The campaign to scale up solar home systems to Rwandan needy families is set to get a boost following the commitment to the cause by members of Rwandan Communities Abroad, according to Rwanda Development Bank (BRD). The campaign is targeting citizens in the first Ubudehe 1 category meaning the most vulnerable among others in their communities. The campaign dubbed #canachallenge was launched last year in December by BRD to provide solar home systems to 10,000 families in remote areas. Liliane Igihozo Uwera, Special Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) Coordinator at BRD told The New Times that so far, they have mobilized Rwf156.3 million to light up over 10, 422 homes. Rwf150 million had been targeted in the campaign. “The diaspora has also taken the challenge to heart and are currently mobilizing more funds to light up an additional 5,000 homes. The challenge will continue and will remain open for anyone who wants to light up for a family in need,” she said. So far, she said they have installed systems for 2,200 families, adding that the technicians are working daily to ensure all available systems are connected in beneficiary homes. At least 2,500 families have been targeted in every province with the exclusion of Kigali City. As per the National Electrification Plan, there are more than 850,000 households are yet to be connected to off-grid electricity including 87,000 households in Ubudehe category 1. The challenge invites individuals and organisations to make voluntary contributions to light up a Rwandan family to close this gap. For every contribution of Rwf15,000 ($15), BRD will top up the remaining Rwf100,000 ($100) required to light up a family in Ubudehe category one. The Rwf100,000 funding by BRD are part of the World Bank-funded project aimed at connecting Rwandans to off-grid electricity. Low uptake of Renewable Energy Fund (REF) loans The campaign was organised considering that there was low utilisation of Renewable Energy Fund (REF) loans especially among needy families. The fund is a joint project of the World Bank and the Rwandan Government which was launched in 2017 with the aim to supply 445,000 off-grid systems and benefit an estimated 1.8 million Rwandans of whom 52 per cent are women by the end of 2023. The $48.9 million fund provides on-lending through SACCOs, commercial banks to households, Enterprises and Off-grid Solar Companies (OSCs) , direct financing of mini-grid developers and direct Loan financing to locally-registered Off-grid Solar Companies (OSCs). The products were designed to address affordability of solar home systems which the lower-income population and solar companies identified as a key hindrance. Since the fund establishment in 2017, only 6 per cent of REF loans had been exploited by 2020 and the experts attributed the low uptake of the loans among the intended beneficiaries in the rural areas to issues of affordability of solar systems, limited collaterals for loans and weak marketing. Officials at BRD now say that the uptake of the loans has increased to about 30 percent as of now. Despite the target to connect 445,000 households by 2024, “Only 75,000 households have been connected” with two years remaining to meet the targets according to BRD. The project is expected to help the government reach its target for 100 per cent access to electricity by 2024. Among these households, 69.1 per cent will be connected to the grid while 30.9 per cent will be using off-grid solutions.