Mobisol, EU to light over 49,000 homes

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One of the beneficiary families pose for a photo with their solar panel. (Courtesy)

Mobisol Rwanda, Energy Development Corporation Limited and the European Union have entered a partnership that will see 49,000 households and 1,000 schools get solar energy.

The four-year programme is being implemented by Mobisol in collaboration with the Energy Development Corporation Limited (EDCL), a subsidiary of the Rwanda Energy Group (REG), according to Alex Ruzigura, the Mobisol marketing manager.

Ruzigura said, under the project, the beneficiaries will be able to acquire subsidised solar systems, with an option of paying for the equipment in installments for a period of over 36 months.

“The beneficiaries will pay a flat fee for three-years,” Ruzigura added during an interview with The New Times yesterday.

The move will significantly boost the ongoing rural electrification programme, according to officials. Increasing access to affordable power is one of the top priorities of government.

Mobisol Rwanda is a subsidiary of Mobisol GMBH, a Germany-based company offering solar home systems solutions. The firm has operations in Tanzania, where it connected over 20,000 homes to solar energy. So far, Mobisol Rwanda has powered 7,000 households across 23 districts, and eight schools.

Creditworthiness screening

Ruzigura said the firm will verify the capacity of would-be beneficiaries to ensure they make timely payments for the solar systems. He argued that this will ensure the project is sustainable to benefit more people in the long run.

He said beneficiaries will be able to remit their installments using mobile money transfer services. “We will accept payments of as little as Rwf100 to ease the credit burden,” Ruzigura pointed out.

What the deal means for the energy sector

Government plans to increase off-grid power generation to about 22MW by 2018, up from 8.75MW presently, solar energy being one of the proposed alternative. The country relies on hydro-power, which accounts for 97.37MW of electricity, while thermal energy contributes 51.7MW, and methane gas, 3.6MW.

Powering more households using solar is expected to ease pressure on the national grid and ensure there is enough power for industrial use.

Of the 161.2MW installed power generation capacity, only 119.38MW is available currently due to various reasons, which makes it important to utilise alternative sources of power.

Ruzigura said government has scrapped value added tax (VAT) and customs duties on solar equipment.

This, he said, will help reduce the cost of solar energy equipment and attract more investors into the sector. This is important if the government is to attain its goal of generating 563MW of power by 2018 to increase access to electricity, especially in the rural areas.

Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, the Rwanda Energy Group chief, said there is need to reduce the cost of power generation, noting that the country still uses thermal energy to help meet demand.

Mugiraneza told The New Times recently that power users should expect lower tariffs in three years, when the country expects to have reduced reliance on expensive hydro and thermal plants.

That’s where the push for green growth becomes critical as it will reduce dependence on costly power sources in favour of renewable energy, which is more sustainable.

Sensitising public on renewable energy

According to Ruzigura, there is a knowledge gap on renewable energy “which stakeholders must address”.

“The public needs to understand that renewable energy is a more sustainable source of energy to power social development, especially in remote areas.

“We should, therefore, start looking at renewable energy, not only as the solution to challenges like drought that affect hydro-power generation, but also as a way of protecting the environment and combating climate change,” he argued.

business@newtimes.co.rw

Rwanda Decides