MeshPower’s mini-grid in rural Rwanda to open up new economic opportunities
Renewable energy company MeshPower has launched a solar mini-grid in Gitaraga village, Bugesera District in Eastern Rwanda.
The 4 Kw AC/DC mini-grid will provide clean energy access to 196 households and 15 businesses, nine of which are operated by women. This will not only improve the standard of living in the community, but also offer new economic opportunities and enhance the productivity of businesses in the village, which is currently not served by the national grid.
Through a Sida-funded programme, aiming to help companies deliver energy access in off-grid areas, Energy 4 Impact is supporting MeshPower to stimulate the demand for electricity in Gitaraga, so as to improve the economics of their mini-grid and help the viability of their business model.
“Developers of small mini-grids are more likely to recover their costs and remain profitable if they power small industries and businesses, as well as households. Our role has been to promote productive uses for electricity among their customers by engaging with welders, tailors, hair dressers etc., and help them develop their capacity to use the electricity to increase their productivity and profitability. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” says Victor Hakuzwumuremyi SOGER Programme Manager at Energy 4 Impact.
Electricity demand stimulation requires a multi-faceted approach and includes strategies to create awareness of energy for business-related activities among potential users, identify electric appliances, helping businesses access capital to acquire the equipment and then train businesses to use the electricity to cut costs, grow and diversify.
Many of the enterprises that Energy 4 Impact has recruited are engaged in welding, entertainment (video shows, games), cold drinks refrigeration (bars and restaurants) mobile phone charging, hair dressing, tailoring, egg incubation and maize milling.
Energy 4 Impact offers entrepreneurs training in business management skills (such as record keeping, marketing, customer care), in appliance use, health and safety standards. It also provides ongoing support on technical and transaction advisory services to MeshPower to develop a sustainable business model for the project. This includes, financing, system design and customs and tariff modeling.
Currently, MeshPower operates 69 solar mini-grids that supply electricity to over 2,400 households and small businesses across Rwanda. These mini-grids are among the several private sector-led efforts to fast track the realisation of the Rwandan government’s vision of achieving universal electricity coverage by 2024. Availability of affordable, reliable energy is also supportive of the drive towards industrialisation, a precursor for jobs creation and economic development and drive towards a middle income status.
“By powering homes, we enable villagers to improve their standard of living. By powering businesses and productive enterprises, we enable economic development at the village-level by generating employment and revenue,” says Julie Roberts, Project Manager at MeshPower.