Government efforts aimed at increasing supply of clean energy to power its green growth ambitions have gotten a boost, thanks to a new off-grid renewable energy support programme.
Scaling up Off-Grid Energy in Rwanda (SOGER) aims to grow sustainable off-grid renewable energy markets by supporting private sector companies to deliver energy access to 77,000 people in poor rural areas, Herbert Nyaga, the country manager of Energy 4 Impact, a renewable energy firm, said.
The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)-funded programme that started in July will end in June 2019 and is designed to respond to the country’s power challenges and government priorities to reduce poverty and increase energy access in rural areas, he added. The government targets to increase access to electricity to over 70 per cent by 2018, out of which 22 per cent will be through off-grid connections. Off-grid connections presently account for less than 2 per cent.
The project is expected to create 7,000 jobs for women and youth and help support growth of income-generating activities that will enhance people’s household income.
The programme involves a facility to support small isolated mini-grid projects to provide electricity to rural communities. It also focuses on increasing productivity for small farmers through access to appropriate solar-powered irrigation systems.
The programme will comprise the Renewable Energy Small Projects (RESP) development facility which will accelerate the development and growth of small isolated mini-grid RESP projects, including solar mini-grids and projects based on other renewable energy approaches. This is in line with the Rwanda government’s priorities for rural electrification. It will support the development of 30 pico-hydro micro-utilities to provide sustainable electricity to rural communities.
“The RESP targets isolated solar mini-grids and mini-hydro projects, as well as support to small, medium and micro-enterprises in productive use of energy,”said Nyaga. He added that technical and transaction advisory support services will be offered to local and international private project developers and micro-enterprises.
Nyaga said the project also will work with the private sector to establish supply chains to support to smallholder farmers through the development of solar irrigation markets in the country to ensure seamless introduction of the technology onto the market.
The firm will implement the project in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Rwanda Agriculture Board and the Ministry of Local Government, Nyaga said.
“The project seeks create sustainable markets for solar irrigation systems to boost small scale farming productivity in Rwanda,” he said.