing solar power will enable people save up to about Rwf60,000 per year through reduced expenditure on lighting and phone charging.

“We are also looking at an economy that can benefit from a strong private sector, as well as benefiting from a significant reduction of kerosene imports.”

Gaspard Nkurikiyumukiza, the principal engineer at the Energy Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA), said the Government is currently setting up rural settlement electrification models which the private sector and non-governmental organisations can benefit from.

“We are working together with the private sector and our international partners, including GIZ to ensure that we tap from the potential of solar energy.”

Less than 16 per cent of the population has access to electricity, but in rural areas it is about 2 per cent. Government wants to have at least 48 per cent of the population accessing electricity by 2017.

Early this year the World Bank approved $60m in additional financing for the extension of electricity to Rwandan schools, health centres, hospitals and other public facilities. Access to electricity has been identified as one of the pillars in realisation of middle income status by 2020, where the income per capita will have hit $1,200.

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