Govt pledges more support to renewable energy initiatives

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Mobisol's Maier (left) explains how the solar unit works as MTN boss Asante (right) and other officials look on. The firm celebrated its 1,000th installation on Wednesday. (Michel Nkurunziza)

Government will continue supporting initiatives that promote rural electrification and renewable energy in particular to ensure Rwandans access affordable power, Jules Ndenga, the in charge of planning and policy at the Ministry of Infrastructure, has said.

Ndenga added that renewable energy sources like solar power are ideal for rural households, saying they are affordable and easy to install.

“Off grid electricity, including solar power and other renewable energy sources, ease pressure on the national hydropower grid, and support government’s efforts to ensure rural households access electricity as per the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) objectives,” Ndenga said.

He was speaking during an event to mark German solar power firm Mobisol’s 1,000th home solar system unit installation at Abajambo Orphanage in Nyamata sector, Bugesera District on Wednesday. Mobisol in conjunction with MTN donated the facility to the orphanage.

Ngenda said the government targets to increase installed solar energy capacity by 10MW under the EDPRS II programme compared to 8.5MW presently. Rwanda currently generates about 110MW of hydropower and targets to increase this to 563MW by 2017, mainly from hydro, peat, methane, geothermal and solar.

Only 18 per cent of the population in Rwanda has access to electricity, which government plans to push to 70 per cent by 2018.

Speaking at the event, Ebenezer Asante, the MTN chief executive officer, said electricity empowers communities to engage in economic activities, leading to improved welfare and growth.

Klaus Maier, the Mobisol project manager, said they donated the 1000th solar unit to the Abajambo Orphanage to improve the living conditions of the facility “in the most energy efficient way”.  Adding that it was a way of expressing their appreciation “after installing 999 home solar systems in Rwanda”. 

The orphanage is run by Catholic nuns and is home to 36 children. The 200-watt system that has 29 lights will be huge relief to the rural-based orphanage.

The firm provides solar units through micro-finance scheme, where rural buyers pay in affordable installments via MTN Mobile Money.

Jean Bosco Masumbuka, one of the firm’s clients, said solar power has eased his business operations.

“I can now open my business till late, charge my phone at home instead of walking about four kilometres to Nyamata town to have it recharged,” Masumbuka said.

“My children can also now revise and do the homework safely.”

Officials at the orphanage said it has been hard to care for the orphans in darkness as Nyamata experiences power outages frequently.