Doede Vierstra, Chief Financial Officer of Nuon, opened the solar power plant in the presence of the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Energy of Mali and the Dutch ambassador to Mali, Ellen van der Laan.
The initiative for this was taken by the Foundation Rural Energy Services (FRES), a public benefit foundation that aims to provide electricity to a million households and small businesses by 2015, in support of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Nuon sponsors FRES.
Rural areas of Mali have little or no access to electricity. By generating electricity locally that disadvantage turns into an advantage. These communities generate their own clean electricity and make use of the most powerful of all energy sources, which is available in limitless quantities in Mali: the sun.
FRES has been active in rural Mali since 2001 and in that time has connected about 2,400 households and small businesses to electricity through solar energy systems. The power plant in Kimparana is the first solar power plant in Mali and the biggest in West Africa. The power plant in Kimparana is also the first step towards large-scale electricity generation using solar energy.
Electricity ensures that local activities can develop into a healthy local economy. Children can now do their homework after dark. Shops can offer refrigerated goods and maintain stocks. Medicines can be stored and kept. Food, a costly item in poor rural areas, can be kept cool and is less liable to spoil. And families can reduce their expenses because they no longer need to buy expensive paraffin, kerosene and candles.
Where there is no solar power plant yet, an individual solar energy system can provide electricity. On an average day a solar panel in Mali supplies enough energy for a family or small business. A small-scale local electricity company takes care of maintenance and the expansion of the energy supply. The families concerned pay a monthly amount to their local electricity company. That money is used to maintain, repair and, if necessary, replace the systems – an effective and simple business model that FRES developed in conjunction with Nuon.
A solar energy system comprises a solar panel, an accumulator, a cable, a plug and a power point. Energy that is not used straight away is stored in accumulators, so electricity is also available in the evening.
Nuon sponsors FRES, an independent public benefit foundation that helps rural villages in South Africa, Mali and Burkina Faso to set up their own local energy supply. Together with FRES, Nuon provides one of the main preconditions for achieving the millennium goals: electricity. Without electricity many of the millennium goals, the most important of which is eliminating poverty worldwide, are difficult to achieve.