Isofoton brings solar power to Rwanda

The project will cost the Málaga-based company an approximate cost of €5.8 million. The project, which will be jointly funded by the Rwandan government and the European Union, is aimed at connecting schools that are to yet receive electricity to the national power grid, the Infrastructure Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today from Kigali, the capital.

Rwanda currently provides electricity to just 6% of its population. The ministry plans to increase this amount to 50% by 2017. Projects such as Isofoton’s will work towards realising this goal. The East African nation is also increasing power to 1,000MW from 80MW over the same period.

In its rural electrification campaign, the government will next week launch a project to connect 300 remote schools to solar energy. This was revealed by Infrastructure Minister, Vincent Karega.

Solar is considered to be one of the least expensive, most reliable, and best proven means of electricity distribution systems for rural electrification.

"Solar energy is cheaper and economical for home use and small businesses," Karega said.

He added that mini hydro plants are widely used for rural electrification in developing countries, noting that hydro-power, methane, pitch and biogas are the cleanest energy.

According to a 2009International Energy Agency (IEA) report 1.456 billion people do not have access to electricity, of which 83 percent live are in rural areas. In Sub-Sahara Africa, only 12 percent of the rural population have access to electricity.

Due to high population growth, the number of people without electricity is expected to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2030.

In a similar move to increase connections, the government plans to spend Rwf148 billion (about $262 million) on a span of four-year that will see the connection of an additional 220,000 households and businesses to the power grid. This is a new drive that is likely to increase rural electrification, by pushing mini-hydro power plants since the technology is still relatively cheap.

Karega said that this year, the government intends to connect 50,000 more new people across the country targeting to connect 16 percent next year.

The national electricity rollout plan, seeks to increase power connections from the current 130,000 to 350,000 in four years.

Currently there are about 16 power plants of mini-hydro electricity that are being installed across the country and 36 institutions are connected through biogas.